Natasha Sinel On Taking Feedback From Rejections

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest for the SHIT is Natasha Sinel, author of THE FIX, which is about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean. Natasha writes from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon but in her head, she’s still in high school and hopes no one near her can read minds. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook. THE FIX is her first novel.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

I’d never realized that an editor goes through so many approvals in order to make an offer. I thought if an editor loved a manuscript, then she could make an offer right away. It makes sense, then, that an editor has to really fall in love with a manuscript to want to go through all those hoops.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

It surprised me that a few editors never responded to my agent, even though they’d expressed interest and had requested the manuscript. Even a one-sentence “no thank you” or “not for me” would have been better than crickets.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I’ll admit to Googling, reading interviews, Twitter-stalking. On the one hand, I learned so much about the publishing world by reading up on editors, and found some new favorite authors this way. On the other hand, it was not useful to see cryptic tweets, read into every word, and wonder if they were talking about my manuscript.

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

A couple of passes came within a couple of weeks. Some never responded—one of these crushed me since I’d had a conference critique with him and I thought he seemed to connect with the manuscript. But, I’d say the average response time was six weeks.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

At first I wanted every answer that came in as soon as my agent got it. But I found that a pass popping up in my inbox at random times was a surefire way to ruin a perfectly good day. So, I asked my agent to let me know only if there was something positive. A couple of times, I caved and asked her if she’d gotten any news, and then she’d forward a pass if she’d received one. But at least that way I was prepared.

Everyone says that diving into a new project is the best way to deal with anxiety while on sub. I agree—if you can do that. I wasn’t particularly successful at it. I did a lot of reading, though. And errands.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

At first the rejections were kind of exciting! It was amazing that an editor at a real publishing house had read my manuscript (or part of it, at least), considered it seriously, and had taken the time to compose a thoughtful response. After a while, though, the thrill faded a bit and the passes would start to break my heart—particularly if it was an editor who I thought would be a great fit or if the comments were so incredibly positive and then would end with a BUT…(for example, “I was enthralled and it reminds me of Eleanor & Park but…” —that one resulted in some tears and chocolate consumption).

The editor passes were much easier to handle than query rejections, though, because I had my agent on my team.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

I really appreciated feedback from editors when they offered solid ways to improve the manuscript. One editor passed because she had a book coming out with a similar theme (this is why I prefer to call them passes, because it doesn’t always feel like a rejection), but she went on to give a few suggestions on plot and character that were so helpful, I ended up revising the manuscript based on her comments.

In general, when I receive feedback, whether from an editor or from a beta reader, I appreciate the time they’ve taken, and then try to take a step back to consider what resonates with me and what doesn’t. When an editor (or beta reader) points something out that isn’t working or could be improved upon and I agree, then I have no choice but to change it. If I don’t feel like I would’ve written it that way, though, then I won’t do it. I made that mistake in another manuscript, and I cringed when I re-read it. It felt like someone else had written those parts (and not in a good way). Now, I make sure that there is not a single sentence or scene or character trait that could make me cringe on a read-through.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

I had some heads up from my agent that stuff was happening—the editor loved my manuscript but needed to bring it to the editorial meeting, and after that, the publisher. I had no idea how long that would take. Knowing the business, I was prepared to wait months. And there was always that chance she wouldn’t get the okay to make an offer. But she did! My agent called the day before my birthday, while I was feeling sorry for myself that I’d have to spend yet another birthday with no book deal. When I saw my agent’s name on my phone, I told myself, she might be calling to say it was a no. But when I answered, she said “This is the call!” I was sort of in shock. It’s overwhelming to get what you’ve always wanted. And then I called family and friends, and with each call it felt more real, and then I was ecstatic.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

From the time I got the offer to the time I announced was about six weeks, which is actually pretty fast. Once the contract was signed, the Publishers Marketplace announcement came out a few days later. Before that, I was allowed to tell people close to me, I just couldn’t put it on the Internet until the PM announcement came out. That part of the waiting was so much less difficult than any other period of the process. I had a signed contract, and I knew it was happening!