On Submission with Amy McNulty

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 is Amy McNulty, author of Nobody’s Goddess (Book One in The Never Veil Series), coming April 21st, 2015 from Month9Books.

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

As much as I could possibly find out! I usually feel better about things I have little control over when I exert at least some level of control, and keeping informed was about the only thing I could do at that point. I scoured the Internet for any author submission experiences and that’s actually how I found this blog. (This SHIT series is easily the most informative on the web!)

We’re told to be careful about saying we’re on submission because an editor might like your manuscript a year into the process, google you and discover some tweet or blog post from long before about you starting submissions. Then she realizes a.) she was far from your first choice and b.) lots of other editors have probably said no to you at that point, so maybe the book isn’t as hot a property as she thought. So it’s hard to find out much about submissions until an author has been through it all, and even then, the author can’t exactly air all of the details. Still, I had a general idea.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I guess the need for secrecy did. Obviously, I know authors can’t share details while editors are considering the manuscript and contracts are pending, but it really hadn’t occurred to me that an editor who might be interested could be discouraged from buying your manuscript because she discovered you’d started submissions long before she read it. There are so many factors that need to come together to get an offer, and that’s about the only thing the author has any control over. (Besides writing a great book and finding a good agent, of course!)

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

I wanted to know what imprints my agent was contacting and which ones requested it, but I didn’t feel the need to know names at that stage. (I would just spend too much time researching those editor’s deals if I did.) My agent did share some of the names when we heard back with positive comments or got rejections. With the ones who seemed hopeful, I sure did research their names, looked at what they bought and how often they bought titles, and found interviews with them. (Like after I got an R&R, I found an interview with that editor saying she rarely offered that, and an R&R meant she was really interested, so I got my hopes up!)

It helped me feel a little more involved, but at the same time, it made it harder when the eventual rejections came in, so if you can handle that, sure, do some research. Your time is better spent working on the next manuscript, of course. (But be honest, it’s harder to write when you’re distracted with the thought of an email maybe appearing in your inbox that might change your life—or send you back to square one.)

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

My agent managed to get some really fast replies, in my opinion! I’d say on average, we heard back within two to three weeks. (The outright rejections came in quickest.) I probably waited no longer than two to three months for any response, other than ones who wound up being no-responders.

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

I know I’m supposed to say write the next manuscript and I do believe that. Sometimes it’s really hard to write in that frame of mind, though. So if you’re not going to be writing, get away from your email inbox as much as you can and have fun! Distract yourself with hobbies and friends.

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

Maybe it’s just because you passed the first hurtle, but I found that editor rejections were often more detailed than query rejections, which was nice. They were almost unilaterally complimentary and kind, pointing out what they liked as well as what didn’t work for them, so that really cushioned the blow. The worst were the rejections that came after an R&R or after at least after expressing some interest or saying they were getting second reads. I got a couple of those right before I went to an ALA con (as a member of the public, not a librarian), about a year into the submission process and after a couple of major rewrites. I found myself surrounded with books and authors who’d accomplished my dream and I almost started to cry before remembering the fact that I was there as a reader, and I was there to cheer other authors on. I eventually did start focusing on my next project, thinking I might have to shelve my first one, and that’s when we finally got an offer!

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?

We got a lot of feedback, but there was almost nothing that was the same from one editor to the next except one thing that a few editors mentioned—the one thing I refused to budge on. (Eventually I made the inclusion less jarring thanks to my editors’ help, but part of the reason I went with Month9Books is because they got the manuscript and didn’t think an integral part of my novel needed to be replaced with something else.)

As for the rest, I chalked it up to individual tastes. I think when I got feedback from my beta readers, I was more apt to change things, especially when it came to clarification. However, when I started getting feedback from many people and what they liked and didn’t like clashed with each other’s opinions, I felt like there was no way to satisfy them all, so I had to just go with my gut. Between that, my agent’s guidance and doing our own big revision after the R&R failed, I think we got the manuscript to a good place. (It’s since been through a few more revisions post-offer, of course!)

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

I was at the airport with my boyfriend on my way to NYC to visit my boyfriend’s family when I checked my email and my agent told me Georgia McBride of Month9Books shared it with her team and there was positive feedback and she anticipated an offer was forthcoming. That wasn’t quite the same thing as an offer—and by then, I’d been close before and I was worried something would fall through (even though this was the owner of the imprint saying this, who wouldn’t have to get approval from higher-ups!)—but I almost felt like I left my body. I was euphoric all day, and it helped me not have to deal with my usual travel anxiety. I saw my agent during that trip and we discussed the idea of going with Month9Books, and when Georgia officially offered a few weeks later (another email moment, once I was back home with my feet on the ground), we accepted!

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

Yes! It was really hard! We finalized the contract and made the official announcement a little over three months after the offer, four months after that first “anticipating an offer” moment. Oh, boy, was it hard to keep quiet! Of course, I told my loved ones I could tell in person, but I had to settle for rewarding myself with an extra cookie after dinner while I kept quiet.