On Submission with Bethany Crandell

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 SHIT guest is a special friend of mine. Bethany Crandell slogged through the query trenches right alongside me, celebrated with me when I crawled on out, and then kept on slogging. We all know slogging makes one weary, but this slogger slogged it out. Bethany emerged with an agent and a deal for her debut SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, which will be available from Running Press in 2014.

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

Thanks to one of my best pals allowing me fly-on-the-wall access to her sub process, I knew a fair amount. However, it’s a lot like the first few weeks of sleep deprivation after you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital. People warned you you’d be tired, but until you’ve experienced it first hand—no warning does it justice.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was surprised by how incredibly kind the editors were. We received a handful of rejections, but they were all lovely and encouraging. One actually made me cry! It turns out editors are not dream crushing trolls after all.

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

Hello. My name is Bethany and I’m an internet stalker.

You bet I did. I am a control freak. Since I was on the sidelines waiting while Rachael communicated with the editors, Googling, Twitter-stalking and PM browsing were about the only things I could do that allowed me to feel like I was still a part of the experience. I’m not sure that it got me anywhere, but it did give me a sense of purpose. I wouldn’t not recommend doing it. I think you need to do whatever works for you to get through the process. (For the record, I never Google Earthed anyone. I had to draw the line somewhere).

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

It varied. Some were as little as three weeks, others had it several months and never replied even after we got the offer from Running Press. I’m sure there are a ton of things that factor into their response time. Current lists, how full their in-box is, how many people in-house have to read…basically, too many to count. I tried not to fixate on the spurts of radio silence, but when you’re a big communicator, like I am, that wasn’t easy.

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

Write, if you can focus long enough to do so, and talk to people. I wouldn’t have survived submissions without my author pals there to cheer me on, boost me up, and let me vent. Other writers are your greatest resource—utilize them!

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

Whether you’re agent hunting or searching for a publishing home, rejections suck--period. The difference this time around is that I wasn’t taking the hits by myself. Rachael, my agent, was fielding the blows, too. Knowing I had someone who believed in my book as much as I did made the passes a lot less painful.

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 had a little spreadsheet where I tracked the date our query went out, when the material was requested, as well as any feedback they provided. Again, it made me feel like I had a little bit of control in the situation. (The stupid things we writers tell ourselves.) Thankfully, the worst feedback we received was completely subjective. (Subjective. That word gives me the shivers.) I think I’d have fallen on the floor and assumed the fetal position had there been something negative.

As far as the differences between betas & editors; it was hard, but I tried to remind myself that editors are looking for more than just a well-crafted book. They need something that’s going to sell. As much as market trends can hurt authors, that’s just the way it works. Editors gotta eat, too.

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

Here’s the scenario: Ten minutes after I hung up the phone with my agent the phone rang again. I glanced at the display and saw it was her number. My initial thought was, “OH CRAP! Something really bad is happening. Why is she calling me again?” After a deep breath I picked up the phone…

ME: “Hello?”
AGENT: “Are you sitting down?”
ME: “Uh…”
AGENT: “They’re going to make an offer today.”
ME: Absolute silence immediately followed by hysterical, bordering on scary, laughter. “Shut up! Are you serious? Don’t lie to me ‘cause you know I can’t handle that today.”

The rest is a lovely blur. It took several days for the reality of what was happening to sink in. In fact…it’s still sinking in. Sometimes I’ll be doing something totally brainless like sitting at a stoplight or packing the girls’ lunches and it will hit me, MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE ON A SHELF—IN A BOOK STORE! And then I break into the giggles again.

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

Thankfully, my editor contacted me within two or three days to let me know it was safe to let the cat out of the bag. The cat is now perched on a very tall mountain with a megaphone mewing like a lunatic!