On Submission with Simon P. Clark

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 a long-time reader of all the SHIT's, someone I can always count on to help spread the word of a fresh SHIT on the blog. Simon P. Clark is a British children's author working and living in New Jersey. The recent sale of EREN to Corsair, Constable & Robinson made him a candidate for this interview - one of his lifelong goals, I'm sure.

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

Firstly, thank for having me. I always enjoyed reading the SHIT posts when I was submitting – it’s a great niche you’re filling here.

How much did I know? A fair bit. I first had the idea of becoming an author in my teens, so I’ve had enough time to learn a few things when I should have been doing real work. From books and message boards, I had a decent idea of what was to come – the nuts and bolts, at least. 

Did anything about the process surprise you?

That is wasn’t all a total slog. Editors are lovely people! A lot of the passes for EREN came with praise and comments that I really appreciated. I never felt a real emotional hit from a pass because they were professional but human, so maybe I was surprised that it wasn’t this brutal heart-wrench. Day to day, it’s actually kinda dull.

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

A bit, mostly because I’m on Twitter a lot anyway. There’s no harm, is there? Finding interviews is  good, but you can’t read too much into them since the questions don’t apply to your book, your submission. I do recommend it  – but only if you can stay detached. Write like a butterfly, stalk like a bee. Or should that be the other way around?

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

There’s no real average. We heard from some in just two weeks, and some hadn’t got back by the time the offer came.  Hearing news about books being bought in their first week or so was always frustrating, but I got my yes in the end.  The editor who offered went from first read to offer in a pretty short amount of time, so it’s more about finding the right person than counting the days.

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

Don’t deny that you’re anxious. Don’t cut yourself off. Follow editors and agents and writers on Twitter, get plugged in to the conversation and the latest news, keep engaged. And yes, write more. Submission isn’t sabbatical – there’s always more writing to be done. Perhaps the best tip is to not keep it a secret. Don’t be scared or embarrassed you’re trying to make it. Tell friends and family. Every so often they’ll ask you how it’s going. That’s a good thing.

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

I don’t know if I had to deal with them because they’re just as part of being a professional writer. It was all more positive than query rejections because Molly (Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency) was always so insistent that we had to find the right editor, and that person was out there somewhere.

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?

Editors’ feedback is so good. Make sure your agent passes it to you. Some of it I agreed might be true. Some of it I disagreed with, and that just meant they weren’t the editor for me.  Now, a small confession here – I don’t really go in for beta readers. I have my wife, who is brutal but wise at times, and that’s it. So I can’t compare to betas, but I bet editors are nicer and beat around the bush more that good betas do.

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

A dream. I was standing before a great library, and a voice cried out, saying –

OK, no. Telephone, but not as I thought it would go.  Just a few days before the call my agent had given me some feedback on a new book. When I woke up to an e-mail asking if I could chat that day, I really figured it was about that. Cunningly, she had made the email seem very relaxed. She rang, and started by apologising about not calling with her feedback on the book (it had been e-mailed). Then, she said she hoped this would make up for it – we’d had an offer. I said ‘Oh my gosh’ a lot and laughed. She made sure I was at the computer and sent over the editor’s email. I felt .. hmm. Vindicated? After so much work, it was happening.

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

Yup. It was a Big Secret, so naturally I told my family and closest friends and told them it was a secret.  Being able to share the fun in that self contained circle made the whole thing manageable. Of course I wanted to shout it out, but there were professional matters to attend to – contracts, negotiations. I partied with my loved ones instead. When the PM announcement went out, I had a blog post ready to go.