On Submission with Stephanie Diaz

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 has been in the mire along with me for quite awhile. Stephanie Diaz and I met on AgentQueryConnect and I knew as soon as I read the first few chapters of her work that she was going to make it. I'm thrilled to tell you that her YA Sci-Fi title EXTRACTION will be available from St. Martin's in 2014.


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

I'm one of those people who devoured interviews about writers and submission (many of them found on this blog) before (and while) I was out on sub, so I went into the process feeling fairly knowledgeable. And my agent did a great job keeping me in the loop.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Even though I knew a lot about the process, I was still surprised by how difficult it was to deal with on an emotional level. Yes, I was mostly okay, but there were a number of times when I kept imagining people reading my book and hating it to the point where they wanted to throw their computer at a wall. I also couldn't stop comparing my book to other books on the market. (Don't do that.)

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

I'm 100% guilty of researching editors. Twitter and google were my homeboys. It definitely made me more on edge. Once you look up a twitter account once, it's easy to end up checking it obsessively. I'd recommend steering clear of research if you can.

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

It's hard for me to say because my agent sent me batch responses as opposed to individual ones. Two weeks in, we hadn't heard from anyone. Four weeks in, we had a fair number of rejections but also some interest from a major press. About two and a half weeks later, we had an offer. There were still a couple editors we hadn't heard from by the time we accepted.

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

Hundreds of people have said this before me, but it's simple: write, write, write, and keep on writing. The only reason I stayed (relatively) sane through the process was because I had a new novel to focus on, a new world and new characters I believed it. I was also lucky that NaNoWriMo happened during my submission time, so I had encouragement to work on said novel. You can also take the time to read more books and hang out with people IRL. That will also help.

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

I'm not gonna lie, the rejections were tough. In my case I was lucky because I found out about interest at the same time as the rejections, but I was very aware that “interest” did not automatically lead to “pub deal.” The rejections still made me worried, perhaps even more so than query rejections. Querying a pub is a one-time gig for a particular novel. You don't usually get a second chance, whereas when querying agents you can sometimes revise the novel and send it out again. So, that gave me quite a bit of anxiety during the process.

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?

The majority of my submission responses cited the same reason for rejection: the market. My book has dystopian vibes that made editors wary, but most of them had lovely things to say about my writing. In this case, the feedback was easier to process than beta reader's because it came down to a lack of passion for the story. My agent and I still thought the story was strong and where it needed to be. Thankfully an editor ended up agreeing!

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

It felt AMAZING. My agent had set a closing date for offers during the week of Thanksgiving, so I knew I was going to find out on a particular day. It was also a school day. I was on my way out the door when I received an email that the phones were out of commission in my agent's office, but we had an offer. I squealed a bit and quickly arranged to call my agent as soon as I got to campus. The twenty-five minute car drive was full of smiles and blasting music out my windows. I got to school, called my agent, and we went through all the details. I called my mom right afterward, and then I had to go to class and pretend to be focused. I stayed silent about it that whole day, but the news was bursting out of my chest.

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

We accepted the offer the next day, and then I had to wait about a week to spill the beans. It was difficult because this week fell right during Thanksgiving Break, when I didn't have as much to keep me busy. But I told my family, as well as my closest friends and writing buddies, so I didn't have to stay completely silent. When the news went up on Publisher's Marketplace I was ecstatic, though.