Laura Taylor Namey on Accepting Rejection

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 Laura Taylor Namey, author of The Library of Lost Things.

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

Having a few published friends and attending publisher breakout sessions at conferences, I knew a fair amount. I mainly knew to prepare myself for what could be a long wait and that no two authors have the same sub experience. Hmm, that sounds like pregnancy to me…

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Not really, and I think that was due to my own research. Before I even had my agent, I’d listened to editors speak about submissions and the long process each book must go through from first read to an offer.

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

I did basic research on many of them just to put a face to a name. I recommend doing that only if it’s something you feel will ease your experience, not add further anxiety.

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

I’d say the average time was 2-3 weeks. Some read and responded within days, and others only did after I received an offer. I got my offer around three months into sub. 

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

I want to shout this from mountaintops and tattoo it on my forehead: the best way to deal with subbing one project is to be heavily invested in, and well into, a draft of another project. The second I began querying agents for book one (which sold,) I began drafting book two. I got an agent offer, paused my drafting to briefly revise book one, then dove back into book two during my sub process. I finished that book while on sub and was (and still am) so passionate about that story, I would’ve totally been at peace if book one hadn’t end up selling. Book two preserved my sanity and kept my eyes and momentum moving forward. 

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

Rejections are a huge aspect of doing this thing we love called writing. I found sub rejections much more detailed than query rejections and actually quite kind and/or encouraging. Many editors who said my story wasn’t quite right for them still complimented my voice or characters or other aspects. While rejections are never easy, they do not have to be devastating. We can always move forward, adjust, and adjust again. It’s part of publishing.

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 carefully considered each rejection and tried to weigh them together to see if many editors were passing for one clear reason or common thread (they weren’t with this book. My rejections were mainly subjective.) There is one comment I received that resonated so much, I am going to address it in my current revision.

But, say, if ten editors pass for world building issues, it’s time to pull your story from sub and address the world building. This is where sub/rejections can help you make a better story to go out with in later rounds.

Beta reader’s feedback is posed as: here is where I am stumbling in your story, and here is where you should fix it. I feel betas read more like bookstore readers. Or, some of mine are sensitivity readers and I have them read for specific issues to help the authenticity of topics in the narrative.

Editors read with a different scope, an eye on sales and craft and marketing, and how the book would sit on their list.

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

My husband calls the day I received my deal my ‘tiara day.’ We were in the airport on our way to Italy, after receiving a big upgrade. So, it was already a great day. Then my agent sent me a text about twenty minutes before I had to board a twelve-hour flight. I had champagne on the plane and kept saying, “Is this my life?” I’ll never forget it.

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

Most authors have to wait––it’s part of the process. My wait wasn’t too long and one of my agency siblings actually saw my deal listed in Publisher’s Marketplace before I knew it was even public. I felt so grateful for my incredible offer, I wanted to share it with everyone, so even a small wait felt like eternity. The day my deal was announced, I was able to join my 2019 YA debut group, which has been fabulous.

Rachele Alpine On Letting Go When It Comes to Marketing

It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel too… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

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Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

I spent sooooo much time promoting and marketing my first book, and I’ve now learned that there is only so much you can control with book sales (which is VERY little).  I put some time into marketing, but most of my focus on writing more books in hopes of ensuring the longevity of my writing career. 

Let’s about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I don’t analyze a book for marketability as I’m writing it, but you better believe that if a book sells, I think about how to market it.  I always try to think of one fun or clever way to market a book that hopefully gets people talking about it. 

I’m also more deliberate and specific about what I do to market a book.  When I first started writing, I felt as if my marketing was hit or miss as I tried to figure out what worked.  I spent a lot of time (and money) doing things that might not have been worth it.  Now, I am more aware of how I spend my time.  

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

I spent so much time marketing and talking about my first book.  It was pretty much 24/7 long before it came out and long after it came out.  And the truth was, it didn’t make a difference in terms of sales when compared to my other titles.  After publishing six books, I’ve realized that the buzz around a new book only last for so long and then you need to move on to writing the next.  I live by the Elsa philosophy and after a book comes out and a couple of months have passed, I “let it go.” 

Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would? 

I’ve always been an introverted person, and it takes me a long time to warm up or talk to people I don’t know.  I was always a bit weary of social media, how easy it is for readers to contact authors, and speaking to groups.  However, I have to say that I love hearing from readers, especially young readers. Because I write a lot of middle grade books, I handwritten letters from young readers.  Although answering them is time consuming, I love writing back.  There’s just something awesome about getting and sending snail mail.

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how was it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Before being published I did have the notion that it would change my life.  The reality is that it hasn’t.  Most of my release days now pass with small fanfare from my family and a few friends.  Otherwise, once one book is out the focus is mostly on writing the next. 

I now view writing and publishing as my way of doing something in this crazy world that we’re currently living in right.  We are surrounded with so much hate right now and it’s impossible to not do try to make a difference.  Words hold so much power, and it’s that power that I focus on in hopes that I’m contributing a small part of working toward the change that is so needed in our country today.  I have a quote by Margaret Atwood hanging in my writing office, “A word after a word after a word is power.”  It’s pretty much my writing mantra these days. 

Melissa Landers Looks Back on Debut Thoughts... Seven Years Later

It’s time for a new interview seriesa… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel a little… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

Today’s guest for the NOW is Melissa Landers, a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public. Her books include the YA Sci-Fi series beginning with Alienated, the Starflight series, and the middle-grade title, Blastaway.

Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

Yes and no. Looking back at my first interview with you, I made some suggestions that I still stand by, but find a little difficult to follow. For example, I said the best way for an author to deal with anxiety while on submission is to “put it out of mind and get to work on the next book…Do whatever it takes to keep writing.” It’s good advice, but the simplicity of it feels naive to me now. Seven years ago, I had no idea how much my creativity, confidence, and motivation would be affected by publishing. I still try to “do whatever it takes to keep writing,” but it’s not as easy. 

Let’s talk about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I still write the stories that excite me, but I also do my best to maximize the marketability of each book. I’ve learned over the years that some things make a book harder to sell than others…and because publishing is a business, strong sales numbers are the key to staying in business. 

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

 Hmm… I think what’s faded for me the most is my wishful “anything can happen” attitude when I release a new book. I used to think that if I worked/promoted/marketed hard enough, my books would hit the lists, but now I know that sort of thing isn’t likely to happen unless the publisher makes it happen. I do what I can to stay connected with my readers, but I don’t put pressure on myself to “move the needle” in unrealistic ways.

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Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?

I’ve grown much more accepting of my lack of control regarding cover design. I used to HATE that other people had more say than I did when it came to choosing my covers, but looking back, I can see some times when my instincts were wrong and the publisher’s were right. So now I keep an open mind and trust their judgment…at least more than I used to. 

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how has it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Getting published completely changed the direction of my career. When I started writing, I was on extended maternity leave from teaching. I loved my job in education, and I had every intention of returning to the classroom someday. But then Alienated was published…and Invaded and United…and Starflight, Starfall, and Blastaway. Now I write full-time, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Despite the challenges of publishing, I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.