Rosiee Thor On The Subjective Process of Submission

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 Rosiee Thor, author of Tarnished Are The Stars, releasing today from Scholastic!

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

Looking back, I was pretty woefully uninformed, but I definitely thought I knew what I was getting into. I had it in my head that going on sub would basically just be the same as querying, but with my agent in control of the inbox--and at first, that’s exactly what it was like, with my agent sending it out and fielding the rejections for me. But the similarities to the querying process pretty much stopped as soon as we started getting interest in the project. I had no idea that books had to get through an editorial team, and then acquisitions before editors could officially buy them--and while agents certainly sometimes have interns who have to love the book before the agent reads and loves it too, there aren’t nearly as many steps to the querying process as submission!

Did anything about the process surprise you? 

The biggest surprise to me was that it actually does take more than one “Yes” to get published. With querying, if an agent loves the book and wants to represent you, they can just call you and offer, but with submission, it doesn’t work that way. First, they have to take it to second reads and have other editors on their team read it--and if they don’t like it, that’s it. No deal. If they do like it, then the editor has to present it to acquisitions, which has to agree as well. There are so many layers to the process once someone’s interested, and it doesn’t matter how much an editor loves a book if their team doesn’t love it too.

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

I… made a whole tweetdeck column dedicated to the editors on my sub list at first, which I 200% do not recommend, and will never do again for any future rounds of sub. Sub is such a chaotic time emotionally, that the added stress isn’t worth it. Besides, most editors don’t tweet a lot anyway, and my best sub advice is to let your agent worry about it and to do something else instead.

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

On average, about 4 months. The quickest rejection was after about a month, and the longest was 6 months (which in the grand scheme of things is still pretty darn quick). 

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

Do. Something. Else.

Anything else. Literally a n y t h i n g. I had a hard time drafting while I was on sub, but obviously writing something new is the best option if you can do it. If you can’t draft, catch up on reading in your genre or find another project to do in the meantime that’ll keep your mind off of it. While I was on sub, I think I knitted about 12 hats… whatever gets you through it, honestly. 

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

One of the things that’s nice about sub vs. querying is when you’re on sub, rejections can be filtered through your agent. I’d asked my agent to only send me rejections if they were nice or included feedback. This meant that with every rejection, my agent sent along her own take on the feedback or reason for passing, and that really helped temper my reactions too. She also has this habit (which I kind of love) of emailing me with bad news--and she includes it in the subject line if it’s a rejection or not so as not to spook the nervous author--and DMing me on twitter with good news. This means I’m basically always prepared for whatever kind of update she’s giving me, and it stings less when it’s a rejection.

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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?

Again, my agent was great about helping me understand what was subjective about rejections and what was actually valuable feedback. We did get some feedback we considered revising for--and maybe we would have revised for it if we’d done another round of sub after that--but it wasn’t substantial enough for an R&R and neither of us felt strongly about how to go about addressing it, so we decided to sit on it.

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

I was actually home sick at the time--I’d been working from home answering calls all day and I had a kind of raspy voice and felt like I was dying. When the call came from my agent, I knew it was good news (since she always emails me with bad news) and I leapt out of my chair as if I’d never had a cold in my entire life and then jumped up and down in my living room with my dog who was so excited that I was excited! 

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

I had to wait six months to announce and it was agony. The process of getting the deal in the first place had taken some time because of timing--my now editor wanted to do a revision on the first few chapters before taking it to acquisitions, and by the time it was ready for acquisitions, it was the holiday season and no one was in the office for about a month an a half. So we had to wait until January to even find out one way or the other. Then, we went back and forth for about six months on the title--which I never even dreamed would end up being that big of a deal. It’s a lot more complicated coming up with something to call a book when there are half a dozen people who have to all agree! Luckily we landed on something everyone likes and were finally able to announce exactly one year after I originally went out on submission.

So much of the debut experience, for lack of a better term, I think is about finding your people within your debut year. I was definitely worried that I would lose out on that and everyone would already have their people by the time I was able to tell anyone, but I was lucky and there were a few other stragglers like me who had to wait on their news too, as well as some really fantastic fellow debuts who were welcoming regardless of my wait.

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.

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.