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.
How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
Not much. I thought book deals happened overnight. Or at least within a month. Because those are the deals you hear about. The ones that went to auction and the author had a contract in a matter of days. Boy, did I learn…
Did anything about the process surprise you?
How long it takes! I went into the submission process with some pretty false expectations. I assumed my book would sell and sell fast. But months went by. And months. And months. Being on submission is almost exactly like querying except you’re usually guaranteed to get a full request and you’re not alone in rejection disappointment—your agent is right there with you.
Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
I did a little bit. I would check out their Twitter occasionally, hoping for a teaser about what they were reading or about what kinds of books they were interested in. But as time went on, I stopped checking.
If you’re the kind of writer who can obsess over checking editors’ social media, I don’t recommend researching them. But if you have a gentle curiosity and just want to see what they’re about… go for it!
What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
It varies so much! But average… I’d probably say at the 3-6 month mark. I had one editor who responded after only a few days with a rejection. Others took a year. Some we didn’t hear back from at all, despite my agent’s gentle nudges.
What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
I don’t think there’s a way to totally forget that you’re on submission and the anxiety that goes with it. A lot of people say “start a new project!” Which is absolutely good advice. You want to have something to sell next!
But sometimes the last thing you want to do is write. And that’s okay for a little while! One thing that really helped me handle the anxiety was time. The more time passed, the less excited and nervous I became. Once the three month mark hit, I was ready to start a new story. My advice is to understand the process, realize it will take a while (usually) to hear back, and take a well-deserved break before starting a new project—you got an agent and have editors reading your book! You’ve earned a writerly vacation!
If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
Rejections are never fun. The first few I got on These Wicked Waters were a big disappointment, but I quickly accepted the fact an editor didn’t think it was a right fit and moved on. After all, I had other subs out.
When I got to the end of my subs… That’s when I got nervous. Because unlike querying, there is a smaller pool of publishers. If they weren’t interested, then I had nowhere else to go (except self-publishing. And while that’s a great opportunity for writers, I wanted to be traditionally published).
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 never got much detailed feedback on any of my rejections. Like agents, editors get a bunch of subs and look for reasons to say no. Many rejections were generic. A popular line I read over and over was, “I just didn’t fall in love with it.”
When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
I never expected to get a “yes.” I’d been on submission for two years (yep, TWO YEARS. You read that right.). My agent and I had officially shelved my book back in March 2018, but she met an author at a conference who raved about her publisher. So my agent asked if I’d like her to send These Wicked Waters their way. I O.K.’ed it, feeling very pessimistic. I was done with TWW. We’d even started going out on submission with another book of mine!
Then in June 2018 I got a call from my agent. I didn’t recognize the number so (like the introvert I am) didn’t answer it. She left a message. I started listening to it, got a few seconds in and heard “Hi, this is Becky. Owl Hollow is interested…” And then I squealed, closed my voicemail, and ran in circles around my room. Eventually I calmed down long enough to listen to the rest of the voicemail and call my agent back.
Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
Between when the publisher expressed interest in publishing These Wicked Waters and I accepted, I had to wait about a month and a half before sharing the news. We had to go through contract negotiations which took about four to five weeks. The wait time would’ve been much harder if I hadn’t been getting married three days after Owl Hollow offered publication. The whirlwind of a husband, new apartment, new state, and new job kept me from being too antsy. But I still couldn’t wait to share the news! I had a newsletter written, ready to send as soon as I got the OK. I’m pretty sure it sat around for about a week before it went out!