Kimberly Gabriel On Processing Editorial Criticism

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 Kimberly Gabriel, author of Every Stolen Breath releasing today!

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

Oh this one makes me laugh a little. As with every step I’ve taken in this industry, I *thought* I knew what I was getting myself into until I actually experienced it for myself. I’d had several friends go through the process, and I knew many writers who were also on sub while I was. That comraderie was wonderful to have, but it did very little to actually prepare me for the whole thing.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Yes!! I was surprised by how long everything takes and how influential the marking aspect is. The deals you hear about the most are the ones that sell in a hot minute. And while Blink/HarperCollins showed interested relatively early on, my book went through a series of meetings spread out over several months (damn the holidays!) to get approved. I went on sub in early September, and Blink showed interest by the end of that month. The first sign of interest was a phone call to my agent asking me to rewrite my synopsis, create a marketing plan, change my title, and strengthen my online presence. This was all to help the acquisitions editor convince the other publishing teams, especially the marketing team, that my manuscript and I would be easy to promote. I had no idea what a marketing plan entailed or how to format/create a website. Luckily I had other writer friends to help me, and I got it all done within a few days of Blink’s request. Still, it wasn’t until January that they officially offered a contract. 

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

I didn’t. My agent took care of the research, and I knew I was in good hands. I went with the whole “ignorance is bliss” attitude, which I think helped. I never had my heart set on any one imprint or editor that I thought would be a perfect fit. That probably would have driven me a bit crazy. That said, now that I’ve been through it and I know so many more people who have worked with different editors and houses, I bet if I were to go on sub again, I would dive head first down the very dark rabbit hole and obsessively research every editor. (Not that I recommend doing so.)

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

My agent only informed me when I asked about it. There were some editors that got back to us within a couple days with detailed feedback and a few that took a couple months. I was only out on submission for three months or so. Every couple weeks, my agent would have feedback from a small handful of editors when we’d chat. Meanwhile, we also kept hearing updates from my editor at Blink.

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

My agent heavily recommended that I work on my next book, and that really became my savior. I started falling in love with my WIP, and suddenly I wasn’t pinning all of my hopes and dreams of becoming published on the only manuscript I had written. Focusing on my next project also took up quite a bit of head space in the best way. It distracted me from focusing solely on whether or not Every Stolen Breath would be picked up.

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

Rejections on submission felt a bit more final than querying. Part of that is because there so many more agents than there are editors. If an agent rejects you, there are several hundred other agents you haven’t queried yet. Editors are fewer, and my agent and I decided we wouldn’t be submitting to everyone. We planned on one round of submissions. So each rejection carried quite a bit of weight. The only nice part about that was that unlike query rejections, almost every editor gave a specific reason as to why they weren’t picking my book up. I liked that part of it. 


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?

It’s harder to dismiss an editor’s feedback than a beta’s. I mean, this is what they do—and most of them do it pretty damn well. Many editors made good points, which helped me going into my revisions. One editor gave a harsh critique, and it stung—it took a while for me to shake that rejection. Luckily, my agent disagreed with him and talked me off the ledge. One of the reasons I think my book ultimately got published is that I’m pretty good at taking criticism and deciding when someone’s making a good point. Some of my best revisions came from implementing feedback given by agents and editors who made smart comments about what wasn’t working for them when they rejected my manuscript.

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

I knew the day Blink was having a final meeting about my book, so I kept my phone very close to me. At some point, my agent emailed me, asking when we could talk. I was in the middle of teaching and had to wait thirty very long minutes until my lunch, during which time I was completely worthless as a teacher. One girl had to literally repeat her question three times to me before it registered. When the bell rang and my agent finally called to tell me, I turned into an awkward mess of crying, shaking, and giggling all at once. I’d been writing and pursuing publication for ten years, and then to get picked up by HarperCollins? I still get teary-eyed thinking about it.

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

YES!!! This was something else I never knew was a thing. I found out in January and couldn’t share it until my announcement in April (!!). So if we’re counting months, the entire process took eight months: I went on sub in September; Blink showed interest in September; they had a series of meetings every 2-4 weeks until they offered the contract in January; and I couldn’t say anything until April. For someone who’s terrible at keeping secrets, it was excruciating.

Kelly Coon On Success After 106 Rejections


Today's guest is Kelly Coon, author of the YA fantasy Gravemaidens, which recounts the tale of two sisters come on a 16 year old healer's apprentice who wants to save the dying ruler of her city state, and then Nanaea, Kamani's little sister who will be buried alive as the ruler's bride if he dies. Kelly joined me today to talk about how to make a fantasy stand out in the crowded YA market by making her female main character have understated strength.

Listen To the Episode Now!

Author Elsie Chapman on the Realities of Being Published

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 hopeful 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 is Elsie Chapman author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

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

Funnily enough, reading those old interviews of mine, I still stand by most of the things I said! I think the main difference is I’m just a bit less starry-eyed and a bit more realistic when it comes to the publishing side of things. I’ve also learned the importance of maintaining a healthy perspective in this business, meaning definitely keep hoping for good things to happen (and to celebrate them!), rather than playing the comparison game so that you come to expect them. That just leads to disappointment and it’s hard to keep coming back from that.

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 used to feel so ridiculously adamant about sticking to your artistic vision regardless of trends and what publishers wanted. I figured it was just a matter of timing and finding the right editor. And while some of that is still true (timing’s never not going to be a factor, and it really does take just one editor to want your book), I don’t feel so strongly about the artistic side of things anymore, particularly because I want to stay traditionally published. There’s a happy medium, I think, between writing what you want and writing what might realistically sell, and if you’re lucky, those will be the same thing. 


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

There’s no guarantee an editor will buy another book from you unless sales and numbers back it up. I think this is one of the toughest aspects of the business, how an author can do all they’ve been asked to do but still have so much about publishing be out of their hands. But remembering there’s a huge difference between wishes and goals can help a lot. That’s really just being smart about the business, not negative.

I also don’t worry as much anymore about always being “on” when it comes social media. Having an online presence has become a part of the publishing landscape, but I’m better now about being more careful with my time and saving my creative energy for writing. 

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

This ties back to what I just said about social media which is, yes, I’m now perfectly happy being selfish when it comes to saving time and energy for myself. The word selfish has negative connotations, but sometimes it’s exactly what we need to be in order to keep going in this business, and for me, I’m more than okay giving up certain aspects of being a published author if it means getting to stay creative and having more time for things that matter (family, working on my own projects, etc).

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

It’s really taught me to love writing for the sake of writing, and how to see worth in my own work versus looking for worth in what others think about it. Easier said than done for sure, but I do think it’s important to keep checking yourself so that you’re still loving the creative process and to remind yourself that a lot of publishing—both good news and bad news—outside of that process is out of your control anyway. Getting to be in this business will always feel a bit like a dream, and key for me is just figuring out the reality of staying grounded and maintaining a good headspace so I can keep doing what I love.