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 is Ryan Graudin. When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, she enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at her blog, and you can find her on Twitter @ryangraudin.
BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
RG: I actually knew more than I thought I did, looking back on the whole thing. I made a point to look up interviews such as this one and read about other author’s experiences so I could emotionally prepare myself. The thing is, everyone’s experiences are so varied and different. What one author goes through probably isn’t what will happen to you.
BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
RG: I was actually surprised to learn that an agent has to send out pitches to the editors—much like we have to send an initial query to an agent before getting asked for the manuscript. It makes sense, now that I think about it. Editors are far too busy to read manuscripts they don’t specifically ask for!
BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
RG: I did. I followed them on Twitter. I read interviews they gave through various sites. I googled them every day. Honestly, I didn’t get too much out of it. It was only feeding my paranoia at the time. And I hardly needed it fed.
BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
RG: I got my first feedback the day after my agent sent out all of my submissions. Apparently when editors are really excited about a certain pitch and they start reading it and fall in love with the first few pages, it’s common for them to check back in with the agent and say that they “love what they’ve read so far.” It was a great way to start off the wait. Overall it took about two weeks to hear back from all of the editors since my MS had such serious interest straight off the bat.
BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
RG: Work on other things. Be productive. It’s impossible to rule out the anxiety altogether (at least, it was for me, because I’m not a master of Zen). I buckled down and finished the rough draft of another novel I was working on. It helped me with the idea that, even if novel on submission didn’t sell, I would have something else to work on with my agent and put out there.
BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
RG: I did get some rejections. I think the fact that there was an editor who was loving it and getting second reads, etc. really helped to soften the blow for these. At the same time it put a lot of weight on the expectation that this editor’s enthusiasm would turn into an offer. The anxiety became really, really bad toward the end of things. Another thing that softened the blow of the rejections was that they were all very complimentary of my writing and the storyline—many of the rejections were due to the fact that the editors didn’t see this title fitting into their imprint.
BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
RG: The funny twist in my story is that I knew the day I would hear about HarperCollins final decision. The final acquisitions meeting took place an entire week after I knew it was going to happen! That meant for seven days I was burdened with this terrible knowledge. As the day drew closer I felt more and more like throwing up every time I thought about it (which was a lot). On day zero I begged one of my friends to spend the entire day thrift store shopping with me. This was, in part, to keep me from obsessively checking my email at every single 30 second interval. The acquisitions meeting was in the morning, and I figured that if a deal was going to be made my agent would call me. Noon rolled around. Then 1 o’clock. 2 o’clock. My nerves grew and I figured that the silence of my phone could only mean terrible things. Finally, close to 3 o’clock, I couldn’t take not knowing anymore, and I asked my friend if I could use her smartphone to check my email. Lo and behold, there was an email from my agent, saying that HarperCollins was going to be making me an offer for not one but TWO books. I felt more relieved than anything else. I was staring at the phone screen in silence while my friend was dancing wildly around the shopping center. Then, of course, I couldn’t stop smiling.
BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
RG: I had to wait two months to shout it to the world! Funny you should ask this because I addressed the issue with this video on my blog.
Thanks Ryan for being here with us today!