Today is an exciting day for me here as I get to pick the brain of our my fellow Agent Query Connect moderator Sophie Perinot about her submission process. Sophie has graciously agreed to pull double duty and tell us about her writing process, agent hunt, and publication journey, over on the group blog we contribute to together, From the Write Angle. Sophie's SAT (Successful Author Talk) will be posting over on FTWA tomorrow.
Sophie Perinot writes historical fiction. Ms. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. She left the practice of law to pursue artistic interests, including writing. As someone who studied French abroad and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point. Her debut novel, The Sister Queens, will be released by NAL on March 6th 2012. Set in 13th century France and England, The Sister Queens weaves the captivating story of medieval sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who both became queens - their lifelong friendship, their rivalry, and their reigns
BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
SP: I felt very well informed up front and for that I am extremely grateful.
First, one of my critique partners was on submission before I was, so I had some idea of the stress involved in the process.
In addition to learning about the general process from my friend, my agent did a very thorough job of explaining his personal process – who he would be calling to talk about my book and why; what he would be sending to them if they responded favorably to his call – before shopping my first manuscript.
Once I was on submission, my agent also did an absolutely marvelous job of keeping me updated on the process. If you are getting the impression that I love my agent, you are right.
BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
SP: I was surprised that several editors were interested enough in my work and my professional development to have lunch with my agent and I and discuss their likes and reservations about my manuscripts.
BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
SP: In several cases I knew who the editors were because I’d attended conferences in my genre and made a substantial effort to find out about the business of publishing as it related to historical fiction. In cases where I was not familiar with the editor, my agent gave me a bit of background. But yes, I did do a little googling and searching of author acknowledgements for the editors on my manuscript’s submission list.
I recommend doing ANYTHING that puts you, as an author, more in touch with the industry. So yes, learn what you can about the editors considering your manuscript. Even if a particular editor doesn’t buy your book he/she is still a piece in the industry-puzzle and you may run into him/her later in your career.
BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
SP: I am not trying to cop out here but I honestly don’t remember and I didn’t keep records (as opposed to when I was querying agents and kept elaborate charts).
BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
SP: You mean other than binge chocolate eating? Try to do the impossible—not think about it. Writing actually helped me quite a bit. You can’t be in somebody else’s head (your main character’s) and still be thinking “wonder if my agent will hear anything today?”
Hopefully the process of querying agents has already taught you how futile “tea leaf reading” (in the form of trying to figure out what it means the longer you don’t hear) is, and what a waste of energy. Remind yourself of that (while eating chocolate, and/or writing), and if all else fails a glass of wine works wonders.
BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
SP: If I had any rejections? I’ve been on submission twice. The first time did not result in a sale, so I got a full dose of rejection. I am not going to lie, not selling that first manuscript (which my agent and I were both crazy about) was crushing. It didn’t help that it almost sold – in fact that may have made it worse because I kept thinking, “so close.”
One of the reasons that editor rejections are worse than query rejections is the heightened external pressure. When you sign with an agent the great mass of “uninitiated” (non-writing friends, and even some writer friends who think agent = sale) assume that in just a couple of months your book will be on shelves. They start asking (pretty much the day you acquire representation), “so when is your book out?” The truth is (and it’s a truth many writers don’t learn until they sign with an agent) getting an agent is like going far enough up a mountain to establish a base-camp. It is not the summit and for the first time you realize just how high that darn summit is and how much climbing you still have to do to get there.
The key to dealing with submission rejection, imo, is viewing yourself as in this business for the long haul. Hey, wait a minute, that’s also the key to dealing with the writing and query process. Each time anyone asked me (and there were many), “what are you going to do if this book doesn’t sell?” I always gave the same answer – “write another one, and another one, until I sell one or I get tired of writing.” Bottom line, if you require instant-self-gratification and you can’t stomach struggle do NOT hire the Sherpa and do not attempt the climb.
BBC: 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?
SP: Editor’s feedback – at least pre book contract – tends to be more “big picture” and “market focused.” That’s why it is so valuable. Your beta’s (and even your critique partners) can’t place your novel into the context of the market the way an editor can. And often an editor isn’t merely giving you feedback on a particular manuscript, but also on your voice as an author and the potential audience for that voice.
BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
SP: When you get a “yes” from an editor – as when you get an offer from an agent – there are still important things to consider. Just because an agent, or later a publisher, offers doesn’t mean you are going to (or should) accept. Think marriage proposal – you don’t accept someone just because he asks.
The great thing about fielding an offer from an editor is that, unlike earlier in the process, you have a veteran at your side (your agent) whose job it is to analyze the situation and advise you.
I am a pretty controlled person. So I was excited to have a “yes,” but I tried not to let myself get silly or irrationally exuberant until I (with my trusty agent) had decided, “this is the right offer for me – the right imprint, the right market position, the right editorial vision.” I believe that choosing the wrong agent or publisher in the flush of “oh my god someone said yes” can be a long-term career disaster. Whereas choosing the right agent and publisher for your particular work provides a solid start towards a successfully and fulfilling publishing experience.
BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
SP: I only had to wait a very short time to be able to announce my deal. While I was waiting I was able to tell my immediate family (husband, kids, parents) so I didn’t suffer, lol.