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.
Jaye Robin Brown, a OneFour Kid Lit member with her debut SING TO THE WIND coming from HarperCollins in 2014. Jaye is an early morning writer, a day-long high school art teacher, a night-time farmer, and an all-the-time free spirited animal lover. She's prone to fits of giggles, bad puns, and sarcastic banter. She loves coffee, good books, her dogs' sweet bellies, and time spent with friends. Most folks call her JRo. You can, too.
How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
Only what I knew from the Internet. But there’s no way to know exactly how crazy it’s going to make you until you’re in it. Part of it, I guess, is that it’s the closest you’ve ever been to SELLING a book. It’s really the final submission process. *cue The Final Countdown*
Did anything about the process surprise you?
The amount of angst and inner stalker that manifested totally surprised me. I actually went through the process twice, so this time (the second) I didn’t want to know anything. It was kind of like, “Just call me if you sell it or have enough information to suggest a revision.” In fact, I didn’t even know I was on submission until my now editor followed me on Twitter. I DM’ed my agent and was all, “Um, an editor at Harper Collins just followed me.” And my agent was like, “Oh yeah, she loves your book.” Then things got real!
Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
I did with my first manuscript (on sub) and first agent. As for recommending it, I’d say it just depends on how you can tame your head monkeys. There’s a tendency to think every “I’m reading” tweet is directed toward your manuscript, which in reality is bunk. If you can take a step back and separate reality from the crazies, then I say go for it. But if you’re super neurotic, then maybe not.
What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
Well, for the book that sold, the first editor who read ended up buying it and the process was relatively short. Less than a month and a half from sub to the PM announcement. On my first trip through Submission Hell, the responses ranged from 1 week to 5 months, through two small sub rounds and one minor revision.
What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
Without question, write another book! Keep those creative juices flowing and get your mind off it as much as you can. In my case, the book that first went out didn’t sell. But the book I wrote while it was out on submission did sell! What if I hadn’t written that book?
If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
Strangely enough it was better than query rejection because most of the editors had nice things to say, even though it wasn’t what they were looking for. It was thrilling for me that real, live, NYC editors were reading my words. Amazing! Of course, as you get more rejections and no one is buying it’s depressing. But my first manuscript is an odd story, and I feel like it may have some life left in it. I’m not losing hope anyway.
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?
So, back to the first manuscript. The first small round had some comments in common which I tried to address through revision. But some of the comments were simply about what the market could handle and I grew to realize it was less about me and my story and more about straight up business. That made it both tolerable and infuriating. I missed a trend and that was not something I could fix through revision. At least not easily. It was a good lesson in looking at publishing through a lens greater than my writer’s lens.
When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
My agent sent me an e-mail on a Friday afternoon that said something like “I’ve got happy news, let’s schedule a call for Monday.” And I was hyperventilating and flash e-mailed her back - “What! I have to wait all weekend? Are you trying to kill me?” She immediately e-mailed back and told me to call her then. She told me my editor loved the book, but wanted to talk about potential revisions and make sure we were on the same page. When I got off the phone I scared my dogs with crazy screams and jumping gymnastics!
The actual news of the offer came on the first day of the 2012 SCBWI Carolinas Conference. All day I was checking my phone because I knew my book was in an acquisitions meeting. The whole day went by with nothing. I finally went up to my hotel room around 5pm, and sometime during the elevator ride the e-mail came. My writing buddy, YA writer Jen McConnel, was in the room with me when I saw the offer in my e-mail. Then I got to share the news, secretly of course, with all of my friends at the conference. It. Was. Great. So perfect to be surrounded by people that got it!
Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
No, not too terribly long. I think the details took another week, maybe two and as soon as we accepted the deal, my agent told me I could blab. That was a Friday and my PM announcement went in over the weekend. I felt lucky because I know other people who’ve had to wait for months and months to announce.