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 2014 debut Sarah Bromley, author of A MURDER OF MAGPIES, a Gothic tale about 16-year-old Vayda Silver’s attempts to bury her family’s scandalous past, and the boy who just might destroy her future.
How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
I was pretty familiar with how things worked. I have several critique partners who had been on submission before me, and my agent Miriam Kriss was really good about keeping me apprised on what was to expect.
Did anything about the process surprise you?
The amount of time it took to hear back. I’d been on sub prior to A MURDER OF MAGPIES, and with that book, we went to second reads and acquisitions within six weeks, which drove out a lot of answers. Because of the changes in the publishing climate when A MURDER OF MAGPIES went on sub, it took far, far longer—19 months from the time I went on sub to when I received an offer!
Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
Because of my previous submission, I knew who a lot of the editors were who had received A MURDER OF MAGPIES. I didn’t go so far as to Twitter stalk them. I think it’s good for an author to know who has the manuscript, so that you know who’s out there and what books they’ve handled. But I think it’s mentally healthier to put distance between yourself and editors when you’re on sub to them.
What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
A MURDER OF MAGPIES first went to second reads after four months and again after another four months, and then there was a looooong silence. Four months seems to be about the norm now. When we got the offer from Month9Books, LLC, it was only six days after my agent had submitted my manuscript, and the enthusiasm they had for the book was really rewarding.
What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
I went on sub with A MURDER OF MAGPIES a month before my youngest child was born, and my agent and I planned that because I knew I’d be in a weird, new mom state for at least a while. I don’t recommend having a baby just to get your minds off submissions. ;-) However, I did begin writing a new manuscript about two weeks after my son was born, and focusing on that project helped.
If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
This is a tough question because A MURDER OF MAGPIES had probably the loveliest rejections I could imagine. I had rejections telling me they loved this manuscript and wished they could do more with it but there was no room in the market. It was a Gothic paranormal YA on sub when paranormal YA was cooling down. And it sucked to hear that. To know that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the novel and it was chewed up by bad timing…it hurt and was depressing. I had written the book in 2008 and queried it, queried another book while I rewrote it, signed with my agent, and immediately went on sub. It took me two novels and 26 months on sub to find a publishing house, and the experience left me thick-skinned and perhaps a bit jaded. Thank God Miriam is so supportive of her clients because there were definitely days I was ready to walk away and just keep writing for myself in my hidey-hole.
Query rejections are good preparation for editor rejections in that they teach you that this is business and not personal.
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?
With A MURDER OF MAGPIES, the feedback was simply there wasn’t a whole lot to change and it was a good book as it was. Now with a YA horror that my agent submitted, we consistently got feedback regarding one specific element that has led me down the rewrite rabbit hole. All feedback is subjective, whether it’s editorial or from a beta reader, but when you start hearing the same comments, it’s time to pull the manuscript and reevaluate.
When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
It was crazy. I was in a pretty dark place when I got my YES. (Warning: sad dog story ahead) My manuscript went to Month9Books on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. While it was on submission, my little pug Josephine very suddenly got sick with an aggressive brain tumor. I lost her on that Sunday, and I was completely wrecked. (Now we take a happy turn) On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I had spotted a chug, Chihuahua/pug mix, named Isabella up for adoption and drove 93 miles into the middle of nowhere Missouri to rescue her from a high kill shelter. As I was driving home with Isabella, I had no cell phone reception but heard my voice mail announcement. So I checked my phone, and it was Miriam telling me we had an offer. I was so stunned that when I called my husband to tell him, I couldn’t process what he was saying. Then I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 15 people, so it took a few days for everything to really become reality.
And I do have to say that I love working with Month9Books. They are small (for now) but mighty. They treat their authors like family, and it has been amazing to have so much input and transparency in everything from title and cover talk to editorial ideas.
Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
I had to wait to formally announce until my offer appeared in Publisher’s Marketplace a month later, but after waiting nearly four years to the day from when I began writing to get the offer on a story that I loved, I was willing to wait a little longer ‘cause, hey, it’s still a wait until 2014 to see it in print!