Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Debut Author Sarah Reida On Navigating Submission Hell

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 volunteer to put up with my SHIT is Sarah S. Reida, whose middle grade fantasy/horror/comedy, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION hits shelves September 20th. Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom!

In Monsterville, thirteen year-old aspiring filmmaker Lissa Black is devastated when her parents move the family from New York to boring, rural Freeburg, Pennsylvania. Soon Lissa discovers that Freeburg might not be so boring - there’s a twisted version of Candyland called Monsterville in her basement, and a shape-shifting monster in her family’s woods. With her neighbor Adam’s help, Lissa traps the monster - “Blue,” as dubbed by her little sister Haylie - and learns that he’s an escapee from the monsters’ lair of Down Below. While Lissa initially intends to use Blue to create the world’s greatest horror film, her plans change when Haylie is snatched by monsters on Halloween. Lissa and her new crew venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and to face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a combination of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice. The film rights to the novel are represented by Pouya Shahbazian of New Leaf Literary.

Another lucky author whose book got picked up, right? Well, guess again - Sarah has been in the trenches for some time, and she’s happy (well, not happy) to share her experiences with other writers navigating the same gauntlet.

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

Most of my knowledge came from trolling blogs and reading others’ experiences on sites such as Query Tracker (which I highly recommend; that’s a virtual treasure trove for new writers trying to snag an agent). I knew there were better times to sub than others (i.e., summer months like July and August are dead, as are holidays); and I knew wait times would vary and also depended on the relationship of the agent to the editor who was reading. I was also told that there was no such thing as a “normal” pattern in subbing, so that uncertainty was super fun during such a nail-biting time.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Not so much, because I’d been warned about every experience being different and knew how subjective tastes are.

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

I didn’t, actually. I trusted my agent to know who fit best with my book, so I just let him/her do his thing. I actually wouldn’t recommend such research, because I’m pretty sure it would have driven me even more insane than I already felt. I could just see following an editor on Twitter and reading WAY into everything posted to determine whether they were referring to my book.

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

Ha! There is no average. Some editors will be interested in the book and read right away. Others will go down their queue, or be on vacation. . . It really depends on their schedule, because editors are busy! There are conferences, edits and deadlines, and fires for them to put out. Some editors are eventually written off as non-responders, or they’ll need to be nudged by an agent when enough time has gone by or another offer’s on the table.

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

Red wine! Kidding. . . kind of. Okay, not at all.

But besides that, a positive and constructive distraction is another project. That can be really hard if your mind is occupied, however, but eventually you’ll get over the stress and find something creative you’ll want to do. (To quote my favorite writing movie: “A writer writes, always!”). And honestly, it will give you hope if you don’t sell. Maybe this one isn’t the one that got you your deal, but the one in the works will. Especially since as a writer, the hope and expectation is you grow and improve with each project.

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

Oh, everyone has rejections. Dozens of them. By that time, I was numb to it, since I’d queried three different books before I landed my first agent. I was expecting rejections.

The only way I think you can deal with a rejection is to: 1) keep in mind you were good enough to get an agent to stamp his name on your book; 2) know that this industry is soooo subjective (maddeningly so); and 3) absorb any constructive criticism, if offered.

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?

I took any feedback from an editor very seriously. That’s writer gold; these are the folks who know what sells in this industry and how to edit a book to make it sell. If an editor offered criticism, I respected and considered it.

Beta readers are great and I’m fortunate to have several agented or published writers I swap with, but when the readers are someone like your mom or your friend, you have to take the criticism for what it’s worth. Some of those comments can be helpful, like “I didn’t understand this plot point” or “I didn’t understand X’s motivation,” because they’re reacting the same way other readers might, but they’re not editors. Editors trump all. After all, they have the power to get you published!

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

Honestly, I was so tired at that point it barely processed. I was in California for work when my agent called and I asked her to repeat it a few times. I’d been on submission for. . . well, I’m not going to say, but this wasn’t my first or second time at the rodeo. But when you want something so badly, and love doing something so much, you don’t give up.

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

I couldn’t put it on Twitter or my website or announce via social media, but that was fine. I’d waited years - what was another few weeks?

Sarah S. Reida’s MONSTERVILLE can be pre-ordered here and you can take fun movie quizzes and learn about film-making here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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