SUBMISSION. That is a word few of us like to talk about. Whether it be out of superstition, fear, or the unspoken rule to keep quiet until the deal is done, we tend to keep our mouths shut, leaving a lot of aspiring authors wondering what the hell goes on once a manuscripts leaves an agent’s hands. So I am going to toss aside my crazy superstition, put down my voodoo doll, break ranks, and give you an inside glimpse of what the submission process is like for me.
We all hear about the whirlwind, six-figure, debut deals that were made within a matter of days. You all know what I mean – the wrote my first ms in three weeks, queried on Monday, got my agent of Wednesday, and sold my book to one of the big-six on Friday type deals. They are tweeted, re-tweeted, blogged about, linked-in, facebooked so much that authors begin to think those are the norm, that if we don’t query and sell within the same month then somehow we are manuscripts are inadequate. But I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that those deals, despite the press they receive, are rare.
Let me repeat that. They. Are. Rare. Exciting? Yes, but absolutely rare.
In my experience, it takes time, patience, and the skin of an armadillo to survive submission. You spend months, sometimes years perfecting your manuscript; it becomes an extension of yourself, something you know as intimately as your own spouse. You ship it off to a handful of agents, hoping that one bites. She does and you get excited, celebrate, blog and tweet about it. And you should, it is a huge accomplishment that deserves to be recognized. Then you buckle down, put the champagne away and start revising, because no matter how much your agent loves your book, said agent is going to want it tweaked. She is going to make you dig deeper and write harder than you ever thought you were capable of. You’ll bellow about it, maybe even curse like me, but in the end, your manuscript will be stronger, the threads more cohesive, and the characters will have more depth. Sometimes it takes one round of revisions, sometimes it takes six, but in the end, the sweat, the tears, even the string of profanities you have become so fond of all seems worth it.
Now you are ready to play with the big dogs. Your agent sends you a list of editors she is planning on submitting to and gives you the date it’s heading out. You search Publisher’s Marketplace, you stalk twitter, blogs, anything you can to try and get a feel for these editor’s tastes. You get excited, you check your e-mail incessantly, you toy with starting another manuscript just to keep your mind busy. And then you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. And then, when you’re done waiting, you wait some more. See, having an agent doesn’t get you published faster, it just gets you in front of the right people. There are editors, and senior editors, and acquisition boards, and marketing boards to clear before your offer comes; and, let’s face it, that takes time. Unlike getting an agent, you don’t need one yes – you need two or three, sometimes four yeses before the offer comes. But when the offer finally comes, when the subject line in your email isn’t a ‘sorry’ but rather a big old smiley face, then it is all worth it. Somehow all the frustration, the angst, and the pent-up fears about failing fade away.
So my advice to those of you sitting in query or submission hell – don’t let one rejection define you as a writer, because frequently that one yes comes on the heels ten no’s.