So you’ve written a book, you’ve had beta readers and CPs look at it, you’ve queried it to every last agent in the Writer’s and Artist’s Handbooks, even that one that who’s on a sabbatical to Antarctica, and now you have an agent. (Or maybe you plan to sub to smaller presses yourself).
Each one of these is a huge milestone and should be celebrated. They show your determination and perseverance in the face of 100s of stinging rejections. That you can get back up again. That you’re in it for the long haul (even if you now feel like a flayed armadillo pegged out in the desert, with a broken leg and the vultures closing in)…
… Now it’s time to go on sub with publishers…
Duh duh duhhhhhh
Typically, you will have an agent and they will manage this process for you. The process will be different for everyone based on a couple of factors:
1 – your relationship with your agent
2 – your genre
Genre differences in MG & YA can alter your sub experience depending on what is already out there. Look at how saturated SFF YA currently is – not that a different genre is an easier ride, but at least you don’t get to feel the eye roll of the editor as the millionth dystopian novel rolls in. And current trends seem to be favouring MG over YA to such an extent that many YA authors have turned to MG or adult. But these things are cyclical, so fellow YA-ers, don’t give up hope!
It’s quite common to have a list of the publishing houses and editors from your agent that you are submitting to in your first round. You can discuss with your agent if you want to see every rejection or just get the highlights every couple of weeks. The choice is yours, how much info you can take and how thick your skin is. I’m a control freak, so I like to see the good the bad and the ugly as it comes in.
The process is very similar to querying agents – BUT YOU HAVE LESS CONTROL. With agents, you can keep that spreadsheet, tick off the rejections, track them on query tracker, send out those nudges to the big empty internet space. All these things make you feel like you’re in charge of the process. But being on sub to publishers is a bit different; the information is in your agent’s hands. This is one of the reasons it’s important to have the right agent so you can make a game plan together.
Editors, like agents, can reject within 24 hours or can take up to a year to review. Seriously. Nothing moves any faster. Although publishing houses need writers and books, their priority is to their existing clients, so submissions must be read around their normal working hours.
The advice is the same as querying agents: settle in, write something new and try and forget about it. (yeah, uh-huh).
When you do get responses, they’ll be contradictory. I’ve seen many where one publishing house didn’t like the voice but loved the plot and another house said the exact opposite. IT’S SUBJECTIVE. That never changes.
In the States, there seems to be more visibility in the different stages of submission. Once an editor likes it, they have to make the other editors get on board, they have to get the yes from the marketing department. Then they have an acquisitions meeting to decide whether to greenlight an offer. You may be aware of every painful stage and you can be rejected at any one. If the marketing department says they can’t sell it, it will die, no matter how much an editor loves it. Or you might get and R & R.
In the UK, the process seems a little more fluid and you many not hear about the different stages or how far you got. There are stories of a particular editor reaching out to authors to say they loved their book but couldn’t get it past the team. Heart-breaking – and not unusual.
It may not be your first book that sells to a house, which is why it’s important to keep writing. You probably won’t get the 6-figure deal. But all of these things are possible.
If you decide to veer around the agent route and go for smaller presses, the process can be much quicker. There are many opportunities to sub and lots of pitching parties on Twitter. Their response times are usually much faster and you can get quite detailed feedback on rejections.
It’s a fraught time, and no matter how much you try to ignore the fact that you’re on sub, you’ll find yourself refreshing that inbox, jumping at the little pings on your laptop, wanting to email your agent every other day. All perfectly normal feelings. And I’m so glad that having just signed with my third agent, I feel I can go to her and have my little meltdowns when I’m back on sub again.
The fact that it can take so long will stretch the very best of nerves. So, like querying, it’s important to look after your mental health, to connect with other authors at the same stage and cheer each other along, and to keep yourself distracted.
There is a wonderful Facebook group called On Submission for authors at exactly this stage and shows the uniqueness of everyone’s journey. Everyone is supportive and it can really help with the process.
So, in conclusion, being on submission isn’t the end of the journey, hell, it’s probably nearer the beginning, but you’re here, and that needs to be celebrated: you did something good that many people now see the value in. Hold your chin high, stick that smile on your face, and believe that it’s going to happen. It will, if you keep going. Persevere. And remember, everyone’s journey is different.
Marisa Noelle always has a story or two screaming to get out, but it wasn’t until she completed a few courses, including the acclaimed Curtis Brown Writing for Children, that she nabbed an agent here or there and her books began to get noticed.
Her debut, a YA sci-fi, comes out with WritePlan publishing late next summer. She has been long and short listed in a handful of competitions and was proud to be part of the UK WriteMentor program in its inception year.
She lives in the UK with her husband and three sons.