As an aspiring writer I’m always educating myself about the publishing process. In all my research, there remains one murky area: what happens after “the call”? This step always seems to be shrouded in mystery. It’s hard to find out exactly what happens between when someone signs on the “dotted line” with an agent and gets a fabulous announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace about their sale.
Today, I have asked author, Michelle Krys to take us “behind the curtain,” and share with us the exact details of what happens after the ink is dry on an agent contract. Her thoughtful post shares the intricate details of the process and reveals what it takes to actually get a book submission-ready. It is a revealing look at the path to publication and an education on how the work doesn’t end once you get an agent – it only just begins…
The wonderful Amy Trueblood has asked me here today to speak a bit about my experience going on submission. For those of you who aren’t deeply entrenched in the publishing business, I’m not referring to some kinky 50 Shades of Grey stuff, but to the process whereby an agent sends an author’s book out to editors in the hopes of landing a book deal.
Before going out on sub myself, I didn’t really know much of anything about the process. All of my focus had been on landing an agent. And then once that happened (I mean after I Carlton-danced around the house, called everyone I knew, and bragged excessively on the interwebs), I blinked at the computer screen, wondering what comes next.
See the thing is, no one really talks about going on submission. I guess you’re not supposed to or something. Well, here I am, talking about it. Today, I will share with Amy’s lovely readers my experience, beginning from the moment after I accepted my agent’s offer of representation.
*hides from agent and editor*
It was within the first week after the call with my fancy new agent, Adriann Ranta, that I received her edit letter. It was short (a few small paragraphs), and it outlined her suggested changes to the manuscript. We’d already touched on these changes during our phone call, so nothing came as a surprise. It took me just a couple of days to complete. A few weeks later, we were on submission.
Initially, I was pretty calm about sending my book baby out into the world. But it wasn’t long before I was cyber-stalking editors like a madwoman. Oh, the stalking! And then I stumbled across Mindy McGinnis’ SHIT series (Submission Hell—It’s True), and really tortured myself. I was cautioned against comparing myself to other writer’s experiences, but that didn’t stop me from becoming completely obsessed with the series. One moment, I was a failure because I hadn’t gone to auction in the first week and Fox hadn’t bought my film rights, like one author, and the next I was still doing ok because another author had been on sub eight months before they got their deal. Sounds horrible, but if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it any differently (I challenge you not to read Mindy’s SHIT series while on submission. It’s impossible).
My agent forwarded along my rejections as they came in, which was something I really appreciated because I have the patience of a housefly. And actually, for some inexplicable reason, I was exhilarated any time I heard back, even when it was a rejection. I lived for those emails. (Have I mentioned I checked my email about 32,000 times a day? Because I did).
I was often advised by fellow writers to dive into a new writing project to distract myself, but that just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t concentrate, knowing that any moment I could hear back from Adriann and my life would change forever. Going out didn’t help either—I just thought about when I could check my email next. Chocolate didn’t help. Neither did wine (Okay the wine helped a little bit). This was the part that sucked. That feeling of being in total limbo. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it that wouldn’t qualify you for AA. It just sucks.
And then I got a book deal.
Allow me to set the scene. I was at work. It was a busy day in the neonatal intensive care unit. We were a month into submission, and it was the last day for offers on HEXED, which we were accepting until 12 noon. I’d already struck out with 6 out of 10 of the houses I was out to.
All morning, like any self-respecting writer, I compulsively checked my email any chance I got. My agent emailed me at about twenty to 12 to say we’d received rejections from another three of the houses, and no word from the last house. Adriann remained incredibly optimistic and let me know we’d go out for another round soon, but I was pretty shattered. However I was at work, so I sucked it up and put on a brave face.
But in a turn of events straight out of the movies, not twenty minutes later I got another email from Adriann, saying that she’d heard from the last editor and could I call her? I went into a quiet hallway to make the call. Wendy Loggia of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, had made an offer for a two-book deal. I was euphoric! Except I couldn’t really jump for joy since, you know, I was at work and it’s a hospital and what not.
After the call, I went into the bathroom to compose myself and do some deep breathing exercises before going back into the NICU. When I walked back inside, another nurse casually asked what the call was about, and I broke down and ugly cried in front of all my coworkers and the babies’ parents, who had no clue what was going on and looked quite startled.
Wendy and I spoke on the phone later that week. She was incredibly warm and easy to talk to, and so enthusiastic about my project that I just couldn’t help loving her immediately (and not just because she bought my book!).
It’s been a while since then (almost a year), but as I recall we chatted about what aspects of the book she liked and then got into the revisions she had in mind. I was lucky because I completely, wholeheartedly agreed with her ideas (that woman is a genius), and it seemed we shared the same vision for the book. We also chatted about timeframes for when I would likely receive my editorial letter, and what the road to publication might look like for me.
I got my revision letter about 4 months after that initial phone call—pretty average in the business. The letter was 4.5 single-spaced pages. It expanded on what Wendy and I had already discussed, plus a few more things we hadn’t discussed but that I totally agreed with. My deadline was six weeks, and I finished just under that without too much stress. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I got another revision letter not long after, but this one was just a page or so in length, and the fixes were so easy it took me just a few weeks, maybe less, to complete. Copyedits came a few months later, which took a day or two.
Which leads me to last week.
So there you have it, folks. I hope my lengthy diatribe has been helpful to some poor author out there on submission. Or at least, that it hasn’t made anyone question their self-worth too much.
Michelle Krys lives with her husband and son in Northwestern Ontario. She loves bad reality television, celebrity gossip, dance music, and nachos, and is not ashamed of any of it (though she probably should be). Her debut novel HEXED is forthcoming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books in Spring 2014. She thinks it would be swell if you followed her on twitter.
Many thanks to Michelle for pulling back the curtain and sharing the details of her submission journey. I learned a lot and hope you did as well!