15 Things No One Tells You About Being on Submission

There are about a billion blog posts out there about querying, which is a difficult and painful process for many people. But there aren’t that many blogs about submission, which sucks about a million times worse. I know what you’re thinking – how could anything be worse than querying? I’ve been there. I remember those days. But when you’re querying, you have a lot more control, and seemingly hundreds of agents to try. When you get a rejection, you can send another query. And you have the ability to have enough queries out at a given time that responses come in fairly regularly.

Not so with submission. Different agents do it differently, but they can’t just send to 40 editors at once. Most publishers only let you send to one editor per imprint at a time. Some imprints only let you send to one editor at that imprint. Some publishers only let you send to one imprint, period. You may or may not know who is reading at any given time. In my experience, neither knowing nor not knowing makes the process any easier. 
Here are some things no one tells you about submission:

  1. You are not the exception. You are the rule. All those people getting massive deals with life-changing money overnight? Those are your friends. Friends of friends. People in your social group. But not you. Never assume it will be you, because you’ll only be disappointed. Go watch He’s Just Not That Into You. Memorize it. You’re not the exception, you’re the rule.
  2. It’s impossible to think about anything else most of the time.
  3. You try to distract yourself by making a list of all the things you’ll do with that advance when it comes in, then realize one day that the items on it total about $40 million.
  4. Your non-writing friends don’t understand. Your writing friends get sick of listening to you talk about it. There will be days when you don’t want to talk to anyone.
  5. You resent your friends for getting book deals when you didn’t (and, in your mind, never will).
  6. When your friends with book deals have (legitimate) complaints about the process, you turn into a screaming hell beast on them. Because, after all, how can you be frustrated when you are LIVING THE DREAM?!
  7. You write long, pissed-off blog posts that other people would probably benefit from reading, then delete them.
  8. You cry. A lot.
  9. When people say “work on a new project,” you want to dive through the computer and strangle them. That’s awesome advice for people who sell on sub in about six weeks. After a year or more, chances are, if I haven’t written something new already, I’m not going to want to.
  10. You might show up at work, but you’re just going through the motions, doing what needs to be done in order not to get fired, dreaming about the day you can quit.
  11. Weekends are the enemy. Editors don’t send offers on weekends. 
  12. Lots of naps. Long naps, sometimes more than once a day.
  13. When the world mourns celebrities – celebrities you love – you’re already too down to care. 
  14. No news really is no news. Editors are very busy, and if you haven’t heard anything probably just means they haven’t read it yet.
  15. Knowing #14 in your head means nothing, and each day you don’t get a response, you’ll be certain the editors with your manuscript are secretly hating your guts for having written it.
The point of this post was supposed to be to share something helpful or inspiring, but really all I can tell you is: figure out what works best for you. Distract yourself if you can. I spent a lot of time at the gym, burning frustration. It helps with the stress, but also offset the thousand pounds or so of cookie dough I ate. And remember – it’ll all be worth it if an editor comes back with a yes. 
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  1. Corallary to #3: listen as your family plans what to do with the millions (or in my 11yo's case "billions!") you're *guaranteed* to earn. No matter how much you try to bring them back down to Earth.

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