Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Secretly Slutty Submission Process

It is a "rule" for authors working in the traditional publishing industry that we are strictly forbidden from discussing publicly when our manuscripts are out on submission.

Submission: When your literary agent contacts editors at publishing companies and asks them, "Gee, I have this book from this client. It's about such-and-such. Would you like to read it?" And either the editor says, "No, thank you," and the agent moves onto the next editor. Or, the editor says, "Yes, please," and then the agent and writer sit on pins and needles for days, weeks, sometimes months - sometimes forever (yes, sometimes you will NEVER hear back) - waiting to hear what that editor thought of the book and if he or she would like to publish it.

It's grueling!
Seriously, I thought waiting to hear from agents responding to my query letters was hard - but submission is a million times worse - and we, the authors, are not allowed to talk about it.

Why?

Well, it's kinda like telling your date how many people you've slept with - you don't want to do this before the third date, or you may scare he or she off.

The same goes for editors.

They don't want to think they're getting somebody else's sloppy seconds - or that the agent didn't think to contact them FIRST THING when the manuscript went out on sub - so we all just kinda pretend like the manuscript is a vestal virgin and the editor's are vying to pop it's brand new shiny cherry (ugh - that's a crude visual, even for me) - when in truth, this manuscript probably has to go through two, sometimes three rounds of editorial subs before the agent is able to pinpoint the right one - if at all. That slut.

If the agent (and by proxy, the author) is lucky, he or she will know which editors are looking for what, when. But these things change. There are actually quite a few editors to keep track of (although, the number of houses continue to dwindle), and what one editor wanted two weeks ago, could have changed in the time it took the agent to send the query letter, or the writer to do one last revision.

Did I mention this was a grueling process?

None of it is fun. None of it. I call it "darts in the dark," or a "game of craps," because really, that's what it is. It's a gamble.

Secretly, we authors sit together in coffee shops and cafes and whisper our submission frustrations to each other - comparing notes, telling our closest confidants our close calls, our deals, and our thoughts and feelings on each editor and submission process (just as I'm sure, in house, the editors do the same) - but there isn't much we can do other than acknowledge the process is rough, and pat each other on the shoulder, looking sympathetic. The process will not change. It's kinda like listening to a friend complain about her boyfriend over and over again. Yes, we get that he's a jerk. But if you aren't going to leave him, then why torture us with your continual complaints?

By comparison, yes, the submission process is a jerk, too. Your book is now being judged by the toughest of judges, and you will be rejected. Repeatedly. Make no mistake. There are a lot of frogs to kiss.

But as rough and hard as that sounds, that's not about to change, and since I, and my other writerly buddies, have all opted to seek traditional publication, there is no other way to do. This is it!
Deal. With. It. Or self-publish. Quit complaining!

So, I guess my one word of advice in all this?
Acknowledge that the submission process is difficult.
Find writerly friends who can keep their mouth's shut and learn from each other's experiences.
Let your agent do his or her job. Don't get in the way or try to tell them that you know better!
Don't sabotage yourself by publicly tweeting or Facebooking, or blogging (for that matter), about your repeated rejections.

Because truthfully, nobody wants to hear about your manuscript's sex life. Nobody.
Especially those editors you want so desperately to impress.

Trust me.