The Debs are giving away query critiques to 5 of our beloved readers! To be eligible, just leave a comment any day during our Submissions week (Starting today and up to and including Saturday, April 14ths post—contributed by our FABULOUS guest agent Michelle Wolfson) and specify if you’d like to be entered in the contest and we will randomly select 5 winners. You’ll have up to two weeks to send us a digital copy of your query letter (for books in any genre) and we’ll give you feedback on the query. We’re so excited to see what everyone is working on!
If you’ve been around for a bit with us here at the Ball, it will come as no surprise to you that I’ve been on submission a lot. As a matter of fact, I’ve been on submission to editors with various overlapping projects since June 2009 (not counting all the subs before that, I’m talking about how long I’ve been continuously on sub without a break). That’s almost three solid years that I’ve been waiting to hear about something. It’s tough, but has basically become standard operating procedure around here, so I feel somewhat qualified to give you some pointers. And my pointers are for both waiting on agents and editors, because it’s much the same and it’s still waiting. It’s very important waiting that can often be crazy-making.
One important tip: Before you go out on submission, please, please, please make sure your project is THE BEST DAMN THING that you can produce. Seriously—there aren’t a lot of second chances to make that first impression, so make it count.
Okay, so assuming you’ve sent out THE BEST DAMN THING and are now in a holding pattern, what do you do? I have a few suggestions.
Get a new hobby. Refreshing your e-mail every 19 seconds and sending yourself test e-mails when you haven’t gotten a message in 2.4 hours is NOT A HOBBY! Go find something that takes your mind away from writing and being on submission. Something physical isn’t a bad idea—rock climbing or marathon running will get you out of your house and maybe even out of your head for a few hours. P.s. leave the BlackBerry at home. No one will decline to sign you/buy your book if you don’t respond for a few hours.
Write something new. There is no better way to get your mind off your old project than to start a new one. There’s a good chance you will be waiting a long time to hear about submissions (I looked it up the other day for a different blog post I’m writing, and SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE took 245 days to sell to Bloomsbury-think of how many e-mail refreshes that is…) so you may as well use that time to your advantage. And consider this: if your first submission does net you a sale, you will be dancing and staring at your contract, your cover, your galleys and Goodreads enough to make you pretty much non-productive for the next year (not to mention the marketing when the book comes out), so best to get another book in the can as soon as you are able. You want this to be a career, right? Best to treat it like one and get back to the work of writing.
Don’t nudge. Well, you can nudge, but only at appropriate times. Please don’t send agents (especially ones you are on sub TO) cute e-mails wishing them a Happy whatever-holiday-is-on-the-calendar as a thinly-veiled reminder that they have your stuff. Be businesslike and send a reminder a week or two after they told you they’d get back to you, or if their policy is ‘no response means no thanks’, then just leave it and move on. Really, what I’m trying to say is DON’T ANNOY PEOPLE. These are people you want to work with—don’t start a relationship (or prevent one from starting) by being an annoying person that people don’t like dealing with.
Don’t take rejection personally. You know this one, right? They’re not rejecting YOU, they’re just declining to buy your work for reasons that have nothing to do with you and may not even have much to do with your book (economy, they just bought something similar, etc). If you can’t tell the difference between your work being rejected and you, the person, being rejected, you’re in the wrong business. There is a LOT of rejection in publishing, so if it makes your heart die every time someone says no thanks, best get out now. Sorry for the tough love, but this is a difficult business for the thickest of skinned, so best be ready to take a lot of hits. You need to believe in your work when you put it out there and trust that it will sell, because if you have doubts, it isn’t THE BEST DAMN THING and you need to go back and make it so before sending it out. And remember—everyone gets rejected! From Stephen King (you’ve read On Writing, haven’t you?) to J.K. Rowling to, well, the rest of us. We’re in good company!
Celebrate. If you’ve written a book and sent it out to the world, you need to stop and really think about what an amazing accomplishment that is. NEVER lose sight of that. TONS of people say they have books in them and will someday write a book, but how many do? How many stick it out and revise and get it to where it’s THE BEST DAMN THING and find the courage to send it out? Not many. You are in an elite club of real writers. Give yourself permission to forget all the other stuff and get up and dance. And remember, we’re here, gettin’ down already and we’re happy to have you join us.
(And if all else fails, there’s always chocolate.)
Now, you! What is your best submission survival tip? I’d love to hear how you handle the waiting, because no matter how long I’ve been doing this, the waiting is still hard.