20 Things to Expect on Submission (Part 1: Going on Submission)
Going on Sub. Writers both strive for it—and dread it! 20 Things For Writers to Expect on Submission & expert insight into this mystifying, yet exhilarating rite of passage.
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So without further delay, let’s dive into today’s topic … going on submission. This will likely be a two or three part series, as it’s an indepth look into the process.
Today, I’m sharing 20 THINGS TO EXPECT ON SUBMISSION.
Did the phrase ‘going on submission’ send a chill down your spine? Or make you feel a deep sense of yearning? Or maybe you’re wondering … what the heck does that mean?
Aspiring writers work hard for years on their craft—decades even in novel-land—just to earn the chance for their agent to submit their manuscript to editors (eeek!) at the big publishers. But the process of landing your dream agent (more on querying and agents in future posts) and securing a publishing deal has gotten exponentially more competitive and harder over the years. But don’t fear; I’ve got you covered.
First up, I’m sharing 20 THINGS TO EXPECT ON SUBMISSION.
Okay, I also have a TINY confession first. I’m about to go on submission via my fabulous agent with a new Space Opera/Romance that I wrote on spec during the pandemic. This is my *secret* project that I’ve been working on behind the scenes.
Yup, I’ve got a pandemic novel. I’ve worked on it on and off for over four years, setting it aside to write my Disney series and Star Wars, but also because the topic of the book came to the forefront of the news multiple times, necessitating recalibration of the worldbuild. It’s a dual POV epic … and came out at a whopping 150k words. My agent had notes. I’m almost done with the revise and cut it down 30k (the first draft was over 180k long …. however this is typical for my big science fiction books).
I haven’t been on submission in a few years, but let me tell you—the experience is seared into my brain. While filled with despair and rejection, my journeys (plural) did result in book deals, which then lead to more deals. So, we can go on this ride together as I share my personal ups and downs of going on sub again. I’ll continue to post updates to my Substack, along with covering all this craft and writing advice.
But back to YOU, dear readers. What happens when you go on submission?
Once you get to the gates, where your manuscript stands before the editors of publishing houses, and they finally open … it’s both thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. Is my book any good? Will it resonate with these editors who have published some of your favorite books? Or will it be met with flat-out rejection? Continually orphaned and bouncing down the sub list to indie houses (by the way, sometimes that’s a good thing … I love many indie publishers)? Will you land a “good” deal and get your fancy Publisher’s Marketplace announcement to share on social media?
Or will the whole experience leave you rethinking your decision to pick up a pen, or download Scrivener, in the first place? What were you thinking by penning a book?
Or maybe all of the above? Trust me, it’s a complex swirl of emotions.
Going on submission is not for the weak of heart. Many writers—so very many—never even get the opportunity. Writing is a war of attrition. I tell my students this all the time. Famous writers that I know have drawer novels (manuscripts that didn’t sell that never saw the light of day). Often, many of them. Trust me. I’ve asked them.
I’ll say it again—Writing is a War of Attrition.
Andre Dubus III (The House of Sand and Fog) told me he has three of them. Yikes! Three from an author who’s been featured on Oprah! Whose father was one the most famous American short story writers. Other successful friends have confessed to five or more drawer novels. I had one … and we will certainly talk about that! Yes, a whole book that went on submission and didn’t sell to a publisher. That MS did land me an agent who has repped me my whole career, and now it’s up on Kindle Vella.
My next book—a crazy sci-fi called The 13th Continuum—did go on to sell to a publisher. But that process took almost two years. So yeah, I know firsthand. It’s a war of attrition. It’s those who hang in there and keep writing and keep trying who will finally succeed. It’s figuring out to survive endless rejection to get to the one YES!
It only takes … one editor to say YES.
But there are good practices for handling submission. This applies even to submitting articles or short stories to journals and magazines, so you keep your sanity and preserve your creative muse. I’ll share my top 10 Tips for Surviving Submission. I’ll also include the big things to stay away from on my Submission Warning List.
So, time to dive into it!
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