If there’s one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it’s the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren’t exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and – just like agent hunting – everyone’s story is different.
I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series – Submission Hell – It’s True. Yes, it’s the SHIT.
Today’s guest is Claire LeGrand, author of THE CAVENDISH SCHOOL FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, which features 12-year-old Victoria Wright. Everything about her gleams, from her perfect grades to her perfect blond curls to her spotless bedroom. But when her best friend Lawrence disappears, Victoria must learn how to lie, sneak, and break the rules to save her beloved hometown from the evil clutches of Mrs. Cavendish, who runs the local orphanage.
BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
CL: I knew virtually nothing. I had to ask my agent, Diana Fox, a lot of questions! All I knew was the general idea: We send the manuscript to a handful of editors based on who we think would be the best fit for my book, and they either like it and make an offer or don’t like it and pass—much like querying for agents! I’ve learned a lot about this process, and I’m still learning. I don’t think that, as an author, you ever stop learning!
BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
CL: Not really. I mean, based on the general idea I had about how this was supposed to work, it all unfolded as I expected. Looking back, I’m surprised about how quickly it happened, but at the time, I really didn’t know how long it could take, so that didn’t seem especially noteworthy to me.
BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
CL: I did a little bit, just because I was curious—but, again, it happened so fast that I didn’t have time to do a lot of research or get obsessive about it. I was working at the same time, too, so that kept me distracted. I did speak with Diana before the MS went out, and she explained her reasoning in selecting these editors, which was nice. Just as a general rule, I don’t see anything wrong with researching editors! I figure it’s best to know as much as possible about the industry and the people in it.
BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
CL: If I remember correctly, we started hearing back from people the very next day. Diana kept me updated every step of the way, which was exactly how I wanted it. We got our first offer in three days, and it went to auction a few days after that!
BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
CL: Let’s say that, for me, this process had taken longer. I know I would have started experiencing anxiety, much in the same way that I experienced “waiting anxiety” while querying agents. The best thing you can do, in either of these situations, is stay busy—keep writing on other projects, focus on work/home life, read, and KEEP WRITING. Nothing keeps your brain occupied more effectively (and productively!) than diving into the next project while you’re waiting on something to do with the current project.
BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
CL: Again—and I’m sorry I keep saying this!—it all happened really quickly for me, so there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on rejections. I did receive them, but they were nice and complimentary, so that helped soothe the sting. One rejection was because the imprint felt they already had a title with a similar tone, so that wasn’t a reflection on the quality of my work at all. These rejections didn’t hurt nearly as much as agent rejections, mainly because at this point, I had someone on my side. I had an agent, someone who believed in me and my work, and that’s a level of validation most writers don’t have while querying.
BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
CL Any feedback I received, Diana relayed to me over the phone. We discussed any specific ¬items and made note of them for later. Some of these items actually turned up in the editorial notes of my eventual editor, Zareen Jaffery! But, just like with beta readers or, beyond that, general readers in the public, everyone’s tastes differ. Whenever I received feedback on this project—whether it was from an editor during the submission stage or from a beta reader during drafting—I considered the suggestion carefully and decided whether or not it was worth incorporating. Obviously, an editor’s feedback carries more weight, simply because…well, they’re professional editors! But I always thoughtfully consider every bit of feedback, no matter the source. I even kept the feedback of the passing editors in mind as I went into revisions!
BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
CL: Because this happened so quickly, I was in this perpetual state of numbness, as though watching it happen to someone else from a distance. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! Each time we got an offer, Diana told me over the phone, and I was of course elated—but I don’t remember jumping around and squealing or anything. I was just too overwhelmed! I remember saying, “WOW” a lot. And staring at the phone in disbelief. And calling my mom to say, “Okay, I think this actually just happened, but…I’M GONNA NEED YOU TO PINCH ME.”
BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
CL: I did have to wait for…maybe a couple of weeks? A few days? Gosh, I don’t remember! This really was such a crazy whirlwind! But no, I didn’t have to wait long. It was difficult waiting even those couple of weeks, though. I felt like I was about to burst any second, and when the announcement did finally go live, the release of anticipation made me shake and sweat for like an hour straight, like I had just completed the most awesome marathon in the universe or something.