You've finished your book.
You and your agent (or perhaps you directly if you don't have an agent) have whipped it into magnificent shape.
You can almost hear the angels sing in gladness because you are about to send out THE BEST BOOK THAT HAS EVER BEEN WRITTEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE!
Hey, it might be, and who are you to judge? Your beta readers like it, as do your critique partners and your mom.
Best of all, your agent likes it enough to submit it.
He or she makes a list of which editors/houses you submit to. You look at the list and swoon.
A pitch letter is drafted. Calls are made, and then whoosh! Your manuscript is in other hands now.
It's all going to be great.
You thought all those endless queries to get an agent was hard, right?
But hey - you've got an agent. How hard is this going to be?
And then you wait. And wait. And wait.
No one ever told you that the submission process works at the speed of snail.
Wasn't it Tom Petty who once sang "The waiting is the hardest part?"
Amen, Tom, Amen.
I mean, it makes sense right? How many agents/authors are submitting their work to an editor at any one time? And sure, those editors might have assistants who do the first read-through, but they're only human. How many books could YOU read in a single week? (probably more than me - on a good week I can do two)
They not only have to read your book, they have to get other people to read your book, too.
Even if they love it, they need to determine if it fits the House's philosophy. Is it marketable? Are there too many books similar to yours out in the marketplace already? Do they want to spend the next two years working on YOUR book?
And then they need to get their boss to love it and invest money in YOU.
That's a lot of questions. And often, the answer to some of those questions is No.
Which sucks, big time.
Depending upon what you and your editor have decided in advance, those rejections will trickle in one at a time or they will be sent bundled together once every one or two weeks.
I was several months in submission for It's a Mystery, Pig Face! And each rejection felt like "We don't love you, Wendy" even though that is a completely irrational thought, since they didn't even know me. (irrational thoughts are the gift that the submission process keeps giving)
You lose hope. You despair when you read about authors getting six figure deals. You despair when you read about other offers getting ANY deals.
You worry your agent will drop you in disgust ("What! I was sure Wendy was going to be the next J.K. Rowling!")
If you have a lovely and kind agent like mine, you will get little notes telling you to have heart, don't give up, and the like.
Regardless, you will lose heart, wonder if they are still looking for someone for the graveyard shift at the local McDonalds, and want to write your agent a letter that says "Dear Agent, I am a fraud. I don't know what I was thinking, trying to get published. Please disregard.")
You question if there was some little thing you might have done to the book that might have resulted in everyone CLAMORING for your book!
The answer is probably not, and it's likely not a question worth asking anyway because if you find that thing, it's not typical that you can resubmit your work anyway, unless and editor has specifically asked you to do so.
I know how fortunate I am that my agent found my first book a publisher in the first round of submissions.
It takes many authors several books on submission before they find their first publisher.
But you mustn't lose heart.
I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that truly separates the published from the unpublished is luck and perhaps tenacity.
Oh sure, there's the whole issue of talent, but I've known many talented authors who just never caught a break or who decided they didn't have it in them to keep trying.
It feels like it's not worth it, like it's never going to happen. But if you keep writing, working on your craft, and submitting, it will happen.
And it so worth it.
I remember the day my agent called to tell me It's a Mystery, Pig Face! sold.
First from joy, but then from the realization that the submission process was finally over.
But here's the thing. You may have to go through the process several times in your career. I am currently on submission for my second middle grade novel.
I thought I would find it easier this time.
You know: I had a book coming out soon, people would see that someone else had taken a chance on me, would be desperate to do the same. Well yes and no.
Just like in the querying process, some will love your work, some will not. Some will say you have a great voice, but not a strong plot.
Others will say your plot is amazing, but your characters are weak.
Some will be 'meh" about the concept you love so much and have spent months (or years!) refining.
At those times, I remind myself again and again, that this is personal, but not.
It's the personal taste of the reader, not personal to me. I remind myself of the books I've read and loved. I remember the books I've read and am just "meh" about.
Such is life.
In some ways this time is easier, because I knew what to expect. In some ways it was harder, because I adore the book that we're subbing.
How book #2's process ends will be determined soon enough.
What I know for sure is that you will always, always, hate the process, unless you are the most well-adjusted person ever. If you are that person, you should share your secrets with us right away!
And should they want your book or mine?
Anybody out there have good suggestions for surviving the submission process? I'd love to hear them!
For the rest of us: Good Luck!