The Life of a Writer on Submission

It’s my turn to join in the “Life of a Writer” series, started Monday by the fabulous Erin Shakespear. The stage I’ll be talking about? Being on submission. *cue scary music*

There are so many great resources for querying writers, and I think I assumed it would be the same once I went out on submission. Unfortunately, it’s not. If you’re on submission, the unwritten rule is that you don’t talk about the process in a very public way, and the result is that there are fewer online resources for this stage of the writing process. So here’s my attempt to give a little helpful information without breaking that particular rule.

My own submission process had its highs and lows (wasn’t that gloriously vague?), but the high of receiving “the call” absolutely made the whole thing worth it. So, based on my own experience, here are some observations and thoughts about the submission process, as well as some of the resources I’ve found for “being on sub” survival.

1. Ways being on submission is like querying:

  • Your work will be read by professionals in the industry whom you respect and with whom you would love to work. Eek! Yay!
  • Your work will be read immediately and thoroughly, or…less thoroughly, and after waiting for weeks or months. This is beyond your control, so make peace with it.
  • Querying and submissions are both like digging a tunnel; you’re doing everything you can, but you have no idea when you’re about to break through. You could be years or hours away from the good news, but keep digging! It would be so sad to walk away when you’re about to break through into the light. If you’re discouraged by querying or submissions, please read this powerful post on surviving the “Nearly There” stage of writing.
  • My #1 rule for querying is the same as my #1 submission rule: WRITE YOUR NEXT BOOK! Also, THIS SHOULD NOT BE A SEQUEL TO YOUR FIRST BOOK! Write a new, independent project, and invest your energy and emotions into this new project. (See Erin’s post for more info.) Revise your formerly-finished project as necessary when you get feedback, but focus on something completely different the rest of the time.

2. Ways being on submission is totally different than querying:

  • You’re not in charge. It’s called “submission”, my friends! 🙂 If you like being in control, this could be difficult. For me, this was a HUGE relief. Either way, you have an expert on your side who is helping you make the decisions and guiding you through the process.
  • Submissions are often sent in smaller batches than queries. This is likely true for two reasons: There are fewer editors out there than agents, and perhaps agents have more self-control when it comes to sending things off than writers. But the bottom line is this: you should expect that the process will take longer and be slower in every regard. (Then you can be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t, and isn’t. 🙂
  • Ideally, you’ll only go through the query process once. But if you’re pursuing a traditional publishing route, you will be on submission for every manuscript you write, again and again. Even if you get a multi-book deal, you’ll be submitting future manuscripts to your editor and hoping for good news. So learn to love the process! And then let me know how you did it! 🙂

3. Additional Resources for Writers on Submission:

  • Deeanna Romito’s Query. Sign. Submit. interview series gives accounts of each of these processes from the perspective of authors and agents
  • Mindy McGinnis’s interview series “Submission Hell–It’s True” with its appropriate acronym has some author interviews and insights into the process
  • Dahlia Adler’s Perpetual WIPs series, with posts appropriate for every stage in the writing process, including submissions
Best of luck with submissions, everyone! And let me know if there are great resources out there that I missed!

Elaine Vickers is the author of LOST AND FOUND (HarperCollins, 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption. 🙂

4 thoughts on “The Life of a Writer on Submission

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