A long time ago, I promised to write about the submission process. I put it off because I’ve been trying to work out exactly how to describe it. This is the best I can come up with: it’s like the query process but on steroids. All of the insecurity and terror you felt while querying agents about your novel is magnified 10, make that 100 fold.Here’s how it happened for me. (Now keep in mind that every agent has their own process so everyone’s experiece is different.) I turned in my last edits in July. I figured I’d have another round of line edits before the novel went out on submission so I settled in to wait. It had been a pretty long process so far, so I figured this part would be similar.
But here’s the thing about publishing. It’s slow, except when it isn’t. One day, I opened up my email and found a note from my agent. It went something like this. Aside from a few minor issues, I think the novel is ready to submit. If you have time to work on the changes tonight, I can submit it tomorrow afternoon.Gah! I immediately emailed back that of course I could. Once I got the notes back on the manuscript, I had about two hour’s worth of line changes to make. I was expecting another overhaul so this was Good News. I sent the completed manuscript off and the wait began. (It was about 10 pm when I sent off the book, and yet I started obsessively checking email 15 minutes later. I developed this neurosis during the querying process, and it came roaring back during the submission process.)
Earlier in the rewrite process, Dan had me draft an Author Bio. It was just over one page and covered my inspirations for the book. I also had to include a picture. That was really weird. I tried to make it Professional. As if I Knew What I Was Doing. (It was a shot my husband took of me when we were on our way to see Wicked in San Francisco. At least my hair was combed and there weren’t any children in the picture with me.)
Dan sent The Book, author bio, and an intro letter he composed to a long list of publishing houses. I gulped when I saw the list. These were big houses. I felt like a deer in the headlights. Real Editors were reading my book! I wanted to dive into bed and pull the covers over my head.
The novel went out on a Thursday and I got my first rejection that Sunday morning. I won’t lie. It hurt. Much more than rejections during the querying process. This was followed by more rejections. Those hurt too. But here’s the thing, the rejections were nice. Some editors didn’t offer because they had just signed an author with a similar book. Some liked the book and the writing but didn’t fall in love with it. Everyone was complimentary. Most of the editors wished me luck. They were Very Nice People. But it still hurt.And then…Dan emailed me and told me that Chuck Adams from Algonquin was reading the book and that he liked it so far! This was big. Chuck was the editor who signed Water for Elephants. I loved that book and others on his list. To think that he liked my book, well it was surreal.
The email checking amped up as I waited for updates from Dan. And then, there it was. Chuck wanted to talk to me on the phone. I agreed immediately. The phone call was scheduled and Chuck was so wonderfully down to earth. So…normal. (Dear Ones, if I have learned one thing from this journey—aside from the glacial pace at which publishing moves—it’s this: Book People are Good People.) We had a wonderful conversation. He had great thoughts about the book (yes, there will be more edits.) He told me a bit about his process. He was very direct, which I appreciated. I hung up feeling that we would work well together. I updated Dan and crossed my fingers.
The offer came the next day. I want to say that fireworks went off and the world stopped spinning, but the truth is I was driving back from the grocery store when Dan called. I’m sure I sounded like an idiot on the phone. When he asked if I wanted to accept the offer I think I blurted out, “Of course!!”From submission to offer was approximately three weeks. After that, it was all back and forth between Writer’s House and Algonquin, hammering out the contract details. After it sold, the foreign sales started. The book sold first to Italy, then Germany, Holland, and Norway.