I often tell people I did the entire publishing thing backwards. I had an editor interested in my book before I even had an agent which means I published my first book without having to go through the submission process.
Wow, if only I had realized how rare and lucky that was, I would have savoured the moment a little.
Submission, for those that aren’t familiar with the term, is basically querying to find a editor. A simplified definition to be sure, but accurate. When you’re querying, you hope to find an agent to represent you and your books. When you’re on submission, you hope to find an editor to publish your book.
It can be a nerve wracking and emotionally trying time. A time when you return to checking your inbox incessantly and bracing for bad news every time it pings. Every agented author will experience the submission process at least once (and likely much more often) so I thought I’d share some of my best tips and tricks for how to survive it:
1. Set Clear Parameters with your Agent
My agent asked me up front if I wanted to see the actual responses from the editors or just get a heads up if it was a pass or good news. Many writers I know ask their agent for an update once a week (even if there is no update) so they aren’t stressed about emails but I chose to see the full responses as soon as they came in. Being clear with your expectations from the start is vital. This is not a sprint and you need to make sure you can stay hydrated until the end.
2. Keep Writing
One of the toughest (and best) parts about sending your manuscript out on sub is that the editing/revising/second guessing phase is now over and you are forced to move on to whatever is next. Don’t fight this, embrace the freedom and open yourself up to something new. Write like you’ll have to go on submission again.
3. Celebrate The Little Wins
Publishing is a long and winding journey and I firmly believe you should celebrate even the smallest of wins. Did you get a rejection but the editor said they’d like to see your next book? Pop that bubbly. Did going out on submission with this book free you up to work on another idea and the words are just flowing? That deserves some cake. Have you discovered that you are way tougher than you thought you were? Buy yourself something nice (like a new book).
4. Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Win
Dealing with rejection is so much harder when it feels like everyone else around you is winning. But the comparison game is a losing one, every time. I’m still working on this myself and often find myself filled with jealousy when I read about big deals. I allow myself a moment to feel the envy and then congratulate my fellow author on their good news. After all, I know all too well what they went through to get there and hope, one day, they will be celebrating with me in return.
5. Find Your Outlet
So much of publishing feels like a solitary pursuit but the truth is, there are thousands of people going through the exact same thing and know just how it feels. Find a group of fellow writers that you trust and can share your innermost thoughts with. Make sure it’s an appropriate forum (ie. not on social media) and that you are always respectful. For me, having the space to talk out my fears and worries rather than internalizing them, is incredibly helpful to my own mental health.
6. Have Faith In Your Work
It can be easy to lose sight of everything you have achieved to get to the point of sending a manuscript out on submission but it is nothing to scoff at. No matter what happens, being on sub means that editors in the publishing industry are reading your work and having discussions about publishing it. That’s a huge accomplishment and one you should be proud of. If this book doesn’t sell, you can always try again. (See tip #2.)
Most importantly, remember that this one book doesn’t define your entire career and your value and worth as a writer doesn’t hinge on its success.