Going on submission

After spending a year and half revising Sorcerer to the Crown under, er, challenging conditions, you’d think I’d be thrilled to go on submission to publishers. But to be honest it was sort of an anticlimax!

I’d sent the latest in several versions of the manuscript to my agent and was waiting for more edit notes, when instead she emailed me saying it’d gone off to publishers. She gave me a list of the editors she’d submitted the manuscript to, and said she’d asked them to get back to her in six weeks’ time. My face went from this: @_@ (its habitual expression in 2014) to this: O_O And it stayed like that for six weeks!

For those who don’t know how the submission process works — well, I don’t either, but in my limited understanding, this is what generally happens. The literary agent sends the manuscript to a number of editors at different publishing houses. The editors read it and either decide they like it enough to want to acquire it, or not. Before they make any offer, though, they have to run around internally to figure out how much they’ll be offering and get approval to make the offer and all that sort of thing. Here’s a good piece on the calculations they do.

The money offered will be an advance on the royalties the publisher estimates the author will make on sales of the book. They might also say they want more books from the author. If so, they’ll offer an additional advance amount for each book.

I was determined to have no feelings whatsoever about going on submission, save cheerfulness that I was finally released from going through that damned manuscript again. (Of course I was thoroughly sick of it by that time. I genuinely enjoyed the second and third revisions, but the enjoyment faded after that.)

The usual advice is to start on something new and forget about the project on submission as much as you can. So I started planning and writing new projects, finishing a flash piece and running off around 9,000 words of a novella. (Not Space Villette. Space Villette had started going wrong, so I put it in a corner to think about what it had done). As best I could, I tried to ignore that my novel was out there making the rounds.

But I wasn’t successful at having no feelings. When rejections started rolling in, my many feelings of nervousness were joined by a despairing conviction that the book would not sell and I had spent the past two years working my butt off in vain. I had told myself this might happen, so I felt a sort of grim satisfaction at having been proved right, but also I felt depressed.

My agent was being great and reassuring, but I did not believe her because I was in that state of mind where you only believe the negative things people say and not the positive things. I was having dreams of tactfully-worded rejections — I’d wake up and not be sure if I was thinking about a rejection I’d actually received, or a dream rejection. Also, every piece of publishing news that came across my social media feeds at this time seemed to be about writers selling their books half an hour after going on submission. As you can imagine, I was great company!

So when your writer friend tells you they have gone on submission, make a noise of mingled congratulations and sympathy. Then take them out for a drink. They will need it.

But towards the end of the six-week period my agent had set, one editor confirmed that they were going to make an offer. They were just holding off in case it was going to be an auction. So whatever happened next, the book was going to have a home.