What could be better for the first day of the New Year than a drop of inspiration. I hope you enjoy this story of submission success from my friend Sarah Glenn Marsh.
Fear the Drowning Deep: Getting the Submission Call
Hi everyone! I’m so happy that Michelle is willing to let me share my story with her wonderful readers. I used to visit this blog often to read the interviews and successes, hoping that someday the publishing dream would happen for me. Back when I was querying, I only spent about 3-4 months in the trenches before I signed with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis in July of 2013. I was so excited! But while even my short stint of querying was tiresome and nerve-wracking (I could go on, but most of you know this stuff already), I’d soon find out about the even harsher realities of being ON SUBMISSION.
When your book is out on sub with editors, you give up a lot of control. Pretty much all of it. Your agent sends the book to editors after pitching it to them, and (usually, depending on the agent) will share responses after the editors read. You take the responses, learn from them if you can, and revise between sub rounds if you spot a pattern in the feedback…but that’s about it. It’s not like querying, where, if you know you’ve got a good query letter, you can send out a few more right after getting an agent rejection.
And if you’re a type-A like me, super-proactive, always making lists, wanting things to happen right away and doing everything in your power to make them happen—well, submission is going to suck for you. I’m sorry. But it is. If you’re like some of my other agent-sisters, you can focus on your next project and stay cool and collected through it all. If so, I admire you! And if not, welcome to the club.
Being on submission for a few months is tough. Being on submission longer than a few months is tougher. Even with a fabulous agent to support you. Even with great friends and CPs, and understanding family members, the emotional ups and downs are like nothing I’d ever experienced! (The tears! The chocolate-eating!) After a while, I did adjust to the whole, “this situation is out of my hands” concept and worked on preparing my next book for sub.
So—as is often the case—the moment I was focused on other things, Stuff Happened.
I was celebrating a successful round of revisions on my next book at a fantasy art/music/writing convention called FaerieCon when I got THE CALL. That’s the, “We have an offer!” call from my agent, Christa. But please, give me a moment to set the scene for you:
I’m in a large ladies’ restroom at a hotel. There’s a changing area with mirrors and benches. The changing area is full of ladies halfway into elf ears, glittering wings, and all sorts of gorgeous fairy garb. I hear my phone buzzing from my purse, but by the time I get to it, the ringing’s stopped—and I have a voicemail from Christa. I knew she was about to take a trip to London, and my first thought was that something had gone wrong with her travel arrangements (don’t ask why she’d call me if such a thing happened—my mind jumps to strange conclusions!). But her message said, “I have good news! I’m in the airport, but you can call me back…”
To all the fairies trying to get ready in that changing area, I apologize. The amount of shrieking and happy dancing and I THINK I HAVE A BOOK OFFER that went down was probably obnoxious. Okay, it was obnoxious. I’d have been giving me the side-eye, too. I might’ve even splashed sink water everywhere as I attempted to dab cold water on my face. Still, I trust none of your evening was ruined by my extreme enthusiasm!
So, fairy Sarah (that’d be me with glitter on my face and flowers in my hair) rushed through the hotel to get to the relatively quiet lobby, where I could call Christa back and hear what she had to tell me. And there I heard the news I’d wished for with all my heart, for many moons: editor Kristin Kulsavage of Sky Pony Press, an imprint of SkyHorse Publishing, wanted to buy my YA debut. A little historical fantasy called FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP.
I’d like to think that Kristin saw what I see in the book, and what I hope readers will experience if they decide to join a girl named Bridey Corkill on the windswept cliffs of the Isle of Man, over a century ago: magic. Not spells or potions, though those have their place, but the magic of discovering what’s hidden in a tide pool. The magic of what the ocean gives, and takes away. The magics of first love and family and sisterhood, and how the things we fear can drive us apart—or bring us closer together than we were before we faced down the danger and lived to tell the tale.
In closing, I want you to remember a few things I learned the hard way! First, use your support systems. Bend the ears of your critique partners and friends when you feel down. Second, submission can be an even bigger waiting game than querying. Everyone’s path to publication is different, and the many stages happen at various times for different people—maybe it depends on where Mars is sitting in relation to Neptune and the non-planet Pluto, or something. I don’t know. But I’ll say it again: everyone’s journey is different. Last, don’t take the rejections to heart. This is something I’ve really had to work on. I love words, and when those words aren’t good news, it hurts me. That said, NOTHING about a pass from an editor (or agent) means that your story isn’t valid, or that you aren’t valid as a storyteller or person. It may not be the right time for a particular story to get published, but the words inside you are important, and you should never stop writing. As long as you keep going through the doubts, the dream is alive, and you’ll get there.
Sarah Glenn Marsh is a YA fantasy author represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis Literary. Her debut historical fantasy, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP, takes place on the Isle of Man in the early 1900s, and will be published by Sky Pony in the spring of 2016. Find it on Goodreads here.
An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, Sarah's been making up words and worlds ever since. She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband and four rescued senior greyhounds: Romeo & Juliet, Grimm, and Khaleesi.