What It’s Like To Be On Submissions To Publishers

So Lucia and Amber have advanced from the editing stage with their agents to the *gasps* submissions to editors! 🥳. For any who might wonder, this is the step to publication that comes after:

  • Getting an agent
  • Editing your manuscript with them.

Once your agent feels your MS is set, they pitch it to editors in hopes that it is acquired for publication. Usually, this process ranges from days to years. Since this isn’t a topic that’s easily found online, and because we love to inform (hehe) we’ve decided to share what being on submission is like in this duo post!

Amber
Lucia

How many rounds of edits did you do with your agent?

Lucia: We did 3 rounds of edits before submissions!

Amber: I did one round of line edits, but the caveat to this is that I did a major round of revision to the MS during PitchWars before getting my agent 🙂 Depending on how editorial the agent is and how ready they think the MS is, some authors do several rounds of revisions before going on sub, while others can pretty much go on sub immediately!

– Did you research the editors on The List?

Lucia: I mean, after my agent sent me The List, I wanted to. And I think I did with the first two names and imprints on the list. But then I didn’t really find anything that made a difference! I checked both their twitters but they hadn’t tweeted in weeks. I googled them, but – there just wasn’t anything tangible so I thought, what’s the point? If my book went to auction, then such research would come in handy. Until then, I trust my agent on this and I’ll just cross my fingers while praying for the best!

Amber: Nope! Like Lucia, I trust my agent to put together the sub list that she thinks has the best shot of getting the book acquired. Also, I think the best way to find out about an editor is actually speaking to them, so that can wait until editors offer a call and we get to discuss editorial directions. Until then, no judgement!

Do you have a dream editor?

Amber: Again, nope! I do have a dream imprint (that I’ll keep a secret for now so I don’t jinx it hehe). I would be so thrilled if I could get published by the same publisher as my all-time favourite author – and get dibs on ARCs of their books!

Lucia: I don’t have a dream editor, although I did have a dream publishing house. And that was mostly for my Fantasy—I don’t think Disney Books has an imprint for Regency Novels? But I’m a huge Disney fan and I thought it’d be amazing for my Fantasy (which is partly a Frozen retelling) to be published by them. Now though, I just hope for the best for my books!

What’s your submissions coping mechanism?

Amber: I am very early in my sub journey so I’m still in the no chill stage where I refresh my inbox every five minutes hoping that I’ll see a new email from my agent! This might fade once the rejections start rolling in… But in the meantime, I’m working on developmental edits for my next MS and drafting another WIP to take my mind off the inbox crickets.

Lucia: I think my coping mechanism is to face it the same way I faced querying, and then editing with my agent. Knowing that I just have to wait, until the thing happens. I’m a full time writer but I’ve also decided not to write a new book for now, because I have enough MSs on ground (1 trilogy and 2 standalones with series potential) which I hope all get published. So I can’t take the timeless advice of ‘write something else in the meanwhile’. What I am doing is catching up on reading—I hadn’t been reading much because I’d been writing so much—editing my fantasy novel with my other agent, focusing on blogging, and watching TV! Also find friends or a friend who’s also on subs – very important.

Did you feel excited when your agent sent the message that you’re officially on sub?

Amber: I was screaming! Also, we went on sub the day before my birthday so it was like the best birthday gift! Super excited to find out that my book has embarked on another stage of this long publishing journey 😀

Lucia: Probably! We were initially supposed to go on submissions to publishers on the 16th of February but had to push it to the 17th. On the 16th (the expected submissions day) I felt pretty normal, but then when it had to be pushed a day back, I started getting super anxious. What if we have to push it another day back? And then another and never actually go on submissions? (because my mind works like that sometimes). So I was anxious on the 17th until I got an email from my agent in the afternoon that the MS was out and I was officially on submissions. What I felt then was mostly relief, rather than excitement. Because the whole thing is a waiting game and for me, ‘MS is out, great! And so the waiting continues’ 😂

What is The Wait like?

Amber: Check in again after three months – if I’m still on sub then, I predict I will be wallowing in bed with tubs of ice cream by my side. For now, the wait feels like what it felt like when I was querying and I spend my time obsessively reading sub stories on Kate Dylan’s site. You’re just twiddling your thumbs and waiting for someone to say they love your MS and want to work with you on it. Traditional publishing really feels like gate after gate that needs to be crossed, so kudos to all of us who are persevering on this path!

Lucia: Oh, it’s tough! We went on submissions to publishers on a Thursday and for the rest of that week, I didn’t think much about it (if at all) and just focused on working on my YA Fantasy with my other agent. On Monday, however, I started thinking more about it. Is this the day I’ll get an email from my agent telling me an editor is interested? Will the email come in any hour now? Will it come tomorrow? Lol. It’s just crazy because there’s no timeframe to reference!

What is the sub process actually like?

Amber: Think of it as querying round two, but HARDER. The upside is that you now have a middleman (aka your agent) to handle the “querying” process for you! Once your MS is ready to go, your agent will put together a pitch that they’ll send to all the editors in the sub list. The pitch looks eerily like what a query letter looks like, so don’t be surprised if you get deja vu here. Once the pitch has been yeeted into the void, you wait. Here’s where the process gets more complex than querying. When you’re querying, it’s only one person’s opinion your need – the agent. If the agent loves your book, you have the offer. When you’re on sub, you need A TON of people to love your book and believe in its commercial viability. If an editor is interested, they’ll send it for second reads. When you get past that, then you’ll need the imprint’s acquisitions board to give the green light. At any point in time during this process, the editor is likely to request for a call with you to discuss editorial direction, to find out if you’re on the same page. If acquisitions says Yes, then you have an offer (hurray!). Your agent will need to nudge all the other editors who have your book to ask them if they’re still interested – and this is where you’ll get polite step asides or more offers (feel like querying again?). Manifesting that I’ll get to this stage eventually!

Lucia: Amber has described it perfectly!

– General thoughts on submissions?

Lucia: I think writers tend to downplay the difficulty of being on submissions. If for instance, querying writers are talking about the difficulty of querying and you, a writer on subs, say ‘subs is so tough’, the reaction would be that yours isn’t as bad as querying so you shouldn’t be complaining. But fam, submissions is very tough. As someone who has experienced both, I can say that in *some* ways, submissions is more emotionally tasking than querying. Subs is a point where you might not get any good news for almost a year, and each month is a ticking clock for your MS. A point where your book might die and be shelved, despite having an agent. A determinant of if you and your agent will live happily ever after—or if you’ll part ways. So subs is super tough and I’ll advice writers not to go in thinking this is gonna be easier than querying, but to be very prepared to face the subs trenches (if that’s a thing!).

Amber: Everyone wishes they can be that unicorn that gets their book sold at auction right off the bat, but for many, sub can be a long, arduous process (again, like querying). However, one thing I’ve learnt from the many wise words of friends who are further along in this journey is that you, the author, can manage the stress of the process. For example, some request for their agent to only update them when there is positive news, or when there are editor replies that can constructively help to move the book forward (like useful feedback for revisions). This helps them avoid the slump that comes with receiving a string of rejections – which will come, even for NYT best sellers! Others request for their agent to update them at specific intervals (e.g. once a week, once a month), so that they know when to expect emails and don’t need to jump every time they receive something new in their inbox. Your agent is there to help you with all this, so let them help you!


L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, one of her prominent projects DESTITUTES AND FIENDS on submissions to editors. She’s a lover of words, Disney, and represented by her agent. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.

Amber is a PitchWars ’20 alum and a Wattpad Star. One of her Wattpad novels, The Cutting Edge, has recently been adapted for television and is streaming on meWATCH. She is represented by Anne Perry at The Ki Agency. Website | Twitter | Wattpad | Instagram

Published by path2pub

From The Trenches To The Shelves

12 thoughts on “What It’s Like To Be On Submissions To Publishers

  1. Loved this post! It’s very enlightening! Congratulations on being on submissions and good luck! Looking forward to hearing your big newses 😉

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  2. I got SO excited when I saw the tweets that you ladies were preparing a post like this! *Bookmarked!* Submissions is usually so hush-hush. One moment we hear a writer is on subs, and then months later we either see an announcement of a book deal, or don’t hear anything at all. It’s great to see a bit into the process and from your different experiences too! Thanks for the transparency!

    I can imagine how torturous the waiting is – and thanks for the heads up that let’s us know querying isn’t the end of the road on this journey. Wishing you some good news soon!

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  3. Fantastic post! I can’t believe you ladies have the fortitude not to stalk the editors on your lists though 😂 were it me, I’d have done a full background check on them. I’m neurotic like that! I can imagine the constant refreshing of emails (Amber), and the constant wondering of if the email would come in anytime soon (Lucia). You girls are strong. Thanks for giving us this glimpse into the process – loved the duo post!

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    1. Haha, Stalking them doesn’t really provide any satisfaction because they hardly tweet or give any details about themselves/their processes like agents tend to do! Thanks for reading, Savanna!

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  4. “Because the whole thing is a waiting game and for me, ‘MS is out, great! And so the waiting continues’”

    Honestly this just seems like the crux of the matter of publishing. Waiting after waiting after waiting! So not fun. Thanks ladies for putting together this insider post. Enjoyed reading (I especially like Path2pub posts where you give us multiple POVs collectively). I hadn’t known that agents made a list of imprints and shared it with writers, or that writers could have dream editors. I can’t explain how eye opening this post is!

    My question is, can you have an opinion on a publishing house you want your book submitted to? For instance, if you have an imprint you hope will publish you and they aren’t mentioned on The List can you ask your agent to add it?

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    1. Yes! You can definitely let your agent know if there are certain imprints/editors that you are keen to sub to, and your agent can add that to the sub list! Ultimately you are the client, and your agent is there to support you in getting your book where you want it to be 🙂

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  5. Ah being published by Disney would so be the dream! It’s great that you ladies have so much faith in your agents though. That’s the ideal relationship. Fabulous post!

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