The Stuff That Happens After the Thing


Woman smiling in field of flowers

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash





I don’t know who is where these days, but back in the yesteryear of there being a writing community on Twitter, this was a familiar sequence. There were circles of people who moaned and commiserated daily about the querying trenches. There were some who posted stats and continuous misery-inducing updates (“OMG my fifth full this hour whyyy” – if you’ve queried, you’ve encountered this brand of not-even-humble brag). Maybe this is all still happening, but Twitter is a confused wasteland these days so I wouldn’t know.

The point is, we all like to talk about querying. It’s all there is to do while querying, besides querying and pretending to write your next book. All the stuff that happens after the agent announcement … that’s where even the humbler braggers go silent.

Yes, it’s that mysterious phase of publishing called “being on sub”. You might be in it, you might know some people who are in it, but one thing is for sure, you are not tweeting about it. Or maybe you are. I think I’ve established that I don’t know anything anymore.

I am, though, officially on sub.

Here is what I can tell you so far:

1. It is way less preoccupying than querying

    I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I have a mind that tends to fixate, and when I was querying, the fixation was real. Compulsive email checking. Query tracker updating. Twitter stalking. It was too much a part of my daily existence … so much so that shortly after landing my wonderful agent, I had a mental health reckoning. My obsessive brain had a sudden void to fill without querying, and things weren’t great for a bit.

    The wonderful thing about submission is that it’s out of my hands. Thankfully EditorTracker isn’t a thing and I don’t have a dozen potentially life-changing emails I’m waiting on. It’s a huge relief to have the privilege of someone else taking on the searching and emailing and tracking and following up.

    2. There are groups out there … you just have to find them

    Everyone needs a writing squad. If you’re a writer, hopefully you have incredible cheerleaders and CPs and a weekly Zoom and all that, but if you don’t, it’s never too late to find your people. I’ve met wonderful beta readers through the #momswritersclub on Twitter and recently joined the On Submission group on Facebook. Discord has a few writing-based servers and I’ve bounced ideas off potential readers on Reddit.

    There’s also this whole thing called Book Tok … I’m sure people talk about stuff on there.

    3. If you need demystifying, there is help

    I had a good idea about the submission phase from seeing friends go through it. I knew that being on sub would be a whole new brand of torture, that it can drag on for months or even years, and that many books die on sub. My agent collaborated with me on our submission strategy, so I had clear timelines regarding who we would submit to and when.

    If you have an agent, they can answer a lot of questions for you, but no one expects them to be answering emails 24/7 and sometimes you might want to know the thing at 10 pm on a Saturday. When it comes to the language of Publishers Marketplace and the different potentialities of offers and deals, here are a few resources I found particularly helpful.

    This lovely blog post breaks down the possible scenarios that might occur after your agent submits a book to a publisher: https://aspiringauthor.com/publishers/book-on-submission-to-publishers/

    This one breaks down what all those deal announcements on Publishers Marketplace really mean: https://makealivinginkidlit.com/secret-language-of-publishing-deals/

    Here is a handy list of the big 5 publishers and their imprints: https://www.9thstreetbooks.com/big-five-publishers-and-imprints/

    And that’s all I have to say about being on submission … for now. If anyone has resources to add to the above list, send them my way!

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