Monday, 2 December 2013

The Submission Rollercoaster

If like me you’ve been regularly submitting your writing to agents and publishers -  it probably feels like you’re on a rollercoaster. There's the hope and excitement of sending your work off, then as the "thanks, but... no thanks" e-mail/letter rolls back in, that sinking feeling of rejection.

Okay, so there’s no easy answer here – I’ve been doing this for the last few years now (whilst writing 3 novels) and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot along the way. So I’m happy to share some tips. I know I haven’t quite made it yet myself, but this blog may just help make your journey a little more focussed and save some wasted time. Or it may just help to know that someone else is out there feeling the same as you.

There is no holy grail or magic answer. Yes, you do have to write a great book, market it professionally, and get on with sending it out after some targeted research - but that’s no guarantee of getting published quickly. So my main tip is PERSEVERE. It’s probably going to take a while, and may feel pretty gutting at times. But KEEP GOING! Believe in yourself and your book. Go back to basics, why did you write it, what do you love about it? If you know that much, it will give you the inspiration you need and the energy to carry on. If you don’t keep trying then there’s only one sure fact – you won’t get published.

KEEP WRITING! You’ll need to multitask. I wasted time early on concentrating on submitting after completing my first novel and not writing any new stuff. Keep doing both. You'll be learning and improving all the time. Maybe split a day in half, or dedicate one day every week or so to doing submission research, sending out maybe two or three targeted submissions at a time, marketing yourself, networking and updating your social media. See what works for you. It might just be book no. 2 that gets you that publishing deal!

DON’T BE SHY. You are a real writer – whether you are published or not. It took me a long while to get my head around this and be able to say this in company, honestly it felt like “coming out”. It’s a solitary hobby, and I felt I couldn’t be a real writer if I wasn’t published, despite the fact that I spent hours (actually days) every week writing. Yes, there’ll always be that awkward moment when someone asks, oh where can I get your book then, what’s it about? Just focus on the “what’s it about”, then you can mention later that you are trying to find a publisher. Be proud of yourself to have even got this far.

You are going to have to MARKET yourself and your book. For many, that’s not easy at first, but you really have to be passionate about your work and blow your own trumpet. Also, think about what is UNIQUE about your story, what makes it stand out from the crowd, who your readers are and why they are going to like it? You are making a PITCH, whether it’s by e-mail, letter or in person. You have to be business-like, concise, especially in your covering letter (keep it to a page). Keep to the submission guidelines, which can vary and will be on the agency/publishers' websites. And keep this in mind - Agents and Publishers want to sell to readers (and as many as possible) – bottom line.

FOCUS YOUR SUBMISSIONS/DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t waste time sending to agents and publishers who won’t even be interested. So how do you know? Q’s to research – do they publish/represent your genre, say it’s crime or romantic, for example? Are they looking for submissions at that time? How? Check their websites every time you are about to submit (things can change quickly in the publishing world) and research individual agents and editors (see which publishers accept non-agented material if you don’t have an agent). Look at the author thank you’s at the start/end of books in your genre and send to that particular agent, or at least mention their name in the submission e-mail. See which agents/publishers are going to writing and book festivals, especially those  in your genre or local area. Have a chat with your local book shop owner or library. Find out what’s going on.

It’s a bit like dating, trying to match yourself with the right person for your work. The right agent/publisher will want to feel passionate about your writing (which is of course very subjective) – if they reject you it doesn’t mean it’s rubbish, you’re just not the right fit at the right time. Try not to take it personally, and move on, taking into account any advice given. Onwards and upwards.

Keep a record of who might have shown interest in the past. An agent might say “no” now, but comment that they liked your work or that you have promise, so try them again with the next novel. Also, trends can change, like erotica with “Fifty Shades” -  your book might not be right to take on this year or this month, but by the next a trend may totally change that, so keep aware of what’s going on in the industry, and don’t be afraid to re-submit with that in mind.

FIND A FRIEND/JOIN A WRITING GROUP. There are some really helpful professional organisations, such as the Romantic Novelists' Association, The Crime Writers' Association – they are really helpful to new writers, giving invaluable advice, contacts and just that support of someone who’s been there and done that to keep you going.

Well, I think I’ve prattled on long enough. I hope some of this has been useful. And yes, I’m still trying! But have got really close to my goal of getting published this year, having had some fantastic comments from a major publisher, who looked at the whole manuscript of Book 2, so I’m not giving up now!
To anyone else striving for your goal, be it writing a novel or anything else THE VERY BEST OF LUCK AND KEEP GOING! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!



  1. Good post, Caroline. Lots of good advice in there!

  2. Great Blog - will be visiting regularly as I'm a fellow slush pile scrambler!! Lindsey

    1. Thanks Lindsey and the very best of luck in getting off that Slush Pile very soon!

  3. I have received a comment off-line about the fact that the Crime Writers' Association only take published authors as members. This is true but it's still worth looking them up as they support new writers with their Debut Dagger Competition which is worth checking out - the 2014 deadline is Friday 31st January. Also for the Romantic Novelists' Association as a new writer please take a look at the New Writers' Scheme. There is a rush to enrol every year so make sure to apply as soon as you can from the beginning of January ( see RNA website for details) - you don't have to send any manuscript or partial until August. It's a fantastic scheme for new writers and the support the RNA give is really great. Also if you are unlucky and don't get in, it's still worth looking up your local chapter as there are groups that meet around the UK, as long as you are writing romantic fiction in its broader sense, they'll be happy to chat with you.