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Things I Have Done While on Submission to Forget That I’m on Submission
I’M STILL LOSING MY MIND.
If you’re an author, you know what I’m talking about when I say I’m on submission. The most common reaction I hear from my fellow author friends when I tell them that I’m “on sub” is: “Oh, honey, let me buy you a drink.” For my non-writer readers, being on submission is when your literary agent takes your manuscript or proposal—depending on whether you’re pitching fiction or non-fiction; non-fiction book projects are, more often than not, sold on proposal, whereas you need to, more times than not, have a complete manuscript in-hand to pitch a novel or any other work of fiction—and sends it to a handful of editors they deem good editorial matches for you. The editors review what your agent has sent them, and—like a Hollywood panel of judges—they line up in front of you like a firing squad, except instead of firearms, they aim a T-shirt cannon filled with your crumpled-up project/dreams and fire on three.
Just kidding, they either politely pass, or, if they liked it, they’ll offer a deal. If more than one editor wants to make an offer—a dream!—they’ll bid increasing amounts of money for it in an auction. It depends on the agent and their rules for auction, and there are usually a lot of other factors involved besides the book advance (like royalties, TV/film rights, etc.) that can sway a decision, but this is how it generally goes down. The whole process can range from just a few hours to a few years. Fun!
Unless you’re a super-famous writer (like Stephen King) and can sell a book based on an idea you scribbled on a bar napkin, no author is spared from the anxiety that comes with being on submission. Whether you’re an emerging writer or a national bestseller, you’re grinding your teeth all night long until you—fingers crossed!—get the email or phone call you’re hoping for.
Here is an (incomplete) list of things I’ve been doing while awaiting this fated email or phone call:
1. I started rewatching Charmed (the OG version, duh) from the beginning. You can stream the remastered HQ version on Peacock; I won’t say that I signed up for Peacock with the sole purpose of streaming Charmed, but I’ll write it. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword for certain shows of yore (you can see the wires sticking out of a prop that’s supposed to run 100% on magic), BUT you can also count every individual bead on a pair of Shannen Doherty’s chunky beaded heels. Blessed be indeed, bitch!
2. Re-potting my plants. I had a money tree that was in distress fire a flare for help months ago, and I just came to its assistance. May she forgive me, if she survives!
3. DEEP. CLEANING. For example, I cleaned my microwave yesterday, and I need to know: am I warming up food, or did 1,000 cigarettes get brutally murdered in there?!?!?!?!
4. Trying new restaurants in my neighborhood. I’ve lived in the same part of Bushwick for six years now, and I still haven’t eaten or ordered from a number of local staples because I’m that person who orders from the same three places over and over until they die. (All my fellow diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD and/or autistic babes, let’s give it up for food hyperfixation!!!!!!!!!!!!) At the risk of diving deeper into my psychological profile and interrogating my aversion to change, I have to admit that I have a hard time stepping out of my comfort zone (read as: chicken fingers for every meal). But being on submission is a great time to dip a toe into the local cuisine scene, and because of that, I have grown very fond of the chicken cutlet sandwich from La Cantine, which I’m thrilled to announce is my new hyperfixation meal!
5. Finally donating all of the clothes and books collecting dust in the various bags I continue to add to, all stuffed in different nooks and corners of my apartment. Even if you’re not on submission, you know what I’m talking about: I bet one out of every three of you has at least one bag of clothes in the back of your closet, waiting to be donated or consigned or however you choose to part with your textual and textile recyclables. This past weekend, I sold and donated over forty books, and a few bags of clothing that had been eroding in my closet, and I have been drunk with the power that comes from a good purge ever since.
7. Finally, finally, FINALLY, making a dent in my personal to-be-read pile(s) of books. As many of you know, I cover a lot of books, whether it’s an author interview, a review, round-up—you name it. This includes the SOS Book Logs you get from me every few weeks. But seldom do I find time to curl up with a book that I’m not covering for work, which has resulted in a number of precariously positioned piles throughout my room, ready to be tipped over at a moment’s notice by virtue of a haphazardly placed can of seltzer or an iPad. Books that you will, most likely, read about in a future book log. Is that technically work? Yes. But the pleasure remains!
8. This goes hand in hand with reading for leisure, but I’ve started writing for myself again. The intention isn’t to get published—especially since I’ve started writing poetry again (a craft I had not touched since freshman year of college, that is until I got distracted by drugs and the world below Fourteenth Street and forewent writing it for nights of debaucherous fun). Goddess knows I am not ready to be the subject of many-a-poets’ group chat, should any of these poems—if I can even call them that?!—graduate from my Notes app to publication. At least not until I take no fewer than 400 poetry workshops and/or die!
9. Finding myself deep in the bowels of a Reddit thread dedicated to Area 51.
10. Saying “yes” to more social plans. Regardless if it’s grabbing a drink or going over to a friend’s house to sigh in synchrony with them on their couch, I am trying to step out more—literally. Leaving the house is a good distraction, because instead of worrying about whether or not my book will sell, I get to worry for the next forty-eight years if the innocuous thing I said was misperceived by someone with whom I’m hoping to make a good impression.
Now, pray that some editor buys my next book(s). I want to go back to rotting in peace!
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Cover art by: James Jeffers
Editorial assistant: Jesse Adele