Q04: Sub vs. Query

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Agented Writers. For the remaining questions, see here.)

How do you view being on sub as opposed to querying?

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Querying is like a short visit to hell. You drop in, get burned a little, and escape as fast as possible.  Being on sub is like living in hell, and nothing short of book deal is going to save you from the all-consuming fire.  Every day you get a little more scarred, and do a better job ignoring the pain of rejection. But if you ever leave submission hell (whether by the exalted contract or because you’re finally reduced to ash), you leave it changed. 

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It’s both better and worse. Better because now you have a knowledgeable, experienced person helping you on your journey and telling editors how amazing your book is. Plus you’ve made it past the first hurdle and received some validation that you’re not completely terrible at this writing thing. Worse because you’ve lost the small amount of control you had when querying, and have to trust this person you just met to do all the work for you. Plus, there are fewer editors than agents, so you have a lot fewer chances. I also think there is different pressure once you have an agent – what if this book doesn’t sell? What if your agent hates your next book? Are you emailing her too often? Etc.

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It’s nice to have an intermediary that can soften that blow. Also, someone else believes in you. On Sub, there’s less avenues to go so if you sub to all the editors, that’s it. There’s a lot more agents than Editors out there.

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I’ve found it a little less of a roller coaster ride but at the same time frustrating because so much of it is out of my control.  When querying agents, if I got a rejection I would send out two more queries to balance the scales, but it doesn’t work that way on sub. Editors generally aren’t on social media either, so obsessive cyber-stalking isn’t an option:) I had to learn to just let go and trust my agent.

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For me, because my agent doesn’t contact me with every rejection, it’s a lot less stressful. There are some days I forget about it completely. When I was querying, it felt like I was always on edge.

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It’s funny because at first I thought being on sub was so much better because you have a partner in the process who really wants you to succeed, but that’s definitely a double-edged sword. I can handle rejections (and I have!) but guilt that I’m not making her a sale has now become my first emotion when I get a rejection, which is tough. I will say that for the most part, though, sub rejections are a lot nicer and more descriptive so there’s a lot less “but whyyyy??”

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Less stressful because I’m not freaking out hitting ‘send’ on those emails, and because rejections come padded with my agent’s reassurances. However, the really close ones also hurt a LOT more. I never cried during querying, but I ugly cried when I got my first rejection from an editor who loved the book but couldn’t get enough of her second readers on board.

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It’s a relief. I feel like I have someone in my corner that I know loves my work and knows the business advocating for me so I can focus on writing. The trouble with querying is having to focus on the business side while also focusing on your craft and honing it. Not that you shouldn’t continue to know business and make yourself aware of every aspect of publishing while on submission, but that you have no one in your corner that knows more than you helping with the business side. I’m a “team player” type and believe in having people on your side, with a variety of experience, working with you on a project.

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Being on sub is even more fraught to me. It’s the final step between author and publication and it can look crazy positive then switch to nothing. It’s mind numbing.

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I’m hopefully going on sub soon, and I already know it’s going to be way worse than querying. When I was querying, the only person I was disappointing with rejections was myself, and now there’s my agent and everyone else at the agency who cares about my MS, too! I hate to think about not living up to what they hope the MS can do.

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It’s a little more nerve-wracking, probably because I didn’t spend much time in the query trenches. There are fewer editors than there are agents, and those editors all have vetted, polished manuscripts to choose from. Plus, from what I’ve heard, it seems that you’re either on sub for 1-2 months…or a year. And the worst part is that your book might not sell. Lots of agented books don’t sell. And this is the end of the road. It’s scary thinking that I may have to chuck my manuscript.

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Fucking. Shoot. Me.

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5 thoughts on “Q04: Sub vs. Query”

  1. I’m not even to the query stage yet but posts like this have a great effect on me: “Why the hell am I doing this? What am I about to put myself through? Can I really handle this? Wait, I WANT this, I can do this, I can do anything… it just might hurt a bit to get there.”
    Good luck on being on Sub!

  2. I had a feeling there was another mountain after one finally climbs the query hill. Yikes. That last quote made me burst out laughing though. Thank you for another great post!

  3. It’s amazing that I’ve felt every one of these emotions (particularly the last) while on submission. It’s easier and harder and more and less and OH GOD, KILL ME. But most of all it’s a process. I’m still on submission for my first book and am about to give my second ms. to my agent so I guess I’ll be living in comfy new quarters in Hell (maybe the 7th circle? is that the ice one?) while having 2 books on sub. Gurgle.

  4. Groan. I thought querying would be the worst stage. Apparently not. Mind you, on a positive note, I don’t have an agent yet so have no need to worry!

    (When I read it back, my positive note does not fill me with positivity. Oh dear. Time for a wine.)

  5. I love this! Thanks for posting. Do more like this one. 🙂

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