April 8, 2009
Dear Significant Others of Writers on Submission,
We know you are always trying to say the right thing, to be supportive, and to deal with our writerly nuttiness. Thank you. We appreciate your awesomeness. We really do. But sometimes we can’t help but think you need a little help in the what-not-to-say department. So since writers on sub can be a bit, well, testy–hey, you try checking your email 3,542 x per day–I’d love to help you not get your eyes clawed out or, at the very least, avoid sticking your foot in your mouth. S0und good? Great.
First rule is that we need to be able to talk about the publishing world almost 24/7. Most girls follow celebrities on Twitter. We follow editors. And we scrutinize the publishing rumor mill more than Perez Hilton does the dysfunctional relationship that is Speidi. We know you want to change the subject because, despite what our internet communities tell us, we guess that the whole world is not fascinated by how books are made. We know this. But we can’t stop our mouths from talking about it. So, please, just let us run ourselves out of new information. Pretty please?
Second, there is this thing called Publishers Marketplace. And on it, we see all the new deals that are made each day. If you’re a Significant Other, I guess you already know this. But anyway, there is probably going to be a day when we see a new deal posted whose premise sounds suspiciously close to ours. This revelation will be followed closely by a meltdown. So, when we come to you and tell you that all is lost because so-and-so book just sold and it sounds exactly like ours don’t–I repeat–Do. Not. Say, “That does sound a lot like yours!” Or any variation thereof. Books aren’t patents, ok? Remind us that there is Twilight and Vampire Academy and House of Night and all of them, at the exact same time, do just fine. Repeat after me: “It’s all in the execution.”
As a short interlude, I’d like to arm you with a few key phrases that will serve you well throughout this difficult time: “Your agent loved it, someone else will, too;” “It only takes one;” “I’ve read it and it’s fabulous;” “Even Harry Potter was rejected a couple times!” Pair those with, “Here, honey, have a glass of wine” or the almost equally powerful, “Here, honey, have some chocolate” and you will be well prepared.
Now, that we have created an essential toolbox of sorts, let’s move onto something you absolutely must not say. Please do not “helpfully” remind us that it takes some authors years and years to get published. In our little heads, though we won’t say it aloud, we secretly hope that our book will sell overnight. We certainly are not thinking that after coming this far it will take years. We categorize that as a “cross that bridge when we come to it” type conversation. ‘Nuff said.
Writers are trained to ask “what if…” by trade. What if this happened to this character? What if that happened next? So, yeah, there is a fair bit of, What if I ended up at this publishing house? What if The Call comes today? Don’t remind us that we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us plan how we will celebrate and look at where our book would fit on the shelf. That’s what has kept us writing up to this point!
Finally, please, oh, please do not make us part with our cellphones! We’re going to sit with it out everywhere we go and turning it to silent and keeping it under the table on dates is really, really hard, so try to appreciate that. You ask what would happen if we didn’t find out the good–or bad–news at the exact moment it was available–Ok, you have a point there. I’m not sure what exactly would happen. But it would be bad, we just know it. So, while we have not exactly thought out what would happen if our agent or editor called while we were on the potty, we’d figure it out. Trust us.
Thank you for listening, friends, and may your writer have a quick sale!