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Guest Post: The Submission Game–Overcoming Rejection

By Stephanie Campbell

The submission game is one of the toughest things that writers have to face. You pour your life into your book—hours and hours of time spent to tweak the words into submission. You find a literary agent or a publisher and you send the manuscript in, waiting with bated breath. You feel like you are going mad, waiting for the reply. Then you get it. It goes something like this:

Dear Writer,

Thank you so much for taking your time to submit to publisher XYZ. While we appreciate your submission, it is not a good fit for us at this time. Best of luck to you and your writing endeavors.

Sincerely,

Editor X

Heartbreak. Instant shattering. No, I am not just writing that to be poetic. I know because I understand. It’s your baby, rejected. It’s like watching your daughter get turned down for the prom. I have had enough of these letters to wallpaper my house with. I got my first one at sixteen from a literary agent. I still remember that moment. (Though I don’t blame the agent. I look back now and cringe at the state of that manuscript.)

Even as an accomplished writer, I get emails like that. Sometimes the manuscripts I submit are simply not up to par. It’s easy to say, “Grit your teeth and bear with it.” That doesn’t make the hurt go away. Yet now, as a more experienced writer, I have to say that I support the tough-as-nails system.

1) It sorts the men from the boys. I started submitting at sixteen. I didn’t get accepted by a traditional publisher until I was twenty. Now I work with many publishers and editors. The people that want it and will be successful are the ones that find a right fit for their stories and are willing to revise.

2) You develop thick skin. When you become a novelist, you will get bad reviews. I know I do. I don’t check them because if I did, then I would go crazy. Occasionally, though, one sneaks up on you and “Wham!” instant pain. But look at Sherlock Homes and The Scarlet Letter. They are some of the most treasured literary gems. They have one star reviews on Amazon. Edgar Allen Poe got bad reviews. Being a writer means being a warrior. You’re going to get stabbed.

3) Rejection can show important personality traits to editors. An inexperienced writer might say, “They aren’t looking at me, they’re looking at my book.” Wrong. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a good book. You will have to work with your editors on a constant basis. You talk back and forth. You will have to make major revisions. I have worked as an acquisitions editor before. There may or may not be a DNP (Do Not Publish) list, but trust me, we remember the writers that treat us badly and won’t go out of our way to get you published.

What I learned from my “travels:”

Find Pre-editors and Editors and use their lists to find the best publishers. If it doesn’t say “no simultaneous submissions” on the publisher’s guidelines, then trust me, submit to others. Lots of others, in fact. Holding your breath for one publisher is like laying all your eggs in a basket that has a hole in the bottom of it.

*Note on simultaneous submissions

Keep track of who you do submit to. Even if simultaneous submissions are allowed, editors appreciate an email if the manuscript gets accepted elsewhere. It’s about respect. They have a lot of submissions. If your book is already spoken for, even if it is incredible, then it wastes their time.

Walk before you run. I’ve seen some writers get a literary agent straight away in their career, but honestly, not many do. Just a note to remember.

Do nudge. Really, if it’s been two months and their submissions say “two months,” then ask them about it. I once thought I got a rejection after two months and went on to work with another publisher who wanted my book. Four months later I got a contract letter. It was embarrassing.

Lastly, don’t give up! Persistence always wins!

Author Bio: Stephanie Campbell has been writing since she was twelve and had her first novel, Until We Meet Again, published at seventeen. Since then she’s published four more books and she hopes to publish many more. You can learn more about Stephanie by reading my interview with her here or visiting her website here.

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Dragon Night by Stephanie Campbell

Stephanie Campbell is one of many authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my internship at Musa. After I interviewed her, I decided I’d really like to check out her book. Armed with a brand new Kindle and a gift certificate, I made my way to Musa’s site and bought Stephanie’s book.

I wasn’t disappointed.

According to the website:

The only thing more shocking than discovering that dragons really exist is finding out that you are one.

Ever since he could remember, Ford was treated cruelly by his parents, Liddy and Wicker Forks. He cannot figure out why they hate him so much. It is only when he discovers that his father isn’t really Wicker Forks but instead is a mysterious, red-eyed stranger that he goes on a quest to find his true identity—and much, much more.

As he heads forward down the path of danger and illusion, he uncovers a world that he had never imagined, a world of dragons. Ford must decide who he is—a dragon or a boy—and whichever path he chooses will be his future for forever. After all, once you are a dragon, there is no going back.

The Review Part

In Dragon Night, Stephanie Campbell manages to introduce us to a huge new concept–the idea that dragons and half dragons exist–while managing to ground the story in reality with a very mundane beginning and a familiar power struggle: the struggle between pure blood and half blood. We learn with Ford that the half dragons or draconics are pretty much slaves to the bigger, tougher dragons. As Ford is put under the pressure of leading a rebellion against the dragons, the leader of whom might just be his real father, he is faced with one shocking revelation after another.

The best part? He gets angry, he gets upset, he suffers a lot, and he doesn’t whine. Maybe I’m just bitter about Twilight, but it seems to me that too many YA protagonists like to whine. Ford isn’t one of those whiney YA protagonists. He’s a boy who’s just trying to do the right thing–and he’s figuring out exactly what that is as he goes along.

Of course it isn’t perfect. The one thing I wish is that the draconic culture was explored more fully. I would love to know, other than the power struggle between them and the dragons and their shape shifting abilities and all that, what makes them different from ordinary humans. What rituals do they have? Do they have religion? What sorts of gods do they believe in? Other than the struggles they face in the minds and the sadness forced upon them by the dragons, I feel not very much of draconic culture is shown. Maybe I’m just a culture geek, but I really would have loved it if Stephanie explored their culture more fully.

Even without the extra culture building Dragon Night is a great book that kept me turning proverbial pages well into the night. Over the last few years I’ve found myself getting pickier and pickier about books, critiquing them in my head as I read, nit-picking little errors or stylistic things I would have done differently, and I didn’t find myself stopping very often during Dragon Night. I’m happy I read this book and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes YA and dragons–and the chance to explore another culture, however limited that exploration may be.

You can buy Dragon Night for $4.99 here.

Musa Author Interview: Stephanie Campbell

Today I am very pleased to introduce Stephanie Campbell, author of Dragon Night. I am currently reading Dragon Night, published by Urania, Musa’s speculative fiction imprint, on the Kindle I got for Christmas. I’m more than halfway through the book and I’ve enjoyed every step along the way. It’s a great honour to have her here today.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your book, Dragon Night?

I’m twenty-one years old and have been writing since I was twelve. People in the publishing world often tell me that I’m “still a baby.” I have heard that phrase used on me quite often. I’m a go-getter, at least when it comes to the things that I want and love, so I don’t let my age or anything else get in my way. I think that’s how I first ended up published. The poor editors probably got so darn sick of me harassing them that they decided to throw the dog a bone.

I got my first book, Until We Meet Again, published when I was seventeen. Since then, I’ve had the books Poachers, Where All Rivers Meet, P.S. I Killed My Mother, and yes, Dragon Night, published.

Dragon Night is my favorite book out so far. It’s about a boy who discovers that his father isn’t really his father. He goes on a quest to find his biological dad, and along the way he discovers that he’s a half-dragon in a world where dragons and half-dragons are at war.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’m very lucky that I discovered that what I loved more than breathing early in life. (That isn’t even a hyperbole. I really do.) I’ve always been a clumsy, forgetful mess of a girl, and don’t ever ask me to solve a math equation. But writing made me very happy so I worked at it. I could always imagine myself getting up and writing the whole day and being the most blissful person on this planet. When I got out of high school, I was still logical about the whole situation, though. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me, “Writers don’t make much. You won’t be able to live like that.”

I tried my hand at a few different things, still writing all the while, but I was miserable that way. That was when I realized that I was being very dumb about the whole thing. I wanted to be a novelist. The best things in the world take time. Listening to myself was the smartest thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve got a ton of book contracts out right now, and I’m very successful under multiple pen names. I think some part of me always knew that I was destined to be a writer. I just had to have enough faith in myself to believe that it was possible for me.

3. What made you decide to write fantasy?

Because I love the idea of disappearing in another world completely. Harry Potter did something to me—well, I’m pretty sure that it did something to most kids. J.K. Rowling is a brilliant woman. I’m still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, and I’m still harboring a deep rooted belief that I am actually a fairy that was swapped out of the real Stephanie’s crib. YA fantasy is what I love to read.

4. Have you ever tried your hand at other genres?

Yes, I write in every genre—quite literally. I have an adult mystery and an adult sci-fi coming out. (Case Closed has a superb cover .) I have a YA drama. I’m currently writing an adult suspense called Racing Death, about a man who’s trying to save his significant other’s life. Basically, you name it, chances are good that I’ve written it…except for non-fiction. I’ve tried it, but I just can’t do it, even if it’s regarding a top that I know everything about.

5. What does the writing process look like for you?

I have a step by step process. I’ll usually be working on four or five projects all at once. I’ll edit one book, write another, and then be publicizing a third. Here is my outline for one of these books. Just imagine it at high speed with three other books at different points of the process thrown in:

Step 1) I’ll get the idea, which usually happens when I’m writing a completely different book.

Step 2) I’ll outline it chapter by chapter. This usually takes me about thirty minutes, and the book will look completely different by the time that I’m done.

Step 3) Write the book. This step usually takes me a month and a half.

Step 4) I’ll put my book in my “limbo” pile. I won’t touch it for two months.

Step 5) Edit the book twice. This step usually takes me two months.

Step 5) Get so darn sick of the book that I will have extreme urges to throw my computer out the window. I will then cry and procrastinate. (As funny as it is, this is not a joke. It’s one of my steps.)

Step 6) Go back. Pout. Edit for the third time.

Step 7) Send to one of my editors.

Step 8) Line edit with my editors. This can be painful or enjoyable, depending on how much is changed. At least somebody is suffering with me. (Just kidding this time. I’m happy during this step)

Step 9) I’ll review the cover, galley, and publicity details.

Step 10) Done! I’ll go to eat some ice cream.

Rinse and repeat.

6. What is the most challenging part of the writing process for you, and how have you learned to make it easier for yourself?

The third time edit. I love my books. They are seriously my children. But have you ever had a child during a difficult stage that has temper tantrums over and over again, and you seriously can’t control them no matter how hard you try? Even parents need a “time out” sometimes where they have to go someplace alone and breathe, that way they can be a full and calm parent again. They still love their child, but they need a breather.

That’s how I feel about my third edit. Little mistakes slip in. I read all of my manuscripts out loud times, and my third time is my breaking point. Those words are “screaming” out at me. I feel sick of my story line and am mad at my characters. In order to deal with it, I will occasionally put my book in “limbo” again. That’s what happened with my sci-fi, and now it’s fine. If someone is waiting on the manuscript, then I give myself rewards for finishing it. I remind myself of the reasons why the book was written, even if by the third run I feel like I’m reading a terribly story.

7. Who are some of the authors that inspired you to start writing?

J.K. Rowling—I know that it’s silly, because everybody adores her. I just respect her grit. I mean, Harry Potter, one of the best books in human history in my opinion, almost didn’t happen. She was divorced and a single mom who couldn’t get a job, and she did something incredible during her hard times. She isn’t just a literary genius, she’s a person who deserves respect for not giving up. She deserves all of the wonderful things and the money that she’s received. If I can eventually become half of the woman that she is, then I’ll consider my life to be complete.

8. How did you decide on eBooks versus print books?

Actually, I go both ways on that. I would rather have my book be an eBook if it gets the time and attention that it deserves. I actually prefer paper if the publishers had an equally good staff, but nobody will buy an unknown print book, even if it’s on paper.

9. Why did you choose Musa Publishing instead of another ePublisher?

Dragon Night went to Musa Publishing because I adore Celina Summers, my editor who was over at Aspen Mountain Press. My book was picked up there, but I ended up declining and giving my manuscript to Musa. It was a great decision, even if Dragon Night never does make it to print. (Though I hope it will.) Musa has a fantastic team.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

Well, Icy Tales of Draga is an interesting YA about aliens. I’m hoping that it will be picked up. I’m currently writing the novel that I mentioned before, Racing Death, and another book called Mirrors of Darkness. Mirrors of Darkness is about a boy who gets pulled into an alternate dimension by his little sister’s alter ego. His little sister’s alter ego wants him to kill himself. It’s all very interesting! I’m almost on the third edit during that one. *Gulp.*

You can purchase Dragon Night here.