Patience, Please

Truer words have never been said, my animated sister

The publishing industry is slow. And for good reason. I know this first hand (from both sides of the query trenches).

Think of it this way:

How long did it take you to write your book? Couple months? Add in polishing it, and revising, and letting your CPs and Betas read it, and revising based off their notes (at least, I hope you’re adding that in). Now you’re at anywhere between 6 months to a couple years just to get a polished version of your book to query.

And then you send it to some of the agents on your list and you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And that’s the thing most new writers don’t realize when they’re starting out. That–in addition to developing your writing skills, expanding your horizons through reading, and toughening up your skin to critiques–you require a lot of patience to navigate this industry.

Sometimes, when they’re writing/creating, authors are in a bubble. It’s just them and the words. It’s easy to forget you’re not the only one. Millions of people are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. So when you send off your query, you’re not the only one. An agent’s inbox is not going to go off with a little ding and it’ll be your manuscript sitting solitary and pretty and they’ll drop everything to read it right away.

I mean, maybe that happens sometimes when the planets align, but not normally.

No, normally agents get hundreds of queries a month. Think about how many books you read in a month, in a year. Add a zero or two to the end of that number. And that’s in addition to their own clients work. It’s a staggering amount of reading.

And then consider that they’re reading for prospective clients, not for pleasure. That’s a slower, more in-depth process of reading. And if something shows promise, an agent might read it again to find obvious flaws, or to determine marketability. And these are just queries, 5-10 samples pages (god forbid if it’s a partial or a full request). It might not seem like a lot, but trust me, it sometimes takes time and multiple reads to make that decision.

And that’s just the query process. If you get past that, there’s more revisions, the anxious waiting of going on submission to editors, more revision, page proofs, more revision, ARCs, etc. etc. etc. It’s staggering the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes of putting a novel together. It’s detailed. It’s frustrating. And it’s very, very slow because it’s so labor intensive.

So authors, guard yourself with the knowledge that, if you didn’t hear back instantly, it’s not because a agent/editor doesn’t care. If anything, they care too much. They’re just weighing all the options and trying to make a fair call. Be respectful.

Be patient.

I know it’s hard. Even with the knowledge of the industry I have, the waiting is still a struggle. It’s the worst sick/nervous feeling in the world. Believe me, I have lamented the waiting to my (incredibly tolerant) friends a lot. But it’s something you just have to learn to cope with, the sooner the better.

So, how do you cope? Here are some options:

  • Start a new project: I know, this is my answer to everything. So much so that my family and friends are worried I’m going to go into cardiac arrest because I’m always working. But there’s something magical about beginning a new project, the possibility it contains. It’s mesmerizing, it’s addictive, and it’s definitely distracting from all the waiting.
  • Read a book: Also my answer to every problem. But while writing frequently is important to keep your skills sharp, so is reading. Books are transporting, they’re inspiring, and just really really fun. Do you really need an excuse to pick up a good book?
  • Meditate: I just took up meditation because I have trouble falling asleep at night, and I highly recommend it to anyone else who suffers from manuscript fever. There are a lot of guided meditation apps, and if you just devote 5 minutes a day to it, you will feel a difference. Your mind will be focused and relaxed and in the moment, and you will feel a lot calmer about waiting.
  • CP For Someone Else: Take your mind off your own manuscript and apply it to someone else’s! You get the chance to read a lot of awesome work and help out your fellow writer. And being a CP is just fun.
  • Take Up Bow Hunting: Actually, don’t. Just…no.

Best of luck, fellow writers!

And if HBC says it, it must be true!

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