My newest manuscript goes out to editors this week, sent out by my (amazing) agent. And I’ll be left with permanent butterflies dancing a macarena in my stomach, waiting to hear whether any of them connect with my story enough to buy it and offer me a contract. It’s a process I’ve been through before, of course. As writers, we almost all of us face the submissions process at one time or another, first with the process of querying and submitting to agents, then again when our agents submit our books to publishers. And while I wouldn’t say the submissions process ever gets ‘easy’, I have over the course of my many times going through it come up with something of a system, which I thought I would share with you today.
- Compulsively check your e-mail/phone messages, beginning 5 minutes after your queries/book submissions go out. Because obviously the agents/editors will instantly read your book and call 5 minutes later to offer you a contract, right? I personally like to check for new messages at 10-15 minute intervals, but you choose the OCD schedule that works best for you.
- Chocolate. Enough said.
- Whine to everyone from your husband to your writing partner to the mailman about how ‘nerve wracking’ the waiting game is, and how the agents/editors are taking ‘so long’ to get back to you. Even if it’s only been 2 days.
- Lie awake at 3 am making mental lists of all the reasons why said editors/agents will or won’t like your book
- Did I mention chocolate?
- What’s that? Oh, you wanted real advice? Well, as I said, in my experience the waiting game that is the submissions process never gets exactly easy. But I have discovered a couple of strategies for remaining (relatively) sane while waiting for agents or editors to read your book.
- Work on something new. There is no better distraction from worrying about what agents/editors are going to think of your book than diving into work on a different book. Ideally, the new book you’re working on is not the sequel to the book that you’re waiting to hear back about. Now, these days one of the great things about being a writer is that you have options, and even if every agent/editor on your list passes on a book, you don’t have to give up on seeing it out in the world. But still, it can be pretty soul-crushing if you’re working on book 2 of your trilogy and get a whole slew of critical rejections of book 1.
- Make sure you feel certain that your book is the absolute best it can be before you send it out. This seems so obvious, and yet it’s tough. You’ve finished the 437th draft of your book, you’re equal parts repulsively proud of it and so sick of it you want to hurl it across the room. And yet unfortunately, you’re not done. Not until you have at least one trusted secondary reader read it and offer honest feedback. By the time my books go out, they’ve been read by my writing partner, my agent, both my parents (both former editors), and my husband. And each and every one of them has offered suggestions, some larger, some minor, that improve the book in countless ways. Now, I’m of course not suggesting that you take other people’s advice about your book willy-nilly. It’s your story, ultimately the choices about what’s best for it are yours. But at the same time, I’ve found it incredibly important to get feedback from readers I trust, because what’s in my head is not necessarily what comes across on the page. Anyway, knowing that I’ve done absolutely everything in my power to serve my story well makes it (somewhat) easier to detach and cultivate a ‘what will be, will be’ attitude about submissions.
- Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Life is (ideally) long; writing careers are (ideally) also long. In the grand scheme of things, waiting for two weeks or even two months is just a tiny blip on your timeline. Of course you’ve poured your heart and soul into this story that agents or editors are even now reading and judging. But other stories will come to you, stories you love just as much. You’re going to keep telling those stories, keep creating magic on the page. Regardless of the outcome of your submissions, you’re going to keep writing. We’re writers; it’s what we do.