You just wrote a novel. Yay! Now if you want to get traditionally published, you have to get a literary agent. This can be a very lengthy process, especially if you query agents in batches (which is the best way to do it so you can see if your query letter is getting the response you want). You have to do a lot of waiting.
When you finally get a literary agent, you will experience a magical time we call being “on submission”. This is when your agent has given you notes if necessary, you’ve revised your manuscript and gotten it into great shape, and now he or she has submitted it to publishers. For most writers, this is a time of even more waiting.
On average, I think most writers spend about six months being on submission. Alright, honestly I pulled that number out of nowhere because I really don’t think there is an “average” amount of time for most writers. I have heard stories of writers being on submission for a few weeks or a few months. I have heard stories of writers being on submission for over a year, even two years. There are also writers who submit their manuscript to publishers, don’t get any good news, and then submit the same manuscript to publishers a few years later and have better luck. And then there are always those stories where writers are on submission for a week before getting a book deal.
It’s no secret that I have been on submission with my YA urban fantasy for quite some time. Actually, I just hit the two year mark. I just did a major revision–a complete overhaul–so I almost feel like I am submitting a completely new book, which has breathed new life into the process for me. But as someone who has definitely done her share of waiting, I thought I would give you a few tips to deal with the seemingly endless amount of waiting that is involved in traditional publishing.
1. Don’t Twitter stalk editors and agents. Okay it’s very tempting to obsessively read the Twitter feeds of agents you have queried or editors who may be reading your manuscript. And while Twitter can be used as a tool to find appropriate agents and editors, unless you are using it in this manner, I would advise against checking up on those agents/editors 1800 times a day. When one of them tweets “Sitting at the airport, reading the new Rainbow Rowell!” you may start obsessing. (“WHY ISN’T SHE READING MY BOOK INSTEAD? WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER?”) Don’t be this person.
2. Have ice cream on hand. You may think I am joking, but ice cream is actually essential. When you get to those points where you just wish something would HAPPEN already (and believe me, you will), you will want to make sure you have your ice cream to get you through. (Or whiskey. You know.)
3. Learn a new skill or get a new hobby. Take up knitting. Learn how to speak Spanish. Learn how to play guitar. Start a blog. Explore some of your other passions and find other outlets for your creativity.
4. Work on your next project. This is the most important tip. If you don’t take anything else away from this list, remember this tip. When you are waiting for agents to respond to your query letter, start writing something else. When you are on submission with one manuscript, begin writing another. Put all of your focus on the only part of the writing process you have any amount of control over: the actual writing.
5. Let it go. Don’t check your e-mail 800 times a day. Forget about the publishers, the agents… as much as you can. If you start obsesing, distract yourself. (See #2 and #3.) Immerse yourself in your next book, your ice cream, your knitting, binge watching Game of Thrones, whatever it is. And by the time you finally get some news, you will realize you have somehow managed to put it out of your mind.
6. Lean on other writers. Find other writers who are going through the same things you are. They make excellent ice cream buddies.
There is a lot of waiting around in publishing, and it can get frustrating, whether you are waiting on a response to a query letter, a response from publishers, or even an editorial letter. (Check out this awesome podcast about being on submission for more information on this process.) But above all, don’t forget to keep writing.