I know I should be more active on here, the past month has been a whirlwind of end-of-school-and-nursery-events/Christmas parties/ Christmas/ a milestone birthday for myself (which involved a LEGENDARY party, if I do say so myself!), and relatives visiting from NZ and Hungary, etc. And to be honest, I often think to myself, what DO I write about? I’ve got no real pearls of wisdom to share with the wider world that haven’t already been said on some other writer’s blog, and so far all I’ve been doing lately is WAITING!
Waiting for what, you say? Well, to be discovered of course! And yes, I’m doing all the things a pre-published writer should be doing. There is this blog of course, (which I shall endeavor to spend more time on), I’m active on Twitter, I’m a member of two writer’s critique groups, I’m a member of SCBWI, I’m an active reader of what’s current in my genre, I attend writer’s events whenever I can, I network with other writers, I’m submitting to both agents and publishers, and most of all I AM WRITING! I’m writing new, I’m editing old, I’m brainstorming new ideas (Storystorm anyone?). And I’m still waiting for that one response that will take me to the next level. And this waiting thing is taking forever!
I know I must be patient. Both agents and publishers receive thousands of submissions every year, it probably takes an eternity to sift through these to pluck out the good from the bad. And of course, looking through the slushpile is not the only thing agents and publishers have to do. In fact, I’d imagine wading through the slushpile is the least important job on their list. So the undiscovered author such as myself, can only wait.
What about chasing up that submission that’s been awaiting a response for several months? Well, firstly it depends on what the individual agent/publisher’s webpage says – I’ve seen everything from four weeks to six months response time. Usually this ends up being longer. I recently chased up a submission I made over six months ago, and had a lovely email conversation with the agent in question who promised a response by Christmas. Didn’t happen.
I discussed chasing things up with my SCBWI critique group recently, and we came to the conclusion that doing this almost always ends in a ‘no thanks’. Perhaps for the agent already inundated with hundreds of other submissions,being pressured for a reply simply makes the writer look like they might be a pain in the nether-region, so therefore ‘no’ is the best response. I also had a conversation just this week, with an about to be published author who told me her first PB has taken THREE YEARS in the making! And this is not the writing of it we are talking about, this is THREE YEARS since the offer of publication! So maybe, chasing up a submission after only a few months is an indication to the powers that be that you are not patient enough for this industry. Who knows? But I, for one, am wary of chasing things up now. And what is the other option? Wait.
How many submissions should you have out there at any one time? Hmmm, this is a hard one. With such long response times (if any!), it would be crazy to submit only one at a time. But yet you don’t want to submit to every agent/publisher in town either. I have been working on having a few submissions out at any one time, and every month or so, sending out another. I strategized it this way so I could therefore expect to be getting responses regularly, but my plan has never lived up to expectations. I also worry about getting a positive response from someone lower down on my list of preferred agents, because what if the top of my list comes in afterwards with a yes? Again, this has yet to happen, and is probably highly unlikely to. Sigh!
And which story to submit? Research your agent and publisher well beforehand, and you might get an inkling of which of your stories they’d like best – but the fact is, you will never really know. There is no way of telling what is going to rock someone’s boat. And if one particular story doesn’t, wait a while, then try again with something else. I think persistence is the key here. If you really believe you have what it takes, if you really have the passion and dedication for your craft, then just keep at it. We’ve all heard how JK Rowling was rejected multiple times before she was signed. She’s far from the only successful author to have been in the same position. Perseverance and passion is key.
And in the meantime, I’ll be waiting.