Once you’ve finished a book, regardless of what you intend to do with it, unless you’re just planning on filing it away in some hidden corner of your house for it never to be seen by anyone, you’re going to have to face the hardest part of the entire writing process. Even harder than marketing yourself.
That’s right, the waiting.
Books are long, and whether you’re trying to sell it, or just get your friends to read it and tell you what they think, someone is going to have to take the time out of their day to actually make their way through your magnum opus and that’s not often something which happens quickly.
Choosing novels as your art medium means that you chose a medium which can’t be enjoyed quickly. There’s a significant time investment for anyone who attempts to appreciate your art. And, in most cases, your book will not be the highest priority item on their task list.
When dealing with agents or publishers, this timeline expands exponentially from dealing with friends or family. People in the publishing industry get countless books sent to them on a daily basis. They have something they call the slush pile, which is the pile of mostly crap (their words not mine) they receive from novelists which they have to slog through to determine if there’s any value in the books submitted to them. The timeline for just getting an agent or a publisher to determine whether or not they want to give your book a read ranges from a couple of weeks to over six months.
Let me say that a little more clearly: From the time you send an agent an email telling them about the awesome book you want them to help you sell, it could be six months before they even ask you to send the actual book to them. And even then, it might just be the first fifty pages.
If it takes that long for them to get to reading your email, just think about how long it could take for them to get around to actually reading your book. In my experience, agents typically put books they’ve asked for into a process which goes a bit faster than their slush pile, but you’re still looking at at least a month before they will get back to you on whether or not they have any interest in what you’ve done.
Which means that you, the person who just spent countless amounts of time trying to craft the most perfect book ever written, are now involved in a process which could take years before you actually find someone who is willing to do something with it.
Because, of course, even after an agent reads your book, and decides to sign you on, you then have countless edits to do for the agent, the submission process to publishers (which can also take as long as the submission process to agents) and then, if you’re lucky enough to get a publisher, you move on to another phase of edits before they actually put you onto their calendar for release.
When I finished my first draft of my first book, I was in this uninformed headspace where I just assumed my book could be released within months, and out in the world on bookshelves everywhere. The reality is that even if things all go in your favor and on a relatively quick timeline, you’re still looking at at least a year before your book sees the light of day.
And between all of that are those countless months of waiting to hear if anyone appreciates what you’ve done.
So, not only are you waiting, you’re waiting on the edge of your seat to hear of any sort of acceptance. And while you’re waiting, you’re more than likely receiving plenty of people sending you messages that they simply aren’t interested in even reading the first sentence of your novel.
When I say this is the hardest part, it’s only partially a reference to a famous song by Tom Petty. The reality is that this is truly the hardest part.
You have to find ways to not only keep selling your book as a priority object in your mind, but also figure out a way to completely ignore the radio silence you’ll receive from the people you’ve been attempting to sell to. For months you have to ride the line of making your book the most important thing in your life, while also pretending it’s not anything because you’ll drive yourself insane if you keep refreshing your inbox hoping to find a message back from that agent or publisher you’re hoping will be a part of selling your book.
This is quite literally the hardest part, and it’s often the one thing which causes my books to sit on a hard drive for far too long because I simply haven’t come up with a useful coping mechanism for it.
It’s also why I’ve found myself typically deciding to go with the self-publishing route.
Which we’ll get to talking about soon enough, but first, maybe I have a strategy for what you could do during this indeterminable amount of waiting…For next time.
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