Thursday, May 28, 2009


Whenever authors are portrayed in films or on TV it seems like they’re always up against an impossible deadline. Well, in real life, there is some of that. Dates have to be met and material must be delivered to your publisher so that the people in various departments working on your book will be able to do what they do best.

Publishers have their time frames, set by the Editorial, Production, Sales, and Marketing departments, all geared to produce the best book they can and provide it with the greatest opportunity to succeed. Those deadlines are measured in months, weeks, and sometimes days.

But that’s the exciting part.

Mostly, an author with a book deal spends a lot of time waiting. But actually, this process begins much earlier, well before the galleys for your book arrive with a ten day deadline for corrections.

If you're a writer who has queried agents, you already know about the downtime. You send out
query letters, a week passes, then two, then a month. If an agent asks for a partial or the entire manuscript the process begins anew and weeks can turn into months.

But don’t assume the waiting will end when you get an agent, or even a book deal. Your agent will take your book out on submission. That could take two weeks, two months, or longer. If an editor buys your book it will take a month, or two, or more, to get the legal paperwork together.

After the ink on your contract dries, your editor will send you notes for manuscript revision. A few weeks or sometimes more will pass before these editorial notes arrive. Editors are among the busiest people in the publishing business. They work long hours, they work on weekends, as they juggle a number of books at the same time.

Once you’ve made your changes and the revised manuscript has been accepted, it goes to a line editor, who will carefully read it for typos, inconsistencies, etc. A couple of months will go by before the line edited manuscript arrives at your door.

If you add it all up, that’s a lot of downtime for the author. The process takes as long as it takes, and there is really nothing much that you can do to speed it up. But what you shouldn’t do is kick back and wait. Or, even worse, worry about it…and wait.

So what should you do? The simple answer—write. Don’t wait to hear back from agents before starting your next novel. Sure, you’ve finished a book, and there’s a sense accomplishment. That’s understandable, you should celebrate and reward yourself…then get your butt back in the chair and start the next one.

If you can’t jump into another book-length project right away, then start writing short stories. No, they don’t pay much, sometimes short stories don’t pay at all, but they provide other benefits. Short stories are a great way to get your name out there, while building a writing resume. Besides, when you do get that book deal, you’ll find it’s much easier to sell your short fiction, so it won’t hurt to have a stockpile of stories.

Start a blog, or catch up with one that you’ve ignored for weeks…or maybe months, heaven forbid. Contact a magazine, online site, or newspaper about doing some freelance work.

Just keep writing. Let the publishing world do its thing, and you do yours. That goes for querying agents, working with a publisher, or submitting short stories.

Don’t lose time waiting for the next thing to happen.