I Almost Forgot--It's Summer
Over the last few weeks, I’ve called a few editors and agents or sent them emails. Normally I receive a response from these people but often during the last few weeks, I don’t hear from them. At first, I wonder what is going on. Then it hits me—it’s summer.
Particularly in the general market (but in the Christian marketplace as well), often decisions are slow in coming during the summer months. As an acquisitions editor, I've been pressed for decisions from authors and agents during the summer months but I've learned from hard earned experience there is little I can do to move the forces inside the publishing house. At one publisher, the publication board almost never met during August. With vacations and travel to conventions, it's a challenge to get any decisions or publishing contracts. For my editor role, I have a number of projects that are in limbo. I’ve sent them to the publishing house weeks ago but the presentation to the publication board hasn’t happened. If I get an inquiry from an agent or an author about those particular projects, I let them know the situation is out of my hands. Book publishing in particular often takes a team of people to make a decision before it can move ahead into the contract stage of the process. That process is incredibly slow at times—and particularly during the summer months.
Recently in mid-August, I called one literary agent at a large agency and learned this agent was on holiday until after Labor Day. It was not an unusual story. Best-selling authors are out of their office the entire month of August and will be available in September.
As writers, we are a bit impatient at times and want faster answers. I regularly tell authors if they want an immediate answer from me, they can have it--and it's not the answer they want to hear. They don't even have to send in their manuscript and I can give it to them, "No." To get a positive answer in book publishing or magazine publishing, often takes time. Yes, takes patience and consistent excellent work from the writer.
Instead of beating a path to your mailbox or trying to will your phone to ring or being certain your email has disappeared for some technical reason, here’s five things you can do as a writer while you wait for the answer to your pet project:
1. Start something new. Sitting around waiting for that answer is unproductive. Instead begin a new project. All too often at writer's conferences, I've seen writers return year after year latched on to their same idea. Now they may think the editor has forgotten they pitched this idea since a whole year has passed (in most cases, they haven’t). The world is big and much broader than one project. If you are waiting on answers for book proposals, then start some shorter magazine articles--personal experience stories, or how-to service articles or humor. Try your hand at a new type of writing for you. Write some query letters and pitch some different types of articles for yourself--and snag some more writing opportunities. They are out there and waiting for you--if you go to them.
2. Research the marketplace. What other things would you like to write about? Go to the library and read some new publications and look for something to spark an idea. The topics that will fascinate you will be completely different from what will fascinate me. Use your local newspaper to spark some ideas. Once I wrote a piece for The Numismatist from a short article in the business section about Disney Dollars. I wrote a query letter and snagged an assignment and the opportunity to get on the back lot of Disneyland--from a newspaper idea. Your idea will be completely different from my experience but it can be sparked from a newspaper article. Dig into some research for some new ideas. Use the time to learn about the marketplace and where you can possibly send other materials.
3. Form some new relationships. Maybe you have been to a conference earlier this year and met an editor. Can you write that editor either in print or on email and foster a relationship? Admittedly editors are busy people and don't have time to have a pen-pal relationship. But at the same time, editors are real people--with other things in their life besides work. Can you do anything to foster such a relationship? It's something to consider and a good use of your time while waiting for a response from an editor.
4. Try your hand at a different type of writing. If you are writing fiction, then turn and write something true (nonfiction). Or if the bulk of your writing has been in the nonfiction area, consider writing some short stories or looking at starting a novel. Or maybe in recent months you’ve been tied to the longer form of writing (books). Switch gears and tackle a shorter form of writing like a how-to magazine article or a personal experience magazine article or a query letter for a magazine article. The change of pace and discipline could open a new world for you.
5. Read the work of other authors. Tell the truth. You probably have several books on your shelves at home that you have not read. I have a number of them--that I want to read. Determine that now is the time and open those books and begin to read them. Time spent reading the other people's work--whether fiction or nonfiction will fill your well of creativity. Then you will be ready to dip into it again and write with new vigor.
Don't wait and pine for that project which hasn't happened--the one where you haven't heard from your editor or agent. At the same time, don't forget about it--occasionally you need to prod through an email or check on the status of it. Let's face it: there many projects in the works and editors are overloaded. If a proposal is almost right but not quite--it isn't right to reject--but there isn't time to develop it into something which is right. So...it's in stall. Whether it's August or October, publishing moves slowly.
The only solution from my perspective is to get more things in the works. Be proactive rather than reactive.