The Waiting Game

This is the hardest part of submissions. I’d almost forgotten how hard it is.

I have queries out. I have requested materials out. It’s only been a week, and I’m jittery with the need to check my email over and over and over again.

My Blackberry dings for my gmail account, and I’ve got to check. It’s probably spam; someone trying to get me to refinance my house (Not Hardly), buy vinyl siding (which I don’t need), replacement windows (which were new when I bought the house just a year and a half ago), or someone trying to get me to buy Vicodin or Viagra over the internet. (Yeah, I don’t think so.)

There’s a difference with short story submissions. You generally can only send them out to one market at a time. You send it, note your calendar for the date that you sent it, and move on to something else. You might send out a second short story, for a different market, in the meantime, or continue working on a novel.

Novels, on the other hand, are submitted by query letter first, and then the agent/editor will ask for pages if they want to see them. Unless an agent or editor specifies in their submission guidelines that you are not allowed to send out simultaneous submissions (which I would be leery of) you can send to every agent/editor who takes submissions at the same time. I wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s another blog post for another day.

And yet, somehow, it’s worse now that I remember it being before. I’ve gotten better responses to this novel/query letter than I have with any other piece of writing I’ve ever done. I know there’s not a ton out there in the market similar to it (which could be a good thing or a bad thing). Maybe it’s because I have requested material out there that I’m waiting for a response to, as opposed to waiting for responses to query letters, although I’m waiting for some of those, too. I know it takes time for agents to respond. I know that their current clients come first. And that’s as it should be.

Heaven knows, I’ve got to triage my own work at the day job sometimes. I don’t look at every single case assigned to me every single day. That’s impractical. (Though I did a little bit of that as a legal intern, terrified I was going to miss something on a case. That changed with bigger caseloads, bigger cases, and nine years of experience.) There are days that I’m just working through the pile. There are days that I’m in court all day. There are also days that I’m in jury trial, which means that even the writing in the evening is on hold until I have a verdict, get a good meal (since I can’t eat during the day while I’m in trial; adrenaline gives me a jittery stomach) and get a good night’s sleep.

And yet, I’ll see someone who has my query letter blog that they’re reading query letters, or someone with a full or partial post on Twitter that they’re reading manuscripts, and I stare at my email as if an answer is going to magically appear on the screen. And that’s fine. I’ve got no problem with blogging or Twittering agents or editors….I do both, myself.

I know better. But I’m human, too.

And so I stand up here, and say… Hello. My name is Addie. And I’m an Obsessive Email Checker. Again.

I feel like there should be a twelve step group for people like me.

Meeting Goals Early

Well…I posted some time ago that I had a “goal” (NOT a deadline, remember?) of being ready for submissions by March of 2011.

I gave myself way more time than I needed.

My critique group (or one of them, anyway) gives me a slot every month. We’ve got some page limits. Using the maximum limit, and the amount of stuff I had left to go, I guessed that I needed three more slots to get to the end of the novel.

And then people gave up their own slots, due to holidays and illness and family drama and other reasons, giving me slots to fill. (We do plan for this…to not let time go to waste if other people can jump in…which I could, this time.) Beta readers got me their notes earlier than expected. Edits began happening faster than I thought.

I’m not feeling rushed at all. It just means that I’m way ahead of my self-imposed goal of completion. And makes me feel even more productive than I thought I was.

YAY ME!

Conferences-Part Four

Okay, so we’ve talked about picking a conference, preparing for a conference, being at a conference.

Now it’s time to talk about AFTER THE CONFERENCE.

I do think that everyone will need some time after getting back to spend time with friends and family and catch up at the day job, catch up with sleep, and probably get over the conference yuck that seems to hit after most cons. Don’t ask me why, but there’s always some cold or flu or something that people go home with. They don’t always get it immediately, but if you get sick within a week of getting home, it’s probably Conference Yuck.

1) Did you learn something that will make your manuscript better?

Implement it! Get out your notes and dig in. It’s why you went in the first place. Use the stuff you learned to fine-tune your work. If it needs more, do it! Don’t give up. Put in the work. If you don’t have it done, and you have ideas to finish it, do it!

Time can be your enemy here. I’m not saying to work through the night. I’m not saying to ignore everything else. I’m saying that the longer you wait after a conference, the more you will lose the finer points of what you were thinking. Save your old stuff in its own document, copy and paste into a new document, and tinker as much as you can! Go for it!

2) Follow up.

If you got great advice from a published author, follow up with a thank you email. It’s good manners.

If someone’s offered to read pages, follow up to give them a general time line as to when to expect it. If you made it clear at the conference that you need some time before sending it, it’s okay to wait, but say thank you when you send it to them. I’m in that position right now. A published author has expressed interest in reading my novel, but doesn’t want it until I’m done with it. I didn’t bother her until it was done, and thanked her in a cover email when I sent it to her.

3) If you pitched your work and got a request for pages, get them out there.

Don’t rush something that’s not ready, but don’t waste the contact you made. Do the work. Follow through with the request. Be professional. The agent who you had a drink with and talked about fairy tales in fiction might be exactly the right person to represent your work, and if you wait a year to submit, they may forget the conversation. You may have spent an hour in the hotel pool talking politics with the editor of your dreams, and they may be looking for exactly what you’ve written.

You made a personal connection with that publishing professional. Maybe there was something about your conversation that has tweaked their interest. Maybe they’ve met someone else that weekend who your work would be perfect for. Maybe they ran into their editor buddy the minute they got back who talked about wanting something very similar to what you talked about. Don’t lose that networking possibility. Publishing runs on lots of networking.

4) Work on networking.

More and more conferences are having discussions about blogging, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, websites, and other ways of social networking. If you attended one of these panels, it might just be the kick in the seat of your pants that you were looking for to get started.

I’m not a social networking expert. I use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and my blog. And I do try to update them after every conference. I’m trying to update everything more often. Going to one of these panels always inspires me to try to do more.

Always remember, however, that social networking is no substitute for working on your writing. Networking for the sake of networking when you don’t have a product you’re putting out there does nothing to help you. The writing comes first.

5) Research the next conference you’ll go to.

I’m not saying you have to go to one every weekend. I’m not saying you have to go to more. Most people who really enjoy their first conference end up going to another one. And then another one. All told, I’ve been to nine conferences over four years, two of which were repeats (in other words, I’d attended before, and was dying to go back). Those I’ve been to more than once are ones I’d go to again, if they stay in business.

So there you have it. Conferences are exhausting, nerve-wracking, sleep depriving, whirlwinds of writing awesome-sauce. I love going, despite the toll it takes on me for the work, the travel, the cost, and the preparation. I love going to meet up with old friends, make new ones, meet new contacts, and learn more about publishing. I probably look for different things in a conference now than I was looking for in my first conference, but that’s a combination of where I’m at professionally, and what I’ve learned so far. Good luck and safe travels in your own conference experience!