What To Do When You're Waiting

5:45 PM Posted by Lori Calabrese

How to stay sane when the mailbox stays empty.

You wrote a book! You edited, revised and polished. You printed it out and sent it off.
Now what?

Chances are, you're looking at an estimated response time of 4-6 months. Chances also are, you'll wait longer than that. Editors and agents alike have been bombarded with submittals. Blame high unemployment and the fact that everyone believes they can write a children's book. Whatever the reason, one agent I know estimates submittals are up by about two-hundred perecnt. That's a lot of slush to sit through. So...what to do while you wait (and wait and...)? If you're like me, you'll have a mini-episode of depression everytime you visit your inevitably empty mailbox. Here are some tips to make the downtime productive.

1. Get organized! You know what I mean. That pile of post-its, napkins and paper scraps in the corner...all the notes you made about your novel. Get yourself a binder and some sheet protectors and organize those juicy tidbits into categories: backstory, character notes, plot, etc. Use whatever groupings make the most sense to you, and add a section at the back for responses. When that reply finally comes, you might have some revising to do. Having your notes in order will be very helpful.

2. Create business materials. I've said this before: Writing is a Business. Yes, it might also be an art, a talent and your one abiding passion, but it is first and foremost a business. Treat it as one. Even if this is your first submittal, you'll most likely be making many more in the future, so create some documents to make your business run smoothly. I have word.doc's for a variety of purposes: a waiting list (which I update and print out weekly), self-addressed postcards for responses (with text on the rear that says: _______ book has arrived at _______ publishers), and a standard status-query letter. I also have a presentation list of all my publishing credits, a list of all my conferences and classes as well as a writing resume. These things take a lot of time to create but you don't want to take time away from writing to make them. Downtime during submittals is the perfect opportunity.

3. Create a platform. I think we've all heard about platforms by now. In case not, a platform is basically a brand. Not only do editors and agents look at what you send them, if they're at all interested they'll google you. Did you catch that? They...google you. What are they looking for? Blogs, facebook pages, hubs, Jackeflap profiles...anything that shows you're a serious writer who invests time into learning and sharing your craft. I recently queried an agent who asked me about a post I made on Verla Kay's message board! They find everything. Make sure you have a web-existance. Start with a blog and maintain it regularly. Frequent other writers blogs and post comments. Set up profiles on writer websites such as Jacketflap and Redroom. And if you're a children's writer, join SCBWI. It's a must.

4. Start something new. It seems obvious, I know, but I had to include it. We're writers; writers write. We learn more from our own writing than from anything else. So go! Write! Starting a new manuscript will take your mind off the wait, improve your writing and at the end, give you a second book to submit. Plus, nothing takes the sting out of a rejection like being in love with a new manuscript.

5. Live your life. Do other stuff. Play with your kids. Buy groceries. Visit the Grand Canyon. All these things give us the opportunity to interact with and observe people's lives. Inspiration for a great story can come from watching an old woman blow dandelion seeds into the air at the playground. And getting out of the house will get your mind off that empty mailbox, thus keeping the depression monster at bay.

*6* Bonus tip: Submit the same manuscript to an agent. Just because you've sent a manuscript on an exclusive to an editor, doesn't mean you can't shop around for agents. Case in point: I queried an editor in December on a middle-grade book. During the six week wait, I decided to query an agent as well. Shortly after, I got a request for the full manuscript from the editor. When the agent responded and asked for a partial, I was able to tell her an editor had requested the full and was reviewing it. When she wrote back to ask for the full manuscript, I let her know the editor liked the story and had requested a revisions. The agent obviously liked the manuscript, but knowing an editor had already expressed interest probably didn't hurt.

Hopefully, the tips above will help keep you busy...and away from the mailbox. When the response comes, whatever it is, you'll have plenty to do -- either revisions, editing or a new submission to another house.
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