Waiting is one of the hardest parts of the publication process. No matter where we’re at, we all have to wait. We have to wait for an agent to make a decision on our query, for an editor to look at our proposal, or a publisher to renew our contract. Maybe we’re waiting for contest results or sales figures that tell us we earned out our advance.
Waiting is unavoidable and it doesn’t end when we get an agent or book contract. It’s a continual part of the professional writer’s life.
However, with that said, I have to admit that the slush pile wait is one of the hardest types of waits a writer must go through. At least it was for me.
For many of us, querying is the beginning of venturing out of our writing isolation, putting our precious books out there, testing if our writing skills and stories are ready for publication. So when we get a nibble from an agent—any sign of interest—our hopes escalate. The request for a partial or a full fills us with excitement, because maybe—just maybe—we have what it takes.
We send off our manuscript to the requesting agent with trembling fingers and wildly thumping hearts. But then something happens we didn’t expect (or at least secretly hoped wouldn’t happen to us). We end up waiting, and waiting, and waiting . . . for weeks, then perhaps months. We can’t help but wonder if the agent lost our manuscript or made a decision and then forgot to tell us.
The reality is that our manuscript is still sitting in an enormous slush pile, and the harried agent just can’t find enough time in the day to get to it.
So we fall into what I call the “Slush Pile Slump Syndrome” or SPSS. How do we know if we suffer from SPSS? Here are a few signs:
• When you check email every 5 minutes just in case the agent has finally made a decision.
• When you follow the agent so closely on Twitter you have their daily schedule memorized.
• You decide to name your next child after the agent because it’s the name you think about most.
• You send the agent a Christmas present—and sign it “to my agent to-be.”
• You start eating chocolate and drinking coffee at every meal to prove that you’re a real writer.
All humor aside, the slush pile wait is incredibly difficult. In order to avoid catching SPSS, here are a few things to keep in mind:
An agent’s decision does not determine our worth. Yes, an agent’s praise can validate we’re on track. But we have to remember if they say no, that doesn’t mean we stink and that our story will never sell. Plenty of agents turned down The Preacher’s Bride, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t saleable.
Connect with the agent on Twitter or through blogging. Leave comments. Retweet their links. Increase your online presence so that agents can’t help but see your name and wonder about you. Be friendly, but professional. However, be careful not to come across as desperate or obnoxious.
While waiting, keep writing. The very best thing we can do once our manuscript is in the slush pile is to start working on the next book. Not only does it divert our attention, but it also helps us continue to grow in writing skill. Besides, if the agent decides she likes our writing but doesn't think she can sell our slush pile story, we’ll have another one ready to give her.
Look for ways to get an advantage. One of the best ways to get recognition is to final in a contest. My final in a national contest helped propel my manuscript to the top of my agent’s slush pile. Another advantage is to get an endorsement or recommendation from one of the agent’s clients (this usually only works if you’re already friends).
No matter what we do to alleviate the stress, the slush-pile wait is downright difficult. If nothing else, we can look at the wait as one more part of the process that toughens us and prepares us for the long waits and difficult days that are still to come in the life of a professional writer.
What about you? Have you ever had to wait in a slush pile? And have you ever caught the Slush Pile Slump Syndrome? (Tell us your what you did during your slump!) What did you do to pull yourself out?
P.S. There's still time to enter the Christmas gift drawing for The Preacher's Bride! Click here for rules and to enter the giveaway.