By James M. Jackson
Being an author means learning how to wait. Say what?
Between the inception of a story’s idea and its publication are multiple points when we authors must (or should) wait. Often the brilliant idea must wait until the author deals with higher priority work. Only when time permits can she begin the first draft of the story. That’s why when some well-meaning soul tells me they have “the perfect idea for a story,” I listen patiently and then suggest they write their own story.
After completing the story’s first draft, many authors put it aside to give its words time to settle. This self-imposed wait allows us to view our story from a fresher perspective, to more easily spot plot holes, characterization issues, understand where pacing must change. And so we wait.
Other waits are not on us. If we use an editor (or editors), we send them our manuscript and wait for their comments, suggestions, concerns, and maybe even a little praise. My seventh Seamus McCree novel, Granite Oath, entered that state a week ago. The editor and I have agreed to a schedule, so this wait will not be long. And yet the wait can feel interminable because so much future work depends on what she finds lacking in the present story.
One of the most frustrating waits happens when authors seek representation for their work. We craft a query letter, add requested extras that vary by agent (e.g. first ten pages, a synopsis, a marketing plan, comparable titles) and make our submission. In olden days, we submitted by mail and included a self-addressed stamped envelope for the agent’s response. Now, everything is electronic, which only means our wait no longer depends on mail delivery times.
I have a project seeking representation. One agent responded the same day (a rejection, but at least that allowed me to cross that person off my list and spur me to send out a query to another agent). Agents routinely claim to take eight or more weeks to respond. If they ask for a manuscript, the reading times can be even longer. And some agents believe their time is too valuable to waste sending rejections—if you don’t hear from them, they don’t want you.
So, I wait.
Another indeterminate wait occurs when the author or her agent submits to publishers. Other time-outs can occur while waiting for a cover artist, manuscript formatting or conversion to an ebook. In traditional publishing, the wait times expand to accommodate the publishing house’s calendar, which books publication dates a year or more after contract acceptance.
Authors who publish their own work can eliminate many of the delays by doing the work themselves. They can create their cover, format the book, and publish on their timetable. But that means, while they are performing tasks someone else could do, other projects have to wait.
Wait, I hear you say, isn’t that where this whole thing started?
Yep, glad you noticed, and while I am waiting for my editor and responses from agents, I’m working on the next two books. And I have other ideas still waiting . . .
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.