Almost from the time I began writing novels I had a plan for reaching my goal of making a living as a full-time author.
When I had a novel ready to submit I’d research publishers accepting that genre, make a list and work my way through it in order of preference.
In the meantime of course the theory was that I would keep working. But it didn’t always pan out that way. Writing is hard. Basking in the knowledge I’d written something and sent it to a publisher was easier and a lot more fun to think about.
As the weeks went by with no reply on my submission, I found it harder and harder to focus on my work in progress. My mind kept flitting back to the editor who had my manuscript. Had they read it yet? Why hadn’t they gotten back to me? What on earth was taking so long?
This sense of time wasting got me feeling enormously frustrated. It took me several years to see (and perhaps another to fully accept) that certain things are out of my hands as a writer. And the bottom line is – what’s out of my hands is not my job.
I have no control over when an editor reads my submission; when, or even if they reply to me. I have no control over what themes they like, their personal hates, or what their other authors are writing.
The only thing I have control over as a writer is the quality and quantity of the work I produce. That’s it. That’s my number one job – keep writing to the best of my ability. And as long as I’m doing that, time isn’t wasting.
Yes, the submission process takes ages, often years. But that need not be a source of frustration. You can still be moving your career forward even before your first book is published. How? By writing.
In a nutshell here is my submission strategy:
#1 Finish the book
#2 Revise it until it’s the best I can make it with the writing skills I currently possess. Don’t get hung up on endlessly tinkering with a single manuscript. Move on. Write the next one. With each book you refine and acquire new skills.
#3 Submit my polished manuscript to the editors on my list. And in the meantime…
#4 Start a new project.
This is the best way I’ve found to conquer the pressure that builds inside me after I’ve submitted a manuscript. Sitting around waiting makes me feel powerless, my life controlled by the whim of others.
As long as I keep writing new stories, whenever I begin to fret that time is wasting I can say to myself, ‘No, it’s not. I’m doing my job. When the call comes, I will be ready.’
Even if it takes ten or more years to get your first novel accepted (it took me 11 years BTW) if you stick to this plan, you could quite well have ten other manuscripts to show your new editor when the time finally comes.
Your editor might not want to publish all of them but even if they take just one or two you’re ahead of the game. For most authors revising an older manuscript is faster than starting a new one from scratch. And as sales experts know: the best time to sell your second book is straight after you’ve sold your first.
Your earlier manuscripts weren’t necessarily rejected because they’re no good. Often manuscripts get rejected simply because their genre isn’t selling at the time, or the publisher just released a book on a similar subject. The market fluctuates. What’s not selling today could be the hottest thing in five years time.
So don’t slow down on your production. The minute you submit a manuscript, start the next. That is your power as a writer.
Those manuscripts in your bottom drawer aren’t rejects, they’re planes on the runway waiting to take off!