Your palms sweat. You pace nervously. You check your e-mail obsessively. Do that for six months or so, and you have an idea of what it’s like to be an author.
Seven hundred or so authors – minus those few who’ve already heard back – are anxiously awaiting news of whether they made the cut for the next round of Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. The announcement period was October 12th through the 18th, but Harlequin posted early on that no one would be contacted those first two days, because it was a weekend. Even editors need a day off now and then! It was thought that most of the winners would get word on Monday – after all, the top 25 would be tallied by popular vote, and how long could it take to do that?
Ask the people in Florida that question.
As for me, while I’m as anxious as anyone, I’ve been in the game of trying to get published for thirty long years. I’ve learned possibly the most important personal skill a writer can have: patience.
When you're trying to get traditionally published, you quickly – or should I say, slowly – learn that old Army adage: “Hurry up and wait”. Even agented or requested manuscripts take weeks or months to be returned, as overworked and undermanned editorial offices go through stacks of them, trying to sort out the ones with possibilities. If you came in through the slush pile, as I did when I wasn’t giving up in complete discouragement, it takes even longer. A response time of several weeks is common; months can go by.
Then you get The Call, and everything’s a rush! Wait, no it’s not. From the moment I got word that Storm Chaser would be published until the official publication day was over a year.
(Self publishers have a fast track in many of those areas, but even then there it seems to take forever to get the manuscript perfect and formatted. Print runs often have their own delays.)
Over the years I’ve learned many things about myself and the publishing industry. One of those is that I would despair of ever getting published, and give up completely – every winter. That realization led to my diagnosis of Seasonal Affected Disorder, and since beginning treatment for that I’ve stayed on the writing bandwagon year-round.
But the most important thing I learned – the most important thing any writer can learn, when it comes to contests, submissions, and the editorial process – is patience.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go jog around the house ten or twelve times, then check my e-mail.