You sent off a query letter or submission. Now what to do? Refresh your email every three seconds? Get excited whenever the phone rings? Wait by the mailbox and tear through the mail as soon as it comes every day? All right, all right, sit on your hands for just a minute there. We don’t want you to be a victim of Ants In Your Pants Syndrome.
Yes, sending out a submission is a great accomplishment! It’s exciting! There is the possibility that someone is going to fall in love with your manuscript or illustrations. Oh yes, it would be fabulous to hear back on submissions right away, and move on to the great excitement of getting published! BRACE YOURSELF. It’s just not gonna happen 99.999% of the time. Or maybe even less than that. YOU WILL BE WAITING.
No need to fret, it’s just reality. Once you send your submission off it’s out of your hands! The one thing you do have under your control is how you deal with the waiting. It took a long time to get your writing to the submission stage. The submission stage takes just as much, if not more time. Agents and editors are busy and have loads more to do than wade through submissions. After all, you’d want them to focus their attention on your work if they decided to pick it up, wouldn’t you? So keep your thoughts on hearing back in due time realistic. (Yes, even if you have an agent. Even agented submissions to publishers have to wait their turn to be read.)
You read the submission guidelines. There’s usually a stated response time. Write it on your submissions calendar so you can reference it easily whenever you get that itching feeling that it might be time to hear back. If you want to stare at it every day and try to send it good vibes, go right ahead. But there are more productive ways to wait.
The best way, of course, is to get back to work! Study markets, learn more about writing, shmooze online (we’ll wait with you over in the Sub it Club chat!), send out more submissions, start a new piece…. There’s always so much work to do as a writer you really CAN find something to do besides obsess over submissions.
But if you still can’t stand the waiting there are more ways to get specific information at least some of the time. Go to Querytracker and check out the response times report for the person you’ve sent to. For children’s writers and illustrators you can find response times threads at Verla Kay’s Blueboards. And don’t forget to check the agent or editor’s blog, twitter, facebook, etc. Sometimes you can find information on where they’re at with their slush pile. Also, recheck those online submission guidelines as they are subject to change at any time. Yes, it can be frustrating when a publisher goes from responding to non-responding overnight, but that’s just the way it goes. Write down the date in your records and move along. If they’re interested in what you’ve sent they will be in touch.
Whatever you do, don’t let those ants in your pants bite you. If you start calling or sending status queries prematurely, you’re bound to be a pest. You certainly don’t want that to be what the overworked person who’s reading your query to think of when she finally has the time to get to your submission.
So, here’s to practicing patience. It’s one excellent habit for a writer to develop. If you have a great waiting strategy please, share it with us in the comments!