melIf there were a Ten Commandments of Publishing, “Thou Shalt Be Patient” would definitely fall somewhere between “Always Revise, Ye Children” and “Sippeth Much Coffee.” I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say “these things take time” or “we need to be patient” or “hey, what’s over there?” before bolting in the opposite direction over the course of my young career, but it’s been plenty.

Chances are, if you’re going to be serious about getting published, you’re going to be expected to wait at different points: to figure out the plot, to find time to write, to hear back from your critique group, for an agent to respond to you, for the coffee to finish brewing, for revisions to be completed, for an editor to read your manuscript, for an offer to be finalized, for the contract to be negotiated, for the cows to come home, to receive an editor’s notes, for the publishing house to pick the perfect cover, and for the release date to finally arrive. Then you get to start all over (minus some steps, of course, like the cows) for the next book.

What I find encouraging is when all this waiting and patience finally pay off. I recently sold a project that, for me, was a perfect example of the importance of patience. The author had written the story, revised it, and worked on it with her critique group. She then submitted the manuscript when my former agency was holding what we called a query holiday, which was a one month period at the end of 2008 into 2009 when we allowed writers to send 20 pages of their story without an attached query.

Here’s the time line from the author’s original submission to accepting an offer that I hope will give you a good example of the needed patience in this business:

  • December 2008: Book is one of over 3,000 submitted as part of the Query Holiday
  • January 7th, 2009: I request full based on 20 pages
  • February 11th: Ask if the author is willing to do a revision
  • Feb. 16th: Send her revision notes
  • March 30th: She sends revised manuscript
  • April 15th: I set up phone call, offer representation, and ask the author to do another revision
  • June 23rd: Ask for a final polish on the draft
  • Mid-July: Switch agencies
  • July 29th: Send out project
  • November: Send project out to a few additional editors
  • January 2010: Receive first serious interest (one year after first reading the project)
  • February 2010: Interest intensifies
  • March 10th 2010: Set up auction
  • March 12th 2010: Accept offer
  • Fall 2011: Anticipated release date

There’s no set formula for how long this process typically takes. Some works reach shelves more quickly while others take even longer. Regardless of whether your book flies from your fingers and into an editor’s waiting hands or is the result of a long period of fine-tuning and hard effort, you’re still going to be in for a wait, and patience is an absolute necessity.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more commandments to write. I wonder what number “Always Save Your Work, Ye Fools” should be…