A Note on Waiting...

I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that we all hate waiting. Waiting in line for coffee is probably the worst morning experience ever - seconded only by waiting in line at the bank (at least coffee houses smell amazing). Waiting for the microwave to beep, the light to turn green, the video to load, the phone to ring... waiting just sucks.

In the book industry, there are a ton of waiting. Playing the waiting game is probably the most common activity writers do besides typing new words and backspacing.  You finish a book and send it to your betas, then you wait. You edit your book and write a query, have that betaed (you wait). You send out queries, then you wait. You get an agent, and sub your book, and wait. Even if you go a less traditional route, there is still a lot of waiting around.

I'm not here to tell you all to suck it up, believe that no news is good news, or use your time of waiting focusing on something new. I am a big believer in facing the truth head on. No news is not good news. No news is simply no news. Focusing on something else while your mind just wants you to check your email again? It is like making a tide go out instead of come in. If you can do it, you are super human and should be put in a museum.

Besides all this, I am in no place to give anyone advice on the matter. I suck at waiting. I check my email constantly, stalk people, give "woe is me" speeches to my mother, get no work done, and fail quizzes because I'm doing all of the above instead of studying. So, instead of saying anything brilliant and helpful, I'm going to tell you how, recently, the tables have turned. I now have a tad bit of experience from the other side. 

Since running TWFT and gaining complete control (MUAHAHAHAHA) over a crazy email account, I've been reading submissions. Fiction, guest posts, and general questions about the industry and lots of "I'm 14 and want to write a book" emails. I love helping young writers. I see so much of myself in them and I remember the first query I ever sent, cringe, and try to prepare the newbies as much as I possibly can. But one thing I can.not.stand. is the expectation that I will reply to an email within fifteen minutes.

I estimate that 50% of all the emails we get are "checking in" emails from previous submissions or questions. At first I read them and felt like crap. Oh my gosh, I'd think, I should spend so much more time reading submissions. I should edit this person's work for them just so they'll stop emailing me. I should write a how-to on publishing and send it out for free to every question I get sent, because these people are stressed and deserve it.

But I also deserve something. I deserve a little peace in my inbox. You send me a submission? Great, I'll get back to you the instant I read it. Ask a question? Sure, I'll answer. I'll even answer in detail, just give me a few days.

Applying this experience to what I know about the pubbing industry, I realize why we need to learn patience. On the outside, we don't understand how much an agent, for example, has to get through in a day. Your query might be at the bottom of a pile. The agent will get to it, but maybe not the instant it appears in the inbox. Certainly adding another email to the inbox isn't going to help. I understand now how repetitive those checking-in emails get on the agent's side. Even if the author of it thinks they are putting things the most professional way possible it still comes across as "what the crap have you been doing with my sub?"

I hate waiting. Now I also hate checking in. I wish the publishing industry had one of those trackers, like when you can see what stage of preparation your online pizza order is in. Maybe we need bar codes that get scanned whenever a process starts, and emails sent out immediately. You query is being read. Your query was rejected. Your query is being read. Request for partial submitted...
I don't just want that for me, but for all the writers out there and especially for the agents and editors and anyone who feels the stress of getting back to everyone as soon as possible. I don't think trackers like that will ever exist, but we can certainly make a holiday up for people who field email, can't we?

Meanwhile, you submitters to TWFT, I love you with all my heart - but realize that waiting is part of the industry. You can take my (actually quite short) turn-around time as great experience for your future as a professional writer.