…Now you do a rain dance.
Or, and stick with me now, you can do something far more productive to pass that time. If we’re talking me, I vote for that, but if you’re really into superstition and deific intervention, I’m not going to judge you. Out loud. Where you can hear me.
If you’re not so into wild gesticulation, salt over the shoulder, and sacrifice (human or otherwise)—or even if you are but want options—here’s a few suggestions to get you through that eternal period after the book is pitched and sent out.
Write Another Book
This is advice primarily for those authors who intend to have more than one book out a year. This may not apply to you. If you are one of those Richard Castle types, then I suggest you ignore this, kick back with a glass of something that burns going down (not gasoline, though), and practice looking smug.
For the rest of you, ask yourself this: once your book is out (think positive!), do you intend for that book to be the only book you put out that year? Or ever? No? You want more books, right?
When did you intend to write it?
I find that the point when I submit a book to an editor or to my agent—and yes, this is a habit going all the way back to when I first submitted Blood of the Wicked, my first (publishable, I won’t lie) book, to my queried agents—is the perfect point to work on a new book. This is my default choice.
Here’s why: say your book is out there, and it’s read, and the note comes back. Dear you— the market isn’t great for this/this has a lot of potential/I don’t rep this kind of book exactly, what else do you have? Love, agent/editor of choice.
What are you going to say? “Erm, nothing,” seems to be the default. “If you can give me six months, I can write something?”
The agent/editor shrugs, says to go ahead and pitch when you’ve got something, but who the hell knows what the market will be doing in six months, anyway?
Or you pitch that second book you’ve got half-way or completely written. (Some agents/editors get back within a few weeks, others within a few months, still others sometime in the next two quarters.) The agent/editor then sees that not only do you have the drive to write more than just the one break-out book, but you are treating the writing aspect as a discipline, and you have multiple ideas.
But What Book Should I Write Next?
As much as I’d love to treat this like there’s one solid answer to ease all your woes, there just isn’t. Every author will have different advice here. It really comes down to your speed of writing, your ideas, and an educated guess.
As a rule, I like to suggest that authors write something different than their submitted book. If you just sent out a science-fiction romance, why not give another genre a try? (This is best utilized when your chosen agent represents multiple genres, as a note.)
If you’re keen on writing romance, then pick your choice from the wide array of sub-genres: historical, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, western, and so on. If you want to try something from a different genre or category entirely—Young Adult? New Adult? Speculative fiction? Mysteries?—then do it.
Another option is to write the second book in your series—if what you just submitted was series. This can be really nice for prospective agents/editors. It shows that you’re going somewhere with the series, that you can keep writing, that you’re dedicated, and it can allow them to make a marketing choice that includes quicker release days (you know, for when your book eventually sells).
It’s a gamble, but this career always is. What you need to decide is if you want to put all your wordeggs in one fragile basket, or if you choose to have options to pitch.
Karina Cooper’s School of Practical Experience
I was too busy to do a rain dance. Here’s what I did: the very instant I finished the manuscript that would become my first book, I plotted and began writing the second book. At the same time, I was lobbing query after query to prospective agents. I maintained 4 different queries out at any given time—but I kind of recommend 7, as a rule. I was lazy.
Choosing to write the second book was definitely a gamble, and it’s not a path that I would recommend for anyone who wants a safer alternative. In my case, I’m weirdly stubborn and a little bit inclined to think I’m invincible—don’t worry, this job knocks that out of you quick—and I did it anyway. What worked in my favor is that I write legitimately fast. My baseline is four books a year (not including novellas), and I’m generally content doing that. This meant that even if Blood of the Wicked never sold, leaving the second book in the lurch, it wasn’t a huge loss (except to my pride) because I could write another book fairly quickly.
I honestly believed I would sell. Fortunately, I was right.
But here’s how it works for me now, repeat published as I am and officially an award-winning author (so you have to listen to me, because I’m legit; you can tell by the ‘Fucking’ now placed between Karina and Cooper in all official correspondence*). I currently, as we speak, have a book out on submission. Here’s the steps I took:
- Get the email agent has submitted book.
- Freak the fuck out, and yes, do a rain dance. Shut up.
- Plot and begin writing a whole new book in a completely different genre.
Number three is especially important, because for me, it passes the time while I wait to hear back from my agent about the progress of the book. If I didn’t focus on meeting my daily page count goal, I would be obsessing over each day as it slipped away. Some books sell very fast. Some don’t. During summer, all bets are off.
If this submission does not sell, it will sting, but it will not be the end of my career—or even more than a bit of a delay. At best, I’ll have a new project to send my agent. At worst, I’ll have excellent headway on said project, so that I can send it to her sooner rather than later.
If I waited for official word to come back, I’d find myself in one of two positions:
- officially committed to a new series, which means I’d have to start work on book 2 right away, thereby holding any other projects on a delay until I can finish it; or,
- stuck twiddling my thumbs until the reply comes back with a no, and have even more time between my last sale and a new one since I’ll have wasted these weeks/months and still have to write a new book.
No matter how you look at it, I’m too impatient for either. If I’m lucky enough to sell, not only will I have this new project mostly done by that time, clearing the way to send this one out on submission and write book #2 of the new sale after, but I’ll be looking forward to two contracts in the near future, rather than one for now and another sometime much later.
Work On Your Platform
I hate, loathe and abominate this option. I always feel like it’s so disingenuous to go out with the express purpose of gathering an audience—a veritable Pied Piper melody of wordbitchery and personal opinions. However, no matter which way you slice it, this has to be done. You can’t really release a book into a vacuum. Or, well, you can but why would you?
My two favorite ways to work on any sort of “hi, I exist!” effort are through a personal (or group) blog and through Twitter. These work best for me because I’m chatty as whoa, damn. Your platform of choice might vary: Facebook, if you ask me, is made of Satan’s tears and soured whiskey gone bad, but if you like it, get on with your bad self.
As we all know, Herr Wendig created a hell of a platform with this here blog, Terribleminds. Obviously, he spent years doing so, and you won’t reach the same amount of people if you’re only just starting and in limited time, but a blog is a viable method to get your name, your voice and your sense of self out there.
Problem is, this requires more words be shuffled along from your brain through your fingers, into your recording device of choice, and lobbed into the great, wide world that is the trackless waste of the web.
If you’re at all like me, this is a slow process with not enough pay off in a fast enough manner. Like writing pages every day, it requires discipline, perseverance, and some modicum of wit—without trollskinning yourself by relying on rage, mockery or bullying to do it.
Still, you’ve got to exist on the net. Readers, these days, expect a certain amount of personal investment of your time. They like to know that you exist, that you’re a real human being, and that you’re more or less in touch with the world. While I don’t recommend setting up cameras in every room of your house and parading around semi-nude—do a rain dance! a rain dance!—I do find that reader investment really does alter when you make an effort to walk among them. Like normal people.
No, we aren’t normal. That’s not the point. Sometimes, you have to wear the hat.
It’s hard to be introverted in an extroverted business, and most authors are—at least in varying degrees—introverted. We’re all some level of hermit, but the key is in behaving like we aren’t. It’s not all acting. After all, we genuinely do enjoy our readers (or at least that we are read), so it really does behoove us to reach out now and again. If it means having to play a part, then play it to the hilt.
And they said all those years hanging out with actors wouldn’t give me anything but herpes**. Show what they know!
I understand that you need a friend to hold a blade over your head to ensure you die quickly. I also gather that said blade needs to be wicked sharp, and said friend wicked skilled, or else you get to sit there and bleed in excruciating pain while your unskilled friend with the dull blade hacks your head off after a few tries.
I don’t recommend this option. Nobody likes a one-book-wonder. Write more books instead.
Confession: I have excellent author friends.
Second confession: I befriended them mostly by finding them online on various social platforms and reaching out in my usual balls-out way (which is to say, without overt fear, not with my pants down about my ankles—although I remain a strong proponent of pantslessness as a rule) and striking up conversations with those who weren’t bothered by said balls-outness.
See Work On Your Platform above.
It’s really very hard to survive in this world without friends. While I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and cultivate fake friendships just to get people to talk about you, I am talking about finding like-minded individuals who will understand you when you blog about depression, who will cheer for you when your book comes out, and who will be made happy when you cheer for their book release days.
This job gets hard at times. Socially, mentally, even physically when your wrist starts exhibiting RSI symptoms or your back compacts from too many hours with ass in chair. Have you ever experience chair-ass? You will. You will.
Friends who Get It™ are invaluable. They will goad you when you need to be goaded, cheer you up when you need cheering, keep you informed about changes in the industry simply be doing what they do best—which is the same thing you should be doing best, which is working hard and paying attention and making friends. They will remind you, through their own foibles and neurosis, that you are not alone.
Sometimes, they have whole months of absence from their blogs and they will call you a friend and let you write a blog post on their multi-bajillion readership blog platform.
Look, I’m not saying that you should find friends you can use. What I’m trying to say here is that nobody can operate in a vacuum anymore. Writers have a hard job—living in other peoples’ heads for so long is taxing, to say nothing of the rest of the business (which is, I am convinced, intent on fracturing my soul). We get tapped for energy, we lose steam, and we need help. We all lean on each other.
Chuck needed a hand filling some guest slots, and I had stuff to say. It nets me views—how you doin’?—as well as allows me to share some bits of wisdom for you. I could offer Chuck a space on my blog in exchange, but that really wouldn’t serve him—instead, I make it a point to talk about his new books when I tweet, because I luuuuurve Chuck and want him to succeed.
Do you know how many authors climbed out of the woodwork to send me messages of love and support when my depression hit somewhere near the bottom? Do you know how many tweets I send to authors who are feeling angry, frustrated, depressed or scared about the world and their place in it? (We are all basket cases, don’t even try to lie).
Authors understand authors. The sooner you find yourself part of a healthy author community, that happier you will be. Take my word on that.
Don’t Forget Your Other Life
You know, family. Friends. Food. Whiskey.
It might not take the sting from waiting, but don’t forget they’re there and hopefully waiting for you to succeed, too. Give them hugs. It helps.
Submission is scary. It’s a long, long, eternal, forever silence from your agent/editor, and no amount of rational thinking will make that easier. All you can do is busy yourself with more work, with the family waiting for you to feed them, with social interaction.
Before you’ll know it, you’ll get the response you’re waiting for.
Dear you— I love your work. Let’s do magic. Love, the agent/editor who wants to sign you.
* … Not really.
** … They totally didn’t say that. Well, I mean, some people said that, but it wasn’t about you, high school theater friends. They meant Hollywood***.
*** … Sorry, Hollywood. I love you, Tom Hiddleston/Benedict Cumberbatch/Olivia Wilde/Emma Stone/Robert Downey, Jr.
**** … Please don’t commit seppuku. Seriously.
After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romances, steampunk adventures, crossover urban fantasy, and writes across multiple genres with mad glee. Her award winning series, The St. Croix Chronicles, is the RT Reviewers Choice Awards recipient for Best Steampunk Novel 2012.
One part glamour, one part dork and all imagination, Karina is also a gamer, an avid reader, a borderline hermit and an activist. She co-exists with a husband, a menagerie and a severe coffee habit. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.
If you like what she has to say—or if you just want to do a good deed—then sally forth and acquire The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway, the prequel to her award-winning steampunk series. Half of her proceeds from the novella will be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation.