Playing It Cool

I know I’ve touched on this before, but one of the hardest things a writer has to deal with, is the waiting. It takes months–sometimes years–to write a book and it’s sent off and then you wait. And if you’re lucky, it gets a second and a third read, and hopefully recommended to the senior editor and then even more hopefully, an offer is made.

It can take months for an unpublished author to hear back. At Harlequin, many aspiring writers have waited up to two years to get word on a manuscript. Published authors cross their fingers that they (author and agent) will get a quick response. I’m waiting to hear from Warner right now on my proposal and it’s three weeks.

Three weeks is nothing compared to the days I waited a year on projects titled For The Love of Ben (unbought) and All-Around Cowboy (unbought). But still, waiting any length of time is hard. It does odd things to the mind. Plays games, little head games that undermines the confidence so I’ve learned to fight back to keep fear in check.


#1 Honest Expectations

When I first mail a project off, whether its a proposal, or an entire manuscript, I try to step back and be honest about my expectations. Of course I want a million dollar contract. Of course I want to be the next media darling. Is it realistic? Noooo. But a girl can hope. And hoping is okay, provided I understand this is a business and there’s a big difference between hoping for a realistic outcome and hoping for the ridiculous. This leads me to point number two…

#2 Check Ego At the Door

Bottom line for me, do I want to be published? Do I want to see this particular story in print? Do I want it in print anytime soon? If so, then don’t let ego get in the way of a decent contract. Yes, I’d like to earn more money on the next book. Yes, I want a bigger print run. But at what cost? Are my battles ones I really, truly care about, or are they ego driven?

#3 Have Clear Goals

Earning more money is definitely a goal, but it’s not a clear enough goal to motivate me. I’m better motivated by the creative process, the quality of a finished product, the passion an editorial team brings to a project. I want and need to pay bills with my writing, but I love working with people that get me, my voice, and my stories. Would I just jump ship to get more cash? No. But if someone gave me more creative freedom and a bigger paycheck…? Now that’s interesting.

#4 Grow a Career

I like the connectedness of things, the relation of one person to another, the evolution of one’s style, the way one story builds on the next. What matters to me in terms of career building is developing a natural, and interesting, career, one that honors readers, keeps them part of the literary circle. I would hope that any reader that picks up Frog Prince would also enjoy Flirting with Forty because its my voice and the characters are ones you could hopefully relate to, and the themes in my books are ones the reader cares about. I would want the same reader to find this the case with my third book…as well as future novels. The reader is my audience. The reader is who I write for. The reader is respected.

And when the wait grows long to hear back from my editor, I step away from the panic button and do a little (or a lot) of assessment and reflection and shift whatever gears I must to a) play it cool, and b) remain objective. As much as I believe in my own work, I am not the one shelling out money for the book. The first person to do so is the publisher and the next is the reader at the bookstore. I owe both the very best. So as I wait, I move from wildly excited and hopeful to a more pragmatic mindset.

This is business. And I’ll do what I must to succeed in this business. Starting with writing the very best story I can and ending with working with the right people–people who love books as much as I do.

And I mean it. Even if my ego is chanting ‘more, more, more’ and dancing like the devil on the dinner table.

My ego might be entertaining, but my ego will not nurture a career.

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