Anyone who has had even a passing acquaintance with the publishing industry knows one inescapable fact: things don’t move quickly.
Part of this institutional/traditional, part of this just inevitable due to the fact that it takes a long time to read a book, and in order for a book to be published a whole lot of people have to read it along the way.
But for an aspiring author, there is an even greater danger than getting trapped in the vortex of publishing time. And that danger is impatience.
Impatience is perhaps the single most significant obstacle you will face on the path to publication, and it can pollute your experience in a vast variety of ways. It sneaks in, grows, and then injects its tentacles and poisons you with a toxic brew of frustration and short-sightedness. It feels no pain and can’t be reasoned with.
Impatience sits on your shoulder and messes with you at every stage of the publishing process.
Writing: “You’re totally finished!”
Revising: “Who needs revisions, it’s perfect!”
Research: “I’ll just call an agent to ask how to write a query letter.”
Querying: “E-mail blast!!!!!!!”
Following up: “Two weeks to read a partial??? Time for an angry e-mail!”
But perhaps the most dangerous period where impatience can affect your judgment comes when you are offered representation and are trying to decide on a course of action.
By the time an author is offered representation, chances are they’ve been working at it for years and have been dreaming about it for longer. Every cell in their body will be shouting, “Take it! Take it!!!”
But here’s the flip side. I have read submissions from authors who had told me they had an offer of representation on the table. I read the work, kept my own impatient instincts in check, and let them know that while I saw a great deal to like in the material, I didn’t think the work was ready, and suggested the outlines of some revisions that I hoped they would work with me on. In each of these instances the authors agreed with my revisions, but when faced with an offer of representation from an agent who wanted to submit immediately, they went with the other agent. I wished them the best.
But now twice in the past month authors have come back to me after an unsuccessful submission with the unrevised manuscript, wishing they had taken the time to revise. But at that point I can’t really help them — it’s already been seen at the major houses.
Now, who knows what would have happened had I helped them revise — I’m not trying to say I would have necessarily sold these books had they worked with me, nor do I necessarily blame them for taking the bird in the hand. At the same time, these authors ended up regretting their impatience. Their gut was telling them to take the time to revise, but impatience overruled.
Successful published authors tend to have the patience of saints when it comes to writing and revising — they’ve learned that there is no greater danger than putting something out before it’s ready.