Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 5, 2024

The Waiting Game for Writers

by Lisa Norman

cat waiting for food

One of the greatest delights of my business is working with authors, watching stories come to life, watching books come into existence.

Lately, I've been struck by how often we must wait as authors, and how often that waiting takes new authors by surprise. In my publishing business, I have a strict “no deadlines” rule, not because I don’t want books done quickly, but because deadlines can lead us to miss opportunities. It is too easy to rush and make mistakes. Once a book is in print, you can still change things, but it is no fun to have regrets.

One author I know is waiting for an editorial slot. She’s finished the book! She can’t wait for feedback and to start this next grand adventure. The editor can hopefully get to the book in three months.

Three months?

May be a bit longer. But they’re a fantastic editor, so they’re busy. In demand. Worth waiting for.

Except not everyone is willing to wait. And they go with someone with a shorter lead time… who may or may not be as skilled. We’re trading time for skill.

I was making an appointment with a fantastic cover artist for an author. They have a slot open in five months. I jumped to take it, even though the book is ready for a cover now. Why? Because if I don’t book, it’ll be a year before I get in with that artist. Sure, I could use another artist, but this artist has done the first three books, and changing style, a style that has been successful, would hurt the chances. I’m trading time for consistency.

A month ago, I signed up with a marketing firm and put down a chunk of change. My ads just started running. I can’t wait for the results. But I need to! Sure, I could manage the marketing myself, but this company comes with a great reputation. I’m trading time for expertise.

I’m working with an author who is waiting to hear back from an agent. Early comments from the agent have been very positive, and she’s got feelers out with some others in the industry. The waiting is murder. She could just self-publish. But she’s trading time for a chance at something bigger.

So much of what we do as writers involves waiting.

Recently, I worked with two different authors to resolve similar situations with Amazon. One decided the problem couldn’t be avoided and took a drastic measure: pulling down a bunch of books and putting them back up with new ISBNs. Why? Because that was the “only” way to resolve the problem. Meanwhile, slowly and patiently, I watched another author solve the same issue. We traded time and frustration for a better marketing stance.

When I talk to authors, my answer is usually, “take a deep breath and start the next book!” But I admit it, that can be hard!

Patience: the silent companion on every author’s journey.

Have you run into the waiting game in your writing career? Have you rushed something you wished you hadn’t? What do you do to help ease the stress of waiting?

* * * * * *

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, LLC, an indie publishing firm.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? Sign up for her newsletter or check out her classroom where she teaches social media, organization, technical skills, and marketing for authors!

Top image from Depositphotos.

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18 comments on “The Waiting Game for Writers”

  1. Oh, yes! The waiting. I've recently signed a contract for the fourth book in a series of prequels. I've done the waiting bit to see if my submission was accepted, now I'm waiting for the editorial process to go through.
    Waiting is part of this job, though, so we must get used to it and just be patient. We'll get there in the end.
    Meanwhile, I'm working on a couple of other projects.

    1. Isn't it? Is this the Sylvie who has like 50 books out? I'm curious if you've ever found it getting easier or if you have tricks for survival to share with new writers?

  2. Yes! Waiting is part of the process, and since nobody lives in a vacuum ... life interferes.

    One the editors I hired had family issues and was greatly delayed. Another passed away a few months after her first thorough edit of my manuscript. That was hard on many writers. She was well loved.

    I sometimes wonder if I wasn't patient enough with finding an agent for the ongoing Charlie Chameleon series. It could go on for a long while. I felt that I needed to get the stories out into the world, so I did. Wise? Hard to say.

    I've learned to be more patient, but I don't like it.

    1. That's part of why I don't accept deadlines in my work, because I've found that waiting can bring so many good things... But it is always hard. And really hard for first time authors. That's why I'm bringing this to the wits community. (Grin) Get some ideas from pros on how to need make those speedy decisions.

      It is so hard!

  3. OMG! So much truth in this post! I've watched people do the same things -- take books down or throw away a really good opportunity because they are so impatient.

    I'm going to point them to this post. 🙂

    Thanks, Lisa!

  4. I'm used to waiting. Chronic illness means every day I try, but few days I succeed.

    If I didn't try every day, I'd never get anywhere!

    I love writing. I love the results. It's slow - I've been writing the Pride's Children mainstream trilogy since 2000, when the idea was 'vouchsafed' to me. Two volumes down, one to go - and I still show up every day - and wait. No deadlines, obviously, and an SPA, again, obviously - I can't imagine a publisher these days dealing with my delays.

    Who was it that said, "All things come to those who wait?" Google has various answers, including Proverbs.

    The most important thing I've learned about waiting is to not have angst about the process (angst wastes energy I don't have). Just keep plugging away - the time will pass, regardless, and you will have SOMETHING if you have been patient.

    1. Alicia, dealing with chronic illness adds another layer to it, but it sounds like you've learned the lesson needed. I love the spoons analogy because some days we only have one spoon... And that may mean something we love has to wait.

      But taking that time to do it well keeps from losing everything.

      I was late to an appointment this morning. The road was a 25mph area. No one was around. I could have gone faster, the temptation was there... But how late would I have been if stopped for speeding? It reminded me of this post.

      Sometimes slow is the only speed available, but if we're going in the right direction... We'll get there!

  5. Great and informative post! Besides writing the actual novel, so much of our careers involve waiting for someone else to do something so we can move forward. Thanks for putting it into perspective.

    1. Just had a fun chat with someone who reminded me of the value of waiting and working during marketing, too. This can be a harsh profession. And yet we love it!

  6. This is so true. And often when I rush, I make a mistake (or two or three). It is hard to be patient when you are excited to get something out into the world that you have invested so much time, tears, money, and emotion into. (Ooops, ended with a preposition). P.S. Could you let us know how the professional marketing firm performs for you. I'm thinking I need something like that.

    1. Oh, I'm definitely going to let people know. It takes 3 months for the marketing to tune, but it is already interesting just a couple of weeks in. THAT is SO hard to wait for! I keep looking at it and then reminding myself not to look yet. Grrr. I'll have an update on my deleyna.com blog for sure. In a few months.

  7. When I began writing twenty years ago, the business was blowing up over traditional vs. self-publishing; Carina Press, and Amazon. I was overwhelmed. I decided not to make any publishing decisions and just build a portfolio of books. I've got a decent amount of work to show for it and I've taken some baby editing and publishing steps on my own. Now I'm waiting for editing on a book I wrote in 2009! It's a long time to wait to get a book published, but that's okay. I see it as just another thing among many I've had to wait for In Real Life. And yes, I do believe in that saying, 'good things come to he who waits.' So I wait, and wait some more. In the meantime, I work on my next book. Plus, the lawn always needs mowing and my goodness, those windows!

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