>The Waiting Game

>Anyone who has ever submitted a manuscript, synopsis or query letter to an agent or publisher will be familiar with The Waiting Game.

While the advent of email queries to agents has obviously improved the overall response time from those agents who have embraced technology (though, to be honest, this just seems to allow them to send a rejection note faster) it doesn’t seem to have changed much else.

It soon becomes a matter of course to expect to have to wait four to eight weeks to hear anything back. It’s easy to forget that while your manuscript might be the only thing on your mind, the agent/publisher almost certainly has an enormous (virtual) pile to sift through.

Not that it makes it any easier. There’s an old adage that ‘no news is good news’, and I suppose that could apply quite nicely in respect of the agents known for issuing fast rejections -if they don’t reject you within a couple of days then it’s no unreasonable to assume they are at least slightly interested in what you have to offer.

For us, we’ve played the waiting game with one publisher who promised a response but has now gone completely silent on us; we’re still playing it with one agent who we probably have to wait another couple of weeks before we can follow up with a gentle “any news?” query; and, of course, we’re still playing it with our first prospective agent, though in this case it’s a case of waiting for the meeting date to arrive.

It’s good practice, though, because we know that when (not if!) the book gets taken on by an agent, we’ll then have to play the same waiting game while they submit it to publishers, and then the same game again and again through the whole publishing process.

Nothing happens overnight in publishing. It’s as well to accept that right from the start – and probably good to set the expectations of family (and friends, if they are interested) because otherwise the constant questions of “Heard anything yet?” might soon become tiresome. (As yet, it hasn’t become tiresome as it’s still a pleasure that they’re showing an interest. Whether that interest will still be there 12 months from now is another matter).

In other news… book two is progressing, if not at a pace, then at least at a gentle stroll. Early estimates of a September completion are now looking a little optimistic, but October shouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. I’m already being asked by previous proof-readers when the next installment will be available, which is encouraging.

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7 Comments to “>The Waiting Game”

  1. >If the first publisher hasn't specifically told you know, by submitting it to an agent you are liable to pay the agent's cut if the publisher goes ahead.Good luck with that.

  2. >This would NOT be a problem and to be honest, we have already agreed between ourselves that if said publisher were interested, then we would still use this agent anyway, as they know their stuff, yes it might cost a few *ahem grand, but they will be looking out for our best interest and cover all our global bases.

  3. >I think anyone who has read the artist and writers yearbook, spoken with the British writer's guild, or even, for example, tried to have their pet treated at two different vets for the same illness, would discover just how much legal paperwork can, and does cause grief. Unless you have it in writing, from both parties, you cannot realistically assert that all will be well. You could even find yourself in a contractual deadlock, where the publisher says yes, and as far as they are concerned that is the end of it. The Agent could then argue that because you gave them the manuscript before the publisher agreed anything, it is effectively under their control.Can you not see how this could potentially escalate into an argument over something, especially if both of them feel it has commercial merit? There have been multi-million dollar films stuck in development hell for years because of this sort of nonsense. Even though you, I, and the sick cat can all see that the only way forward is to sell the product and everyone makes money.But at the end of the day,they are in it for the money, and not the art.

  4. >Wise words of caution, but nothing has been signed, and no verbal promises made as yet with/to anyone.

  5. >The act of submission could well be seen as a declaration of intent.Why? Same reason I had a full-on stand-up argument with an estate agent who declared that because I'd had him in to do a free, no obligation valuation that I must sign up with him.If I'd pulled the property from the market I'm sure he wouldn't have cared, but I didn't. I'd signed up with someone else, and as that clearly meant there was commission likely to be handed over. There's a vague parallel in script submission. Many moons ago it became known in the UK sci-fi press that the ST:TNG team were actively looking for scripts and story ideas. I understand they were sent very many. They then turned around and said they absolutely did not want submissions, and everything would be unread and destroyed.Now, it's very common practice for studios and production companies to not want submissions and to ignore, unread any they get. But where did this leave anyone who submitted something to TNG and then saw a similar show a year or two later?Would you have taken legal action? Dunno. Proof is difficult. That's why thescriptvault.com exists, I guess. Stops paranoia.

  6. >It's funny, but when I read your first response, my immediate reaction was "It's not like we're dealing with Estate Agents". But, in the case of that, unless you sign a contract with them giving them sole selling rights, they have no claim, no matter how much they huff and puff.A verbal contract, as they say, isn't worth the paper it's written on.Now, I'm sure there are unscrupulous agents and publishers out there, and I'm sure this sort of thing does go on, but neither the publisher or agent(s) being referenced here are exactly fly-by-night operations and our friend Google doesn't generate any horror stories about any of them.As to the ST:TNG scripts, would I have taken legal action? I've no idea. Would I have taken legal *advice*? Most certainly.There is an element of trust required here. How many books would receive an immediate rejection if every author developed such a level of fear that they required, in writing, a confirmation from every prospective agent/publisher that they will never use that material (unless a contract was in place)? Every single one, I'd wager.It'd mark you down as potentially "difficult to work with" and nobody wants to be seen as that.

  7. >Not really. If something you write is accepted by an agent, a publisher, or both, it is because they think it has commercial potential.The moment money is involved, all ethics and morality can no longer be used to guide action.I trust my fiance. I mostly trust my employer. I don't trust any solicitor or estate agent I've ever been involved with, as they have proven to be liars, inept, or otherwise difficult human beings.The same applies to sending something you've written to someone else, trusting that it won't get abused.I'd be far more worried about a rejection than plagiarism, but it is still a possibility. Equally, only possible, not guaranteed.This tends to be why most agents ask for only a partial manuscript. A synopsis, and the first 4 chapters. Enough to prove it exists and is as expected. There are other reasons, of course. If someone submits 100K words to you, and when you reject it they say "but didn't the final chapter make the journey worthwhile" you'd feel silly, but equally I'd find it preferable to getting to the end of it and going "Oh god, it was as bad as I thought". They are agents and publishers, at the end of the day, not literary critics.Logically, if you've let your work into the hands of someone who thinks "you know, a tweak here, a comma there and we're minted", they are more likely to get you to do the work, then pinch it and do it themselves. Even if someone has the tendancy to lift someone else's work, if they are skilled/talented enough to make a go of it, then they'd probably do it themselves from the start.Many years ago I was on a writing weekend, and the tutor asked everyone what they wanted to get out of their efforts, in the long term.One or two wanted to simply have completed their work. One wanted to get the scarey, violent thoughts out of his head and onto the paper.One was convinced that she was the next big thing. She had an idea, and knew, just knew it was commercially viable.The tutor found this fascinating. He had found, as he revealed later over lunch, the one student who occasionally pops up who had conviction. Absolute, unwaivering belief that they were going to succeed.So, the tutor asked, what is the subject of your magnum opus? "Historical romance" came the reply. The pause lasted hours."As in Mills and Boon?""Yes. I've written this 50,000 word bodice ripper. It's got romance, a little tragedy…"As much as the tutor was aware he had to try to help, guide and assist his paying students, he had to point out that in general, that genre is neither a best seller, nor has a long shelf life.Even if it did hit the streets, he said, it was unlikely to make her much money.This turned into an interesting debate on how we got started in writing.Me? I heard something read aloud when I was 8, and thought "I could do that". Others, out of boredom, commercial curiosity, or, as in Mike's case, to get those really violent thoughts out of his head, safely onto paper.Her? She'd seen an ad for a publishing house, asking for new authors to submit work.Now, you, I, my pet cat would all think "but they never need to advertise". But the thought didn't occur to this potential author.But she had something that neither you, I, nor any other published, or wannabee authors had. A complete immunity from plagiarism.How do I know this?Later in the day, we were all paired off, so one of us would read someone else's work. As he went around the room asking who wanted to work with whom, it became obvious to our tutor that the Mills and Boon lady was like the fat kid in the PE team line-up in school. She was, absolutely, the last person anyone was going to pick.Cruel, perhaps. But people either didn't want to read her stuff, or didn't want her opinion of theirs.The tutor ended up paired with her. She was happy, she got to read one of his soon-to-be-published chapters.So, still more worried about rejection than plagiarism? I'd be too. Oh, for reference, the tutor was: Pete Johnson.

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