Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Construction Zone 15. - What's Next?

I’m going to shoot straight from the hip and give you the basic, unvarnished truth.

You’ve submitted. You’ll likely get a rejection. That’s just the numbers, and I’m sorry but it’s true. That doesn’t mean you give up. It means you get determined.

Wait times vary. But in all honesty, don’t expect anything back for 3-4 months. MINIMUM. On a query, you should certainly hear within this time frame, and partials too for the most part. On a partial, if you haven’t heard anything by the six month mark, send and e-mail if you have a contact or make a polite, short phone call to make sure your ms is still there.

If you’re blessed to get feedback within your rejection, pay attention because editors don’t waste time giving feedback unless they see something promising in your writing. If it sounds like a form letter, it probably is, so don’t dissect it and angst over it. File it and move on.

If you’re lucky enough to get a request for the full manuscript, make another short cover letter referring to the request, and all pertinent information about the submission. My cover letters for fulls were usually one simple paragraph. “Please find enclosed my manuscript whatever as requested in your letter of….” MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION included. Print out your ms on regular paper, complete with cover page, bind it with an elastic, and my recommendation is to send it in tyvek envelopes. Unless you’re writing Single Titles in which case a document box might work best. Make sure that you put in SASE’s too – in queries as well as fulls. If it is going to another country, you can buy IRC’s – International Reply Coupons – at the post office. Most places don’t send back the ms unless you request – notice I said MOST not ALL – so one should be sufficient to reply. CHECK THE PUBLISHERS GUIDELINES BEFORE SENDING ANYTHING. Different publishers want different things, and while my advice is rule of thumb sort of things, not everyone is the same.

I’ve had wait times on fulls from 2 weeks to 18 months, but again after 6 months I think it’s ok to follow up, unless they’ve said otherwise.

Now…what happens?

1. You could get a form rejection
2. You could get a rejection with feedback (solid gold, people. Listen up.)
3. You could get revisions
4. You could sell, this is highly unlikely without going through (3) first.

If you get revisions, don’t panic. Read the letter, put it aside, take it out and read it again, don’t panic, and give yourself time to absorb what the editor is asking of you. At first it might seem like a HUGE job. But remember – you only have to revise one page at a time. And be flexible. Editors know what they are doing. You need to trust that editor and give her what she wants using your own unique voice. And you only need to fix one page at a time. It’s okay. You’ll get through it. It’s natural to worry you haven’t done it right but revisions are a great learning experience, and look, it’s SO helpful when someone tells you exactly what needs fixing. Revisions are really my favourite part of the process.

My other recommendation is to do your revisions in a timely manner. You don’t need to turn them around in 24 hours, but unless it’s a rewrite, you shouldn’t need more than a week, two tops. Even with my last ms, which had substantial revisions, I had it back to her in 8 days. Opportunity is knocking. Don’t waste time!

Then send your revisions back – whichever way the editor has asked (and most likely will be through e-mail). Revision wait times can vary SO much. In three books with Harlequin, I’ve waited as short as 24 hours and currently I’m at just over 4 weeks with my last. It all depends on where you are in your editor’s schedule.

If you don’t get asked for revisions, or if you have sent your revisions and are waiting, what do you do now?

Well, you think about the next book. You do up a proposal…even if you aren’t at the proposal sending stage yet, this is a good idea. You outline a basic premise and characters for a story, or two, or three. Then you pick one (after you’ve sold, your editor might do the picking FOR you) and you start all over again. The best cure for waiting – bar none – is working on another project. Think about it. You wait 4 months for a rejection on a partial, but maybe you got some positive comments and a line like “we see promise in your writing and feel free to submit something else to us.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new partial all ready to go? Having one in the hopper is NOT to be underestimated. With HIRED BY THE COWBOY, I was waiting to submit it while waiting to hear on THE GIRL MOST LIKELY. When that full was rejected, but with feedback, I already had another ms ready to go and it sold.

I thought I could put “after you sell” in this topic but it’s getting too long, so tomorrow we’ll wrap up with the final Construction Zone topic: YOU’RE PUBLISHED! What you can expect!

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