On Patience

melIf there were a Ten Commandments of Publishing, “Thou Shalt Be Patient” would definitely fall somewhere between “Always Revise, Ye Children” and “Sippeth Much Coffee.” I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say “these things take time” or “we need to be patient” or “hey, what’s over there?” before bolting in the opposite direction over the course of my young career, but it’s been plenty.

Chances are, if you’re going to be serious about getting published, you’re going to be expected to wait at different points: to figure out the plot, to find time to write, to hear back from your critique group, for an agent to respond to you, for the coffee to finish brewing, for revisions to be completed, for an editor to read your manuscript, for an offer to be finalized, for the contract to be negotiated, for the cows to come home, to receive an editor’s notes, for the publishing house to pick the perfect cover, and for the release date to finally arrive. Then you get to start all over (minus some steps, of course, like the cows) for the next book.

What I find encouraging is when all this waiting and patience finally pay off. I recently sold a project that, for me, was a perfect example of the importance of patience. The author had written the story, revised it, and worked on it with her critique group. She then submitted the manuscript when my former agency was holding what we called a query holiday, which was a one month period at the end of 2008 into 2009 when we allowed writers to send 20 pages of their story without an attached query.

Here’s the time line from the author’s original submission to accepting an offer that I hope will give you a good example of the needed patience in this business:

  • December 2008: Book is one of over 3,000 submitted as part of the Query Holiday
  • January 7th, 2009: I request full based on 20 pages
  • February 11th: Ask if the author is willing to do a revision
  • Feb. 16th: Send her revision notes
  • March 30th: She sends revised manuscript
  • April 15th: I set up phone call, offer representation, and ask the author to do another revision
  • June 23rd: Ask for a final polish on the draft
  • Mid-July: Switch agencies
  • July 29th: Send out project
  • November: Send project out to a few additional editors
  • January 2010: Receive first serious interest (one year after first reading the project)
  • February 2010: Interest intensifies
  • March 10th 2010: Set up auction
  • March 12th 2010: Accept offer
  • Fall 2011: Anticipated release date

There’s no set formula for how long this process typically takes. Some works reach shelves more quickly while others take even longer. Regardless of whether your book flies from your fingers and into an editor’s waiting hands or is the result of a long period of fine-tuning and hard effort, you’re still going to be in for a wait, and patience is an absolute necessity.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more commandments to write. I wonder what number “Always Save Your Work, Ye Fools” should be…

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tamara Morgan, Upstart Crow. Upstart Crow said: Now on the Upstart Crow blog: On Patience (http://tinyurl.com/y8zzsux) […]


  2. That was helpful, interesting and encouraging! Thank you for the detailed outline!


  3. Thanks for this post. I recently queried an agent who then requested my manuscript. Patience is definitely a virtue and one which I will learn better with every passing day.


  4. It takes longer than a sane mind can comprehend.

    This is why sending out to one person at a time is bogus.

    It’s also why you can’t try to just follow the market, you have anticipate it.

    Don’t look for where the market is, look for where it isn’t, look for holes and try to fill them. (Incidentally that was my motto when I was a teenager.) Of course while that makes sense, editors tend to drive using only the rear-view mirror. Which is how we end up with 9,000 wizard books followed immediately by 9,000 vampire books, followed then by 9,000 dystopian books.


  5. Dear Michael Grant,




  6. …while I’ve just been waiting patiently for your next blog entry.


  7. Rhonda:

    On behalf of my gender: Yes. Yes, we are.


  8. I understand patience, but at what point do I move on? Six months after submitting to an agency that promises to respond (ahem, Upstart…) but no word? Not even a rejection?

    Am I an idiot, or just naive?


  9. Wonderful post! Is there a point where new media tools will start to shrink the timetable?


  10. “Sippeth Much Coffee?”

    God must be VERY pleased with me.


  11. Thank you Chris. That’s the first time I saw that type of information outlined like that. Does great for the nerves! I’ve learned to tell people around me who inquire (nicely about the project and status) “If it happens, it won’t happen overnight.”
    And I just say that in my head over, and over and over..

    I think some authors who have MSs submitted sometimes fear two things while they wait. 1) they’ll be forgotten about or 2) The agent will have a serious, 360 degree change of mind about the project and never contact them again lol.

    And in the meantime you find yourself thinking things like “Well if Agent (blank) *really* loved the project ..they would have called back in 2 days!”

    Silly I suppose…is that even true? 🙂


  12. Chris, this is very sound advice. And instead of being disheartening to me, it actually helped me in my waiting.

    I’m going to be in Sioux Falls this weekend and am looking forward to meeting you. Safe travels!

    Roxane B. Salonen


  13. Thank you for such an informative post, Chris. The whole process definitely does seem to be a waiting game–though I guess it’s the best kind of game, isn’t it? I haven’t started querying yet, but I have definitely had moments of frustration with the writing process.

    Whenever I start to get impatient about the writing, I sit back and remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place: because I love to write. That seems to help make the frustration bearable 🙂

    Thanks again, and I’m looking forward to your next post.



  14. Thank you for such an informative, encouraging post, Chris. This process can be so frustrating, but when I find myself losing patience, I try to remember why I started writing in the first place: because I love it and it makes me happy.

    That usually helps redirect the frustration into the inspiration I need to keep plugging away.


  15. Four months from submission to representation sounds pretty quick to me. I think some of us need a lot more patience than that author!


  16. ahhh, patience.

    Thanks for the outline. It’s nice to see a real time line, not just an estimate.

    How did you keep track?


  17. […] Richman at Upstart Crowe Agency wrote a blog post recently called On Patience. He gives a timeline of a query sent to him in Dec 2008 and finally ending with a publishing […]


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