I know how hard it is to wait for publication. I thought my first book would be published posthumously. People still laugh when I tell them this. And you can believe me when I still say this only half-jokingly.
Ten years ago, publishing moved as slowly as a Model T Ford. Five years ago, publishing moved as slowly as a tractor. Today, it’s more like a rickshaw. Publishers have to be cautious as the industry changes. They have to weigh and evaluate books and the market more closely than ever before making decisions. Costly decisions.
This, understandably, frustrates authors. We have lots of emotion and talent invested in our book babies, but simply not the number of dollars a traditional publisher will invest in us. Most of us don’t realize the risk a publisher takes on us.
Agents and editors can see the business side more clearly but still, you can trust my word that the long wait frustrates us, too.
Some authors try to find a solution by creating artificial deadlines for themselves, but this can be a double-edged sword. Allow me to cite some examples:
I will be published by a traditional publisher before:
1.) my next milestone birthday.
This is an admirable goal. However, many authors don’t seem to set this goal until a milestone is about a year away. If so, this goal is unlikely to be attained unless a very unusual set of circumstances occurs. Some of us understand the push of time better than others. But marketing a work that isn’t ready will only waste more time. Sort of like speeding to an appointment, only to be stopped by a police officer, who’ll be sure to dawdle while writing you a citation. Not only will you be late, but you’ll be fined, too. Not worth it. Take the time you need to market your best work, no matter how many candles are on your cake!
2.) the new year.
A new year’s resolution is great but again, probably not realistic. Why not set a new year’s resolution of completing a manuscript instead?
3.) the bills come in for child’s college/wedding/car, etc., next year.
When you have not yet made money from writing, it is not a wise idea to burden your writing with the job of producing income for you in the near future. If your child’s college tuition bill will be due five or ten years from now, perhaps your writing may defray those costs. But unfortunately, even established authors can’t always depend on their books earning a set amount of money to pay ongoing bills. The sooner you realize this, the less unhappy you will be with a writing career from a financial standpoint.
So when choosing to write books for publication, the best deadlines to worry about are those listed in your contract.
What artificial deadlines have you set? How have they helped?
What financial planning tips would you offer writers?
When I first met Brandilyn Collins, she told me the average time to get published after you started writing was ten years. Since then I’ve heard other authors say the same thing. The closer I get to the ten year mark, I begin to debate with myself. Ten years if you’re not working another job? Ten years on one story? Do I quit at the ten year point? Trust me, I’ve prayed about this goal. And I feel like God’s leading me to keep writing the best stories I can write. He’s placed wonderful people in my path, like you, to encourage me. So I keep writing and learning and won’t give up as long as I feel this is God’s direction for my life.
Posthumously.That is great! And it makes me feel so much better about the novel I’m about to publish after 29 years. (Fortunately, it isn’t the first thing I’ve ever seen in print.)
Despite that procrastination, I normally set real deadlines for myself and keep them. Nobody else is going to do that for me.
As for financial planning advice for writers, I think that is simple: keep the day job.
I agree with both, Kathy. At this point in my life, the day job helps pay the bills. And I do set goals that challenge me, but are not unrealistic.
Its been 10+ for me. Nonetheless, when it comes to timing, I am less enamored with life events and have given up trying to second-guess God’s timing. He sees a bigger picture than we could ever imagine, so will often initiate things, like writing, long before we reach our tipping point. He foresees the moment when opportunity will coincide with preparation and instills in us a purpose or drive that can seem irrational. If we go the distance and persist, we will emerge with great skill, an unshakeable conviction, and a relevant story. When that coincides with the readiness of life for the message we bring, eternally significant things will happen. Mandela, Churchill, Moses, David and many others, were not extraordinary souls, but the cumulative experiences that brought them to their defining moments hit the sweet spot of timing that turned otherwise ordinary lives into history makers. Any writer who does not share a similar sense of destiny needs job-related financial plans. Any writer who rises to the call of God , refuses to go gently into the night and rages against the dying day, needs no plan, for their gift will make room for itself.
Peter, you said exactly what I was thinking, but you expressed it far more beautifully than I could have. It’s been five and a half years for me and I’m in the final revisions of the publication process right now, and I have to say that trusting God’s timing (and remembering that this is his story to begin with, not mine) has been key to my peace of mind.
Thanks Theresa. I trust it all goes smoothly with your book and that it shakes the shelves soon.
Debra L. Butterfield
Tamela, this “timing” is not what I expected. Thought I was going to see something about how well a book sells or doesn’t sell based on when it hits the market. But this was interesting.
I’ve never set this kind of a deadline for myself. I only have control over getting the project done, not when or if it gets published. Seems like a writer is setting herself/himself up for a huge disappointment to set a deadline/goal for themselves that is dependent upon the actions of others.
Debra, when I passed through 5 years, I thought, “that’ll do Lord”. 7 sounded like a better number. Not to be. 8 really sounded great. Ten is passing now. Do I hold my breath? Could die of that. The thing about setting deadlines and making plans is that it sets us up for disappointment, as you said, but it is also tantamount to managing God. Better to just keep going. At the Arlington tomb to the unknown soldier, the guard changes every half hour, but the orders have never changed – keep doing what you are doing – come rain, sleet, snow, ice or earthquakes – until you get fresh orders. That is a realistic way to approach writing. I give the same counsel to many, especially those in crisis – to stop talking about writing – rather get going and keep going, because you can only master this craft by persistently doing it and by learning through the process.
Carla Jo Novotny
Peter, someday I’d like to know who you are. Being new to all this I don’t know you but your comments over the last couple months say you are rich in experience, generous in sharingand kind in your manner of writing. Thank you.
I am just another poor boy Carla. I love and serve the same Redeemer so we ought to know each other better – what with the same Father but different mothers. I am sure this forum will bridge things over time … but all the best with your writing.
Artificial deadlines work well for me when I am working on a specific project. I like deadlines. They help me focus to finish. But I find long term personal/professional goals work better taking in the bigger picture. I write yearly goals and evaluate them quarterly. I don’t usually meet all of them but can see progress in many. I find success in that.
A ten year goal to being published? Wow so many factors would weigh in on that type of goal and what do you do if you don’t “make it?” Guess it goes back to how do you define your success as a writer?
With God, timing is everything. In other words, His timing is always right on! When I first sat down to write, it was never with the intention of getting it published. Then my friends and family encouraged me to try to get published. No problems getting accepted by vanity publishing companies, as long as you send money. No luck yet with traditional publishers, though some will only do business through agents. So I keep writing, honing in my skills, until I have money to self publish or a traditional publishing Co. takes interest.
In my opinion, keep your day job at least until you see the fruits of your writing labor. God’s timing, and you will know it is Him, is always perfect.
Carla Jo Novotny
Quick Thoughts vs. Pondering for days….Artificial Deadlines: A published author friend said long ago, in summary, a publisher deadline stops your process of personal satisfaction of completeness in a finish. Summary of things I’ve read is an author’s personal satisfaction with a finish is not always necessary to the quality. My experience of waiting to be finished has been, I thought I was finished year after year but my focus groups showed a need to upgrade. Now reading these blogs showed a need to further polish for a public presentation. Soon I need a professional evaluation. Meanwhile, day to day I am satisfied that I do what I am supposed to do, but shocked it takes so long. This blog and comments today comforts my shock.
Financial Planning Tips to Offer….This is a long article subject filled with short and long stories lived. Looking back….Be OK faster with having, doing, being less than money, education, position, others and self expectation, what kids want, middle class provides, finished classical education offers, advertising suggests you can and must have, pensions and previous financial sacrifice promises, etc. And then live real, genuine, authentic, as best you can, to who G-d is and you are called to be today to get to promised, yet not guaranteed, tomorrow.
I only started writing novels about 18 months ago. When I learned about the feedback from professionals that the Genesis contest provided, I worked hard to complete manuscripts in time to enter. That artificial deadline was a great decision. The detailed feedback was invaluable. I’m already doing rewrites based on what I learned about the contemporary writing style that agents and editors want. If any of you were Genesis judges, know that your efforts truly blessed the writers you reviewed.
The biggest artificial deadline I’ve placed was to land a book contract before my last child entered kindergarten. That was when my hubby wanted me to re-enter the workforce. It was about 5-6 years away at the time. The one thing good about it, it has helped me to focus better and to treat this journey more as a career. We shall see! I have until the fall of 2016. Ha!
But on a side note, I have since learned NOT to set artificial deadlines. Like Debra said, the only deadlines we can set are the ones we have control over. I read that in a book some years ago. The hardest part of setting deadlines is knowing what is practical. Sure, I can get this content edit done on a 90,000 word novel in one month working two hours a day, four days a week. 😛 Yeah, not going to happen here. 🙂
As I have been reviewing this site my life has been changed. Yes changed. I’ve been struggling along all by myself. I live out here in nowhere USA. yes I am really in a nowhere place. But God knows where I am. Oh yes I am happy. I have a calling in my church and I am needed here to fill a job.
But as I review what all you have written I realize how different I am. But I realize that is good. The world needs different.
All of you have been a wonderful tool GOD has used to help me. When I review the thought that GOD has used all of you to help me I am moved to tears.
All the comments today were just for me. I have labored writing this book (I am still laboring). I began when my son was 13. He would come in and check on me to see if he could read a word or two. I would always chase him away. Then the day came GOD saw the need to call him home. He was my drive, my cheering team, my focus. It has taken me years to learn to live without him. Still I write.
It was 8-4-01 when he answered GOD’s call to return home. I put the book on the shelf several times. Then GOD would nudge me again to get busy. And now, finally I am at that point to “get er done”.
Today while reading all of your posts, Peter, Carla, Theresa, (just nameing the ones I could recall) there was a special message for me from GOD. HIS perfection is so touching, reaching all the way out here to no-where-place.
I realize I’m not alone nor am I different. A loving thank-you to each of you, for allowing GOD to use you to bless me.
Now I am almost ready to edit again and get make a propsal and wait, and wait, and wait. And I am ready for that wai……….t.
Linda, the greatest value of this kind of forum is mutual support, so it is as enriching for me too. Many great writers had a zip code in nowhere somewhere – a desert, cave, prison or island – but God sees what no one else sees, and if we humble ourselves before Him, He will raise us up.
Peter: thank you again for your words. I’ve never seen my no-where-place as you put it. I have been seeking GOD to move from this place but HIS directions say, stay put.
Your message said far more than the visual words on this site. I believe you already knew that. I am feeling blessed once again as I strive for that mark.
I am blessed to bless Linda and am encouraged that I encouraged. No one saw little David out in his own nowhere place, but God did … I know He will see you too. He will … I may be more remote than you, not that that matters, but everything about my journey has assured me that He is at work and will bring our seasons to a fitting end.