Most people find it astounding how long it takes for things to happen in traditional publishing. Even after spending months or even years writing, an author waits for weeks or months to hear from an agent, who if they agree to work together, wait weeks and months for publishers to make a decision and then finally a book is scheduled to be published a year or more in the future. Sometimes two years.
Steve Laube tells us that the record for our agency between a sending book proposal submission and a publisher sending a contract offer was 22 months. When he contacted the author with the good news, the author had to go back in their notes to remind themselves exactly what it was they wanted to write two years before!
Communication capabilities have accelerated to the point where our expectations for action from others can be downright impossible to satisfy. If we don’t receive a response to an email in a couple hours, we wonder if anyone cares and frustration and doubt build. A couple weeks or months? We go crazy.
Combining the instant communication of the 21st century with traditional publishing timelines can be a downright maddening mix for an author who is anxious to get started.
Thirty years ago business was conducted using paper, envelopes and stamps with an occasional phone call. Communication overseas involved thin paper and small envelopes and we waited months for a reply.
Email and smart phone texts changed everything and now we are in a world where the majority of traffic on various phone systems is data (texts or email) rather than voice. What was measured in days, weeks and months, is now measured in seconds, minutes and hours.
We are all in a hurry.
When the car in front of us doesn’t move two seconds after the traffic light turns green, we are on the horn reminding them that we need to get rolling. I once had a car tap my bumper from behind when I failed to pull out quickly at a light. I was too stunned to get road-rage.
Today, let’s calm our anxious hearts (thank you Linda Dillow) and talk about authors and time.
Going from an unpublished to a published author making some regular income at any level can take years. Maybe some people win the publishing “lottery” and become an overnight success, but governing your life by exceptions is not wise.
If you consider being an author as a profession, can you think of any other career that would begin with the expectation you could be paid to work in that career within a relatively short timeframe? Like weeks? Or months?
Doctors, dentists, accountants, teachers, pastors, plumbers, truck-drivers, editors, cable-installers, back-hoe operators, lawyers, etc., all need time to train and work alongside someone more experienced. Then, maybe, when you are ready in a few years, you get a job doing what you prepared for.
I cringe when I hear:
“I’ve decided to quit my job this week and earn my living as an author”.
“Can you give me some advice on how to earn some fast money as an author?”
It should be, “I’ve decided to start writing and attend writers conferences on my vacation time, earn an MFA degree in the evening and learn the craft so I can quit my day job in five to ten years.”
Things take time. Preparation takes time.
When reading Scripture, I am astounded by the lengths of time that people prepared for something.
God gave Noah 120 years to build the ark, which means the wicked sinful people of the earth had a similar amount of time to repent. It seems like 120 years constituted ample warning before the rains started.
I can’t imagine Abraham and Sarah waiting a hundred years to become parents.
Moses was forty years old when he killed an Egyptian and fled to the desert. He lived there for forty more years before the whole “Let my people go” process started. Then it was another forty years wandering in the desert with hundreds of thousands of his closest friends and he never did make it into the promised land.
The New Testament people were not in any particular hurry either.
Paul (Saul) was 27 years old when he watched the stoning of Stephen and 29 at his conversion on the Damascus Road. After three years of some turmoil (Pharisees becoming Christians were not particularly popular back in the hood) he fled back to Tarsus and remained there for nine years. (Acts 9:30) When he launched out in his missionary journeys at age 41, he was a strong, committed, prepared disciple.
But it is Jesus as the prime example of the “timing” issue. After Mary and Joseph went to Egypt with a one-year-old Jesus to escape the wrath of King Herod, the Bible is silent until 12 years later with Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, followed by another seventeen years of silence.
The Messiah, prophesied about, anticipated, prayed for, and dreamed of for centuries, was on the earth for 30 years, apprenticing and working as a carpenter, waiting for the right time.
I can imagine that there were times when Jesus heard the people of Nazareth wonder if God cared about their plight and the Roman oppression. He probably saw injustice and pain inflicted on the innocent. Women in Nazareth gave birth to babies and Jesus was happy for them. Mothers lost babies and Jesus wept for them. Some people probably wondered why a man of 30 was not yet married. Why was he wasting his life? (All speculation on my part of course)
Then one day, Jesus began a day like any other, but instead of going to the carpenter’s workshop, he walked to the Jordan River to be baptized by John and the world has never been the same.
Like all things in life, timing is everything, but not ours.