On Patience and Peanut Butter

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

So the other day Dan came into my office with a big grin on his face and jar of peanut butter in his hand.

“Look!” he shouted. “The expiration date is June 2010! Your book will be out by then!”

It was one of those happy moments when I realized I was the luckiest girl in the world – and it had nothing to do with my book.

Because so many fellow writers read the blog, I try to include a post now and then that focuses on the writing and publishing process. Today I want to give those of you interested in authoring a book a fair warning: GET READY FOR A LONG WAIT!

For me, the most surprising part of the publishing journey has been how long everything takes.  I started working on Evolving in Monkey Town nearly four years ago, signed a contract with Zondervan back in September of 2008, and won’t see the book on shelves until June of 2010! I’m told that this is perfectly normal for a first-time author. In fact, my agent Rachelle recently wrote a great blog post about how writers must learn to put up with impatience in order to survive and thrive in the industry. 

It’s true. Whether you’re pitching your proposal to agents, waiting as your agent pitches your proposal to publishers, or standing by as editors and designers and marketing departments work their magic on your manuscript, the process is long and the wait can be frustrating. Sometimes I worry that by the timeEvolving in Monkey Town hits bookstores, its content will be considered passé. Sometimes I worry that by the time I get to do readings and signings, I won't even want to look at it anymore!

Fortunately, developing a marketing strategy for the first book and working out my ideas for the second (and maybe a third) have given me plenty to do while I wait for publication day. I’m excited about the possibility of starting the whole process all over again…even if it takes forever!

My advice to writers:  1) Turn in clean first drafts; it’s one of the few things within your control that can actually speed up the publishing process. 2) If you are writing full time, be sure to take on additional projects besides your manuscript—freelance work, blogging, volunteering, etc. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling your hair out with boredom during those long periods of downtime as you wait on responses from your agent/editor/publisher. 3) Take advantage of the lulls to build your platform so that as soon as the book comes out, you will have readers eager to buy it. 4) Unless you and your publisher have a plan for a quick release, avoid writing about a “trendy” topic. 5) Beware of idolizing your book. This can be tempting because, for so long, it seems like everything you do centers around your book and the big day when it’s released, (which published authors consistently tell me is relatively anti-climactic and uneventful). It’s been important for me to remind myself now and then that, as important as it is to me, this book (or its sales or its release date) doesn’t define me. I mattered before I had an ISBN!

Writers – How far along are you in the publishing process?  What challenges have you encountered? What do you do when you start to get impatient?

Everyone – Have you ever had to wait for something important in your life? What did you learn from that experience? Tell us why IT WAS WORTH IT!

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