Querying agents and being on submission to publishers are two of the most stressful things a writer can do – so how do you survive this waiting game? Well, it isn’t easy, and trust me, as a writer myself, I’ve been there! Querying and submission are akin to the circles of hell for writers, because there’s always another level to face. Getting an agent, securing a book deal, securing another book deal for a different project… The waiting never gets less agonising, but there are ways to survive and get through it!
Work on something else
This is my number-one tip to survive querying or the submission process. Start writing something new. Put your focus elsewhere to distract you from the project that’s already on submission. If you need a writing break because you’re burnt out or need to rest, then find another project or creative outlet – it doesn’t have to be writing related. Into arts and crafts? Make something. Enjoy fitness? Take up a new challenge. Enjoy posting on Instagram? Go out and take some interesting pictures.
The point is to have something else to occupy your mind, and to take it off the submission. Ideally something that stops you checking your email a million times a day.
If you do feel like delving into a new writing project right away, that will help you keep distracted – and if you do get good news, you’ll be able to talk about future writing plans with the agent or publisher.
Lean on the writing community
This might be equally as important as distraction. You’ll really need support from people who understand what you’re going through. I’d suggest a private place to vent, because you never know who will be looking at your social media. If you have an agent considering your work, it’s best not to complain about rejection or rant on your public social media. There are private forums and Facebook groups for writers who are submitting. I’m part of both a Slack channel and a Facebook group for agented writers submitting to publishers, for instance. Ask around to see if anyone is aware of any groups like this – try the #writingcommunity hashtag over on Twitter.
Here are a few other forums/websites you can visit to connect with other writers and get support:
- Absolute Write Forums
- Nathan Bransford’s Forum
- The #amquerying hashtag on Twitter, for querying authors
- The Writers’ & Artists’ community (includes groups and discussions)
- QueryTracker forum, for querying authors
- /r/PubTips, a subreddit for traditional publishing advice and guidance
Disable emails on your phone
This has been a game-changer for me. Disabling the email app on your phone means you’re not going to be tempted to check for updates every five minutes. Checking continuously doesn’t make news come any faster. If news does come in, the world won’t end if you take a while to read it. Another reason this helps is because rejection can be crushing. You don’t want to be having a great day – maybe relaxing with family or having a fun day out – only to get a rejection notification on your phone.
I know this one is hard to stick to. Don’t worry if you’re checking your emails more than you think is healthy. Try to limit it, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s difficult. That’s natural.
Try not to obsessively google
You may end up in a situation on Google where you’re looking up what things mean (“if I’ve not heard back in a month, is it a rejection?”), experiences from other writers (“I got a book deal in a week!”), and so on. Now, this isn’t inherently a bad thing. Reading about these things can be motivating and inspiring, and they can spur us on in the face of rejection.
The problems start when you do that too often. When you’re wondering why you aren’t like that person over there, who landed an agent overnight, or scored a two-book deal immediately on submission.
Step away from the “how I got my agent” stories. Stop googling “what it means when an agent says X”. Close the book deal articles. Go back to your writing support network instead if you need to. Reading too many of these stories is a recipe for comparing yourself to others too frequently. And that’s best avoided if you’re able to.
Celebrate the small wins
Did you get a partial or full manuscript request from an agent? That’s amazing and worth celebrating! Did an agent reject you, but give you some glowing compliments and an invitation to submit future work? Again, a huge achievement to be proud of. Did you make it to an acquisitions meeting, but not sell the book? Congrats, an editor loved your book enough to share it with the rest of the team.
I know it’s difficult to celebrate small wins, especially when weighed down with rejection, or when you feel discouraged. “Celebrate” doesn’t have to mean bursting with joy, or hosting a party. It’s okay to feel sad that your work was rejected, even if there are positives involved. But you also deserve to acknowledge the small achievements you make – because you worked hard for them.
Have a slice of cake, a glass of wine, treat yourself. In the writing world, there are so many disappointments, so make a point of celebrating the small things.
Read, read, read!
Now’s the perfect time to catch up on books in your genre or age category. Get started on that TBR pile!
If you’re planning out your next writing project, you might be switching genre – so you can delve into some research to prepare you for that change. You could also use your time to read writing craft books and delve into other writing resources.
Schedule things to look forward to
Querying or being on submission can make any free time difficult. Odds are, you’ll end up wondering about the status of your submission! Having things to do and activities to look forward to can keep your mind occupied. It’s important to have positive things to look forward to, because the rejection side of submission can be tough and emotionally draining. Plan out things you know you enjoy doing, or meet up with friends and family to keep your mind off things.
Take a break from submission if it’s too much
If you’re submitting to agents and you’re finding the waiting and possibly the rejection too much to bear, take a break. This isn’t as easy if you’re agented and sending work to publishers, because your work may have gone out in a large batch. You could ask your agent to hold off on the next round until you’re in a better mindset.
Everyone needs a break from time to time. Querying and submission can be rough, and one way to survive it is to stop when needed. Your mental health matters and if you need to put that first for a while, that’s okay.
I hope my advice on how to survive querying agents or submission to publishers helped you. I’ve been in this boat so many times myself as a writer, and I’m all too aware of the conflicting emotions, the stress and agony of waiting, and the sense that most people don’t understand. This is true – your colleagues, family, and friends who are removed from the writing world probably don’t! This is why it’s so important to lean on the writing community, and to find people who can share this with you.
Arming yourself with knowledge can also help. Submission is out of our control – but there are things we can control, such as improving our writing craft, learning about agent red flags, and tweaking our approach. Good luck!
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