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A Lesson in Patience

The publishing industry as a whole spends a lot of time telling authors to be patient. It’s a necessary virtue in a business that can move at a glacial pace, and it’s a good skill to hone.

Sometimes I think that agents in particular like to remind authors to be patient as we work through our slush piles and read submissions as fast as we can (but never quite fast enough). Or maybe it’s not agents in particular. Maybe it’s just me—though I doubt it.

Something I realized a few days ago is that for someone who tells people to be patient and thanks them for their patience on a regular basis, I could use a little extra patience myself. Particularly when it comes to signing new clients.

When I find a manuscript I love and a client I want to sign, I get pumped. In fact I get positively giddy. Once I make the decision, I get on the phone ASAP and make The Call. Should The Call go well (as it always has in my experiences thus far), I offer my representation to the author and then… wait.

Sometimes I don’t wait. Sometimes the author accepts my offer right then. But other times they have other agents they’d like to hear back from. Or they’d just like to sleep on it for a night. Both are completely reasonable courses of action, and I applaud authors who take those routes. When you sign with an agent you are gaining a business partner. You are making a business decision. That often takes consideration. Hell, when Jessica Faust offered me my job—which I had already decided I would accept—I told her I had to talk to my fiancé and I would call her in the morning with my decision. I just wanted that second of breathing space.

So I get it, but when authors I want to represent tell me they need some time, I suddenly become deeply impatient in a jumping-up-and-down, enthusiastic “I can’t wait to hear back!!!” kind of way.

Cue the (possibly bitter) laughter of all authors finding schadenfreude in my impatience at having to wait a few days for a decision when they’ve waited months. MONTHS.

Because seriously, I can only imagine that authors play this kind of animated, edge-of-your-seat waiting game with every partial and full request they receive. I honestly don’t know how you guys do it when I can barely keep my excitement in check for a week. Hats off to you. And thank you for your patience 🙂

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8 comments

  1. I’m learning more patience every day, which is good in the real world. I’m also learning that my characters in fiction worlds should NOT be patient. So, since I’m basically an impatient artist – think acrylics and watercolors – not oils – I can have fun letting my people be as indignantly impatient as they want in order to keep the pace moving.

  2. You bet, Jessica. We can go through mouse buttons clicking “Send/Receive” on our email, waiting for that query response. It takes a lot of discipline to walk away from the Inbox and concentrate on something else–like the WiP.

    I appreciate this reminder. I’m not in the query trenches at the moment, but when I’m there again, even if I get The Call from one of the agents that I would *love* to work with, I will ask for 24 hours. Signing with an agent is a big, potentially life-changing business decision. Not one to take in the heat of emotion, no matter how good I might feel about it.

    Hopefully I’ll remember that while I’m squeeing. 😉

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever waited patiently. Being in Australia overseas emails come in overnight so when I am querying the first thing I do every morning is race in and turn on my computer to check my emails. There’s nothing I can do to speed up the process so maybe one day I will learn to be patient (The Hub would laugh if he read that!).

  4. I’m not at the query stage yet, but it is getting closer. I know the first thing I’m going to do every morning is look at emails even when I know it says wait x number of months.
    Please don’t tell my kids that, I’m trying to teach them they have to be patient and work for the things they want, they can’t have everything now.

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