Five Things to Do While Waiting to Hear from a Literary Agent about Your Book

So, the new novel is done! I sent it to my literary agent, Steven Chudney, who has sent it on to different editors at various publishing houses. Now comes the waiting, waiting, waiting time. From the high excitement (and a few tears) after finishing the book to the very anti-climactic time waiting to hear if it will be accepted. It’s like sitting in the waiting room at Port Authority Bus Terminal waiting for a bus that might never show up. It’s that much fun.

So here are some things we can do while waiting to hear from literary agents.

1. Ignore what editors say about your unpublished novel. Ignore the reasons they give for rejecting your book. I got an email from a friend who also has her first novel making the rounds at publishing houses. She already got a rejection letter from one editor who told her it was too sad. Er…um…Romeo and Juliet? I would not touch the manuscript to please an editor until one of them says she wants to work with me, and then I would change it.

2.  Find something else to write. I know it’s hard for me to concentrate right now (or “write now”) while I’m waiting but the work is…the work. I got to the point before I dug in and rewrote A Remarkable Kindness for the eighteenth time that I had to make a decision. I was going to write whether it got published or not. I would write for the joy of writing—the other stuff is nice but it’s the fluff. The substance is the actual work. I had to decide to write because I love writing and keep doing it. I thought of Emily Dickinson who wrote poems that nobody ever liked when she was alive—but she did her art.

3. Remember all those stories about writers who got rejected a hundred times. Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Help come to mind. Everyone knows those stories.

4. Remind yourself what matters. I always had ideas of what would happen once I published my novel. I thought there would be a dramatic change. Then my novel was published and nothing really happened. I went on several book tours (nothing glamorous or exciting about sitting on those shiny bedspread covers in a motel room in a strange city), I met some great people (hello to you and you and you!), had several people say they loved my book (thank you!) and then I went home and went back to my desk to work.

5. Ask, what’s the goal? The goal of life isn’t to be a best-selling author. Look at Hemingway who shot himself. (Well, alcoholism does lead to a depressing death or suicide eventually, anyway.) The goal is to be at peace with ourselves. Nothing outside myself can give me that inner happiness. I might get a temporary boost by work successes but it is only temporary. I might get a temporary letdown from rejections or bad reviews but that, too, passes.

We have to keep doing the inner work. Nothing else can fill us up. Not glittery prizes, not TV appearances, not sparkly reviews.

To my friend waiting to hear about her book, and to everyone else who is waiting for an answer, remember this: the goal is to accept and love ourselves as we are, right here, right now. And that’s an inside job. We have to keep telling ourselves that we are wonderful. Don’t say, “Well, we’re not really such-and-such,” or, “This isn’t a big deal.” It is a gigantic deal.

We don’t have to do anything spectacular to feel like a hero. All we have to do is live our lives as best as we can. We can stand somewhere and think about where we’ve been and where we are now and the journey we’ve traveled to get here. Then we can try to live our best chapter today.

Post-script, Emily Dickinson agreed with Thomas Higginson, “If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her — if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase.”

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
This entry was posted in Writers, Writing, Your Best Chapter and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Five Things to Do While Waiting to Hear from a Literary Agent about Your Book

  1. Tom Scott says:

    Diana

    I heard Jenny reached out to you. You were so kind to give her advice and encouragement. This posting is wonderful. Thank you so much!

    Nadav continues in my prayers. I hope he is doing well.

    I have a meeting coming up in November about the Israel trip. I am excited about the trip and hopefully meeting up with you and Jonny.

    Your friend from the states,

    Tom

    Tom Scott District Mgr Legrand 630/864-1669 tom.scott@legrand.us

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. MKimmel says:

    Hi Miss Diana,

    It was so great to catch up by phone today. You sounded like you were in the next office.

    Really enjoyed this, as always. A few comments:

    1) Avoid those shiny hotel bedspreads. They are rarely cleaned.

    2) Did you know that every Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the tune of the theme from “Gilligan’s Island?” Try it.

    3) You ARE wonderful. I adore you.

    Enjoy your week!

    Love,

    Miss Melody

    • dianabletter says:

      Definitely don’t sit on those shiny bedspreads. Agree.
      My friend, Jackie, said Dickinson’s poems also go to “Yellow Rose of Texas.” I think the poet would have a sense of humor about all that.
      Love to you!

  3. Jackie says:

    In graduate school in a poetry class, someone told the professor that every Emily Dickenson’s poems could all be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” as well. Had to add that. But most important is to congratulate you, my beautiful friend, for today’s magnificent blog. It is a keeper–one worth printing and posting on the mirror. Thanks for that. Love you lots and lots.

    • dianabletter says:

      That is funny, Jackie, about “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Did you read Melody’s comment below that Dickinson’s poems can go to “Gilligan’s Island”? You were the one who taught me that our ultimate goal is peace with ourselves. Thank you for that. Love you.

  4. Shlomie Singer says:

    Great post Diana. Although I am not waiting to hear from my agent, this is relevant to so many other parts of life and being in the ‘limbo’ phase. Thanks for this !

    Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:42:25 +0000 To: shlomiesinger@hotmail.com

    • dianabletter says:

      That’s true, this applies to any answer we are waiting for. Being in limbo is the time to look in a different direction and start something else!
      Waiting time can be put to good use.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yay Diana!! Another novel!!! You are an inspiration as is your blog. Can’t wait to read your new book .

  6. Rhonda Blender says:

    Diana, you’re so fabulous. It’s taken a lifetime of work- and I still struggle- to remember “Nothing outside myself can give me that inner happiness” and nothing can replace doing the inner work of self understanding. I am looking forward to the book getting published and reading it. All the best-

  7. Bonnie says:

    Dear Diana,
    Exciting news that you have written a new book! I am looking forward to reading it when it’s published. The saying “don’t have expectations and you won’t be hurt, well I say positive thoughts have more power. I’m thinking positively it will be published. My best to you and Jonny.
    Bonnie

  8. Pingback: Five Things to Do While Waiting to Hear from a Literary Agent about Your Book - Best Selling Book

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