Literary Limbo

Okay, well maybe not literary, per se, but the handle sounds better than author’s limbo or writer’s limbo. I’ve always been enamored with the alliteration thing.

Why does everything in the publishing industry take………so………long? It’s bad enough it takes us months, if not years to plow through the hundreds of pages to create our work of art. Just to make it to The End! Even magazine articles, only a few thousand words long, take months and months to appear in the periodical, so long sometimes I don’t even remember it was me who wrote the damn thing.

But we are writers, and we plow through, and make it to The End. Our novel, our nonfiction book, or our memoir. Then there’s the endless revisions. Little do we realize, that’s just the beginning.

Next comes the submission process. Contest after contest. Query after query. Pitch after pitch. Little blips on the chart when we make a contest final, or an editor asks for a partial. We polish and we submit. And we wait. And wait. And wait.

And then the day finally comes – the call. Or the letter. Or the email that tells us we have arrived. We are validated. We are being offered a contract on our work. We choke up, print it out, hold it lovingly between our fingers. Then we go back and print it out again, just to be sure we haven’t imagined the whole thing. Then we skim the document over, say a little prayer to the literary gods, cross our fingers, and we sign.

And then we wait. And we wait. And we wait.

It’s a well-known fact that from the signing of a publishing contract to the day the book becomes a reality – that is, with a cover image and an ISBN number of its very own – two years or more is not uncommon. So what’s two years in the grand scheme of things? It might have taken two or three times that long to write the silly thing. So why does it seem like time stands still after the ink dries on the contract?

I stand in the purgatory of the not-quite-published. I mean, I have three contracts – count ‘em, three! But I signed them all within months of each other and now the waiting game begins. Heavens, it only took nine months before I held my children in my arms, and I was two months into the process when I found out they were coming. In comparison, this seems like an ice age.

I will share my one big fear. Mama always said if you had a bad dream and you told somebody about it, it wouldn’t come true. This isn’t exactly a dream, but I’m hoping the same rules of protection apply. So here goes.

I had a friend in a writer’s group who, after years of writing and submitting and counting rejection letters and waiting, finally signed a contract on his book.

Then he died. In his sleep, about thirty years before his time. Before his book ever came out.

So here it is, folks. I’m putting it out there so it doesn’t happen to me. If, by some ironic twist of spiteful fate, it does, this blog will stand as my witness.


There. I feel so much better.

6 thoughts on “Literary Limbo

  1. You didn’t need those contracts to be validated because you are an awesome writer. . .but I know what you mean:) I have one of the worst waiting stories (okay we all like to think ours are the worst. .. ) but I signed a contract in 2007 and book wasn’t published until 2012! The company was smart, survived the bad economy, but goodness, it was AWFUL and I kept worrying not about dying but about the company going out of business and having to start the submission process ALL. OVER. AGAIN. which is what I enjoy THE LEAST about the writing business. Okay, it is not worst than dying as I don’t want to leave my precious family, but you know what I mean. .. 😉

  2. I agree with the other Margo – you’re a great writer. But I know what you mean about wanting to have that validation (in the form of an actual PUBLISHED book). At least you have contracts 🙂 Perhaps you should think of the publishing industry in terms of an elephant’s gestation period – 22 months and a ‘big’ reward when its all over! Remember: “Good things come to those who wait … and wait and wait and wait and wait …”

  3. Congrats on the contracts!

    I’m a terrible “waiter”. I have no patience at all for anyone else controlling my destiny. Life is too short to put my fate in someone else’s hands. I lost my mother to cancer when I was sixteen years old…she was only fifty. It taught me early on to make every day count…to NEVER wait to do something that was important to me, and to never take my gifts for granted. I realize self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but for me, it eliminates the waiting game and gives me full control of my writing career. I find the validation from my readers…which are who, IMO, really matter in the end.

    Blessings to you who wait-on:-)

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