Welcome to the Waiting Game: where you spend all your time feeling anxious, distracted, and full of worry while literary agents or editors are considering the submissions you just sent out. It’s a tough game to play—especially if you’re already fighting the urge to send follow-up emails, and it’s only been days since you sent out your work.
While some literary journal editors or book agents can be very quick and take only a few days to reply to your submissions, most will take weeks to months. In fact, the longest response times can take a year (or more!). So you must be prepared to wait…to stay calm…and to be patient.
Here Are 6 Ways To Stay Calm While You’re Waiting For Submission Responses
Consider your victories. If you’re feeling anxious about your submissions—congratulations! Why? Simple: If you’re worrying about submissions, it means you actually sent out some submissions! Getting your work into the world is the best thing you can do for your writing career (apart from actually writing). Kudos to you for doing it!
Shift your focus to what you can control. When you’re submitting work for publication, you can’t control when that submission is read, what the reader’s reaction will be, or whether or not you get a dreaded rejection letter. So focus on elements that are not out of your hands.
Here’s what you can control: Have a well-organized submission tracking system to help you easily determine who you’re waiting to hear from and who has already sent a response. Choose to make more submissions. Sit down to write. Working on what you can control will help you de-stress about what you can’t control.
Distract yourself. For some people, a good long writing session or getting a few new submissions out will be enough of a distraction from worry. For others, a long walk, dinner with friends, or a favorite movie are great ways to shift thoughts away from wondering “what if?” When you find yourself wanting to check your email or mailbox for the umpteenth time, turn your attention instead toward something you enjoy. Read more about the importance of downtime for writers.
Change your mind about rejection letters. We remind our clients, “Each rejection gets you closer to publication.” Rejection letters are good. Truly. If you’re getting rejections, it means you’re submitting. And you only succeed by sending your work out into the world.
Detach from the outcome. This is a hard tactic. But if you can learn to do it, you will be well-rewarded for the rest of your writing career. While you focus on what you can control, let go of what you can’t. In other words, if you can’t control it, don’t think about it. Don’t fret or agonize. Focus on the moment, not the future.
To stop fixating on what worries them, some writers turn to spiritual inspiration. Others shrug off the outcome of their submissions by thinking it through. Since worrying, wondering, and fretting about your submissions will not change the outcome in any way—why do it? Just move on.
Cultivate a positive attitude in general. If you stay positive and optimistic in all your efforts, you’ll find it easier to keep your thoughts from getting away from you while you’re waiting for responses to your submissions.
There are many articles on our blog about how to cultivate a positive attitude for your writing life and keep from burning out. But your best resource is our book The Happy Writer, which focuses specifically on techniques that writers need in order to maintain a positive attitude.
Photo by Nan Palmero
QUESTION: How do you deal with “the waiting game” when you’re making submissions to literary journals or book agents?
I found the write up, “How to Keep Calm …” extremely useful. I do hope to put into practice the tips given in it.
Thanks and regards.
Sometimes the rejection letters can be valuable critiques. I sent a novella out to a publisher that told me my hook wasn’t strong enough. After fixing that problem, it’s much more likely to be accepted by the company that sent me the full mss request last week. Information, even the bad stuff, helps.
thanks! I never thought about tracking submissions before. I rarely send my work to more than one or to publishers or agents, but I might start sending more and keeping track. either way great read!
When I was submitting to agents, I found their letters generally to be useless. There was no substance to the rejection. “This will not work for us at this time” tells me nothing about why and what I can do for them to accept it.
I am in that situation, while writing another book and taking classes in music.
Writing can be so up and down and frustrating at times. I tend to be a bit disorganized with keeping track of reviews and submissions. After reading your article I’ve begun writing important things in a book I keep. I’ve neglected to do this lately.