A few months ago, I watched a video with the well-known indie author CJ Lyons from a February writers event held at www.IndieReCon.org. She talked about what it takes to really break out as a sustainable writer: in her words, it's not your first book that makes it…but rather the fourth or fifth.
That's pretty straightforward stuff. Real numbers. It's kind of EXACTLY the data we needed. It's just a little intimidating.
Four or five books? Hard to accept that as a real goal when you are querying for the first time with your first book. Finishing a book---settling on a final draft, putting down the red pen, writing THE END (and meaning it this time)--that was a tremendous accomplishment in itself. It's so difficult to absorb the idea that we have to do this three or four more times before we see a measurable success.
A tad bit frustrating, isn't it?
Many of us come across QueryTracker.net because we've decided that our project is worth being published. We are committing ourselves to the scary unknowns of a crowded business but we HAVE NO PATIENCE. We expect to query our dream agent, get a lightning fast response full of praise and accolades, and go from agent contract to publishing contract in the time it takes to spin around three times and throw a pinch of salt over our shoulders.
We've read the stories that pop up here and there about these sorts of lightning-strike successes. The
reality is that the overwhelming majority of us are in for a much longer process.
It's tough to reset our expectations but this is where patience comes in--and we are going to need a lot of it. It's also a perfect time to consider our long-term goals. If you can keep the bigger numbers in mind, then you can use it to your advantage: write your next book, and the wait won't be such a drag.
Distraction Equals Opportunity
Writing your next book will help you manage the frustration and the itch of waiting. I am the Empress of Distractions (in fact, writing this post is a distraction from writing my current book) so I've learned to use distraction to my advantage. When I was querying my first book, I wrote poetry and short fiction as a means of combating writer's block. I'd take all the bits and pieces that were worth saving and wrote publishable pieces around them. Without realizing exactly what I was doing, I was learning patience by distracting myself from the wait--and I also improved my craft and built a published bio in the meantime.
The point is: writers need to write. A writer should spend more time getting words down than getting the word out. Books sell--and those books need to be written. There is no better time to embark on a new writing adventure than the moment after we’ve finished patting ourselves on the back for completing the last. (And, if you are wacky like me, you'll be writing more than one book at a time, hopping back and forth between Word documents as the mood strikes.)
Yes, it is a wonderful place to be in life: finished manuscript in hand, agents' email addresses and Twitter feeds up on the screen, your polished query in the cut-and-paste file, ready for the inserting and the tweaking and the sending. It is a wonderful place to be when you can finally mail out the book and wait for the inbox to ping with responses. But imagine: a wonderful life awaits the writing writer who perseveres and keeps writing. Each book is better than the last because we learn along the way. By the time we hit our fourth or fifth book, we'll have arrived at mastery of the craft.
Enjoy the moment while you are querying. You've earned it because you've worked hard for it. However, now it’s time to think about the future. When a prospective agent asks you if you have anything else to send over or inquires about your long term goals, you'll want to be ready with a viable list. Considering a series? Have a few ideas for stand-alones? Start thinking about those next books…and start writing them now.
Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). Book Two "Blood Rush" will be released May 14, 2013. Currently, her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate" (The Wild Rose Press) is available on Amazon's KDP Select.