Rushing the Process

Posted on Wed, Mar 14 2018 1:50 pm by Dawn Frederick

Text Image: Publishing & Career Tips


During my childhood, I was the same energetic, over-the-top personality that many people know me to be today. I was the girl who played with the boys on the playground, who liked to spin around like Wonder Woman, and often found herself in trouble. Ramona Quimby was my persona in those formative years.

That energy is the reason I can participate in publishing today. This is an industry that is always busy, despite the product we bring to the world. Yes, we are always in a state of being rushed, but the exception is that time, maturity, and patience now are happy companions if one is going to fully participate. Unfortunately, publishing also has its moments of moving slowly, enough to cause anxiety for any writer.

This is my encouragement to savor every moment, from the creation of your book idea, to penning the idea, to escorting it to agents and editors. Any attempt to rush the process may deter from your book’s future successes, let alone publication potential, if the wrong steps are taken.

In my role, I’ve had to learn over many years  to not let the stressors or the anxiety of my authors cause me to rush the process. This means only taking a book out when I fully believe it’s ready for editors’ eyes. This means assessing the publishing roller coaster by asking questions first and reacting after the figurative dust has settled. So here are my goals for you:

1. Take the time to put the idea aside. I was at my author Patrick’s reading (Some Hell, Graywolf Press) in New York this month. During the Q&A, he was asked about the newest novel he is working on. He responded that he had finished it, but he had put it aside; that he wanted to have some time away from the book before reading it again. This is precisely why I love working with him, he brings that necessary level of patience that makes it such a treat to work with him. And his writing flows off the page due to that patience.

It’s common for less-experienced authors to hand an agent/editor their novel in the early stages of the drafts. In the pre-social media days, we had time to request more books, provide critiques, and possibly request revisions. This is not the case in today’s publishing environment. It’s to the benefit of any writer to let an idea percolate as long as needed. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to fine-tune your book; it will stand out even more when agents finally see it.

2. Learn to say no. Many opportunities may present themselves, but you don’t have to say “yes” to the first one that presents itself.

Map out your ideal publishing experience. Do the homework, and note the tentative steps that will help you reach that goal. Depending on your choice (indie/hybrid/traditional publishing), opportunities will be presented, but you should walk away from anything that doesn’t seem fair. Don’t look back, and continue to work toward that goal. Let this be a learning experience too, and always give your book the benefit of the best opportunities, as time is on your side.

3. Understand the roles in publishing. I have repeated on many occasions that I’m not the writer, that as the agent I will not supervise IF and/or WHEN my authors write. I will not check in every day and ask them if they did any work. I have no time to do this, and I wouldn’t work with anyone who I don’t trust to manage their writerly life in a professional manner.

The same goes for the editors, I will never check in daily with an editor to see if they are doing their job. I assume they will provide those edits to my author when the edits are completed. Obviously, checking in every once in a while is normal, but the completion of day-to-day tasks requires that each party knows their role before the contract is signed; that each party is given the room and time to complete their work uninterrupted.

The reality is that rushing any person will not help the book get published any faster (in the larger picture). So taking the time to know who is working on your book and their roles = less of a possibility that the process will be rushed, with hopefully less anxiety.

One of the most important aspects of finding new authors is the professionalism they bring to the table. If they allow an agent the time to fully consider their idea, we know this same professionalism will be evident when the book is prepared for editors. This is exactly the kind of author that will find an agent in their corner for hopefully many years – and many books.

Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner and literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. Red Sofa Literary is a celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our publishing community. Dawn’s previous experience reflects a broad knowledge of the book business, with over a decade of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores, an editor for a YA publisher, and an associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. Dawn earned a BS in Human Ecology and a MS in Library & Information Sciences from an ALA-accredited institution. She is also one of the founders of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, which brings writers and publishers together over a monthly happy hour. Red Sofa Literary was voted as one of the Best 101 Websites by Writer’s Digest in 2012 and 2013. Dawn will be in attendance at the Loft's upcoming Pitch Conference this April.