Saturday, October 15, 2011

Waiting for YES! Candace Hammond offers some insight

So now here I sit, an agented, debut novelist waiting for the phone to ring... Candace Hammond

HALLIE EPHRON: I so remember the long long wait after I "finished" my first novel, the waiting waiting waiting to hear from agents. Then the waiting waiting waiting to hear from publishing houses. It was excruciating, cruel, and unusual punishment for finally writing a book.

Then there were the demoralizing comments that came back ("I think it has many strengths, but it seems to me it needs some rethinking..." "I was not so drawn into the story that I felt a compellig need to read on..." "...he didn't set the recurring character lights flashing") and the prolonged soul searching that followed. Should I forge ahead? Revise? Give up? Eat a banana split? Go shopping?

All of it on the way to YES! Of course that's happy 20/20 hindsight.

We sincerely hope Candace Hammond is on the way to yes. Here the author of the blog Candy's Pop Goes Culture shares some thoughts on the waiting life.

CANDACE HAMMOND: There’s a song by the band, Zero 7, “In the Waiting Line,” that’s been running through my mind a lot lately.

The thing about being a first-time novelist is there’s a lot of waiting, and it’s about as fun as standing in line at the DMV.

I am a journalist. I write feature stories and columns for a mid-sized newspaper and various magazines. There’s a certain instant gratification to that pursuit. Within a few days I can interview someone, write an article, turn it in to my editor and see it in print.

My novel, “The Best Worst Year,” has taken somewhat longer. Seven years to be exact. Started when my youngest child headed off to college, I worked on it at night and early in the morning. There were times I put it aside, times when I was convinced it was the worst thing ever written, and times I just wanted to give up. But I didn’t.

A year ago an agent I’d queried called me. This was about as out of left field as George Clooney calling me and asking me to join him at Lake Como for a vacation. She loved my book. She told me it was the kind of book she’d like to, “curl up with a cupcake under a quilt and read.” After that it’s all a bit fuzzy, but when I hung up I had a pile of notes scribbled on Post-Its in front of me and a lot of work to do.

Two major rewrites, (loving my book had some provisos) and working with an editor in New York later, I finally have an agent. I’d spent nine long months unraveling the book like a beloved sweater and knitting it back together, hopefully making it a better fit with fewer holes.

I’d always thought getting an agent was the toughest hurdle you had to negotiate, but things have changed in publishing. Houses have downsized, you’re expected to have a platform before you are out of the gate and your book has to sparkle and wow.

So now here I sit, an agented, debut novelist waiting for the phone to ring. My book is out at several houses, I’ve had a couple of rejections, but we’re keeping positive.

I’m not good at waiting. I’m really not. So I’ve been distracting myself with various ploys, some more effective than others. I’m hoping soon I’ll be off the waiting line and on my way to holding a copy of my just published book. Until then, here are a few things I do to make the wait less agonizing. Sort of.

1. Planning what to wear at my book signings and when Kathie Lee and Hoda have me on “The Today Show.” This takes lots of time and study. Skirt? Pants? They have those high stools so heels could be a problem. These things are important and shouldn’t be left to the last minute.

2. Writing my acknowledgments for my book. I look at this as the writer’s equivalent to an actor writing an Oscar acceptance speech before their movie even comes out – something you don’t tell anyone about, but you know everyone does it.

3. Thinking about what actors will play all the parts when my book is made into a movie. This involves reading “Entertainment Weekly” religiously and visiting various gossip blogs – just to keep current. It’s research!

4. Working on my next book. Yes, I am just that foolish that I would put myself through all this again.

5. Reading other writers and comparing myself relentlessly. Often by page ten I’m flogging myself for my lack of imagination and become convinced I’m a hack. This is not terribly helpful so I then return to number one – planning cute outfits.

Writing a book is hard. Getting published is even harder. It takes a certain mix of talent, determination and a touch of insanity to pursue something where the only guarantee is you’re going to work harder than you ever have never knowing if it will pay off. That’s kind of crazy. But if it’s what you love to do, you have no choice but to keep trying.

A writer friend of mine told me recently that her uncle once said to her, “I always wanted to write a book, but I don’t know how to type.”

For those of us who have done it, we know being able to type is the easy part.

HALLIE: Oh, Candace! Love your sense of humor about this. I've been there, and I was far less sanguine.

Seriously, #4! START THE NEXT BOOK! (Ask our Lucy Burdette about that one.)

Readers, any advice for what to do while waiting for YES?


  1. Love the song by Zero 7. I admire the authors who didn't play the waiting game, formed a support group, hired an editor and self-published. Success stories are told by some who were eventually courted by agents & publishers.

  2. It's important to keep busy. I've been selecting the champagne and other menu items for the gala book party.

  3. Wonderful post Candace--we have all been there! Austin is right--important to plan the party. I always go with an enormous sheetcake with the cover of the book painted on it--a big hit with the fans:).

    Seriously, you have gone over the biggest hurdle, but the publishing industry has been hit hard both by recession and by all the changes coming with the e-book revolution.

    I do think two good questions are: what will I do with this book if it doesn't sell to the big publishers (and there are lots more options than the old days!) And what will I write next? Your agent could be helpful in brainstorming that...

    Good luck Candace, we all have our fingers crossed!

  4. You forgot #6. Keep responding "yes" to yourself when you wonder if you really have to do this and if you shouldn't just chuck it all and take up a nice, safe habit like skydiving.

    I had more than one crisis of faith like that during my own five-year wait. Those were the toughest moments for me. I never did plan the outfits for when the Today show calls, but now I know what to do during the moments (days) of fear when I go back to writing my second book.

    Good luck. It'll happen!!

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  6. Sorry--I had a misspelling. :)

    I know your pain. Waiting is an existential exercise that is a country of itself.

    Read WAITING FOR GODOT--when you have a book at a publisher, it provides whole new insights into Beckett's masterpiece on waiting and agony.

  7. You are all SO wonderfully supportive - thank you!! It's so nice to know I am not alone, that others have traveled this road and come out on the other side.
    And Austin, yes, along with the outfits I am planning a killer party to celebrate!
    Thank you all so much for reading this, and all the good advice!

  8. Welcome to Jungle Red Candace,

    We here at JR will all be fighting with each other over who gets to host you when the book comes out.

    Waiting for editors always reminds me of being nine months plus pregnant and so tortured by each minute passing.

    But you seem to have a great sense of humor about it -- which is 99 percent of the game. FORTITUDE.

    Good luck!

  9. Jan, Thank you!!! I can't wait to celebrate with all of you!! You are all wonderful role models and mentors. Thank you!

  10. Tammy, thank you!! And good luck with your second book!!

  11. Our boat is a crowded one. I signed with my agent over a year ago, one of three interested in the book--but she was the one I wanted. Still no sale in sight. I've written the second in the series, and now, on the advice of my agent, am doing last revisions on a thriller. Every day I face my doubts and hopes. Such a hard business.

  12. Oh, I feel your waiting pain! Was there with an agent right before the economy tanked. She'd started the submission process, but then she left the business entirely. I was so crushed it took me over two years to start agent-hunting again. Now I'm waiting on a new agent to provide feedback for yet another revision...sigh.

    Congrats to you! Hope you receive the call soon!

  13. I've been fueled for months by news from a friend who had an agent who could not sell her books. My friend moved on, wrote, revised, found an agent who LOVED the book, and she's got a deal now with Algonquin. There are success stories out there.

    Having said that, seems like a lot of agents are getting discouraged and leaving the business, too.

  14. I am very blessed to have a wonderful agent who believes in me and the book, and is in it for the long haul. I won't give up, and knowing she won't either REALLY helps!

  15. I'm also one of those Have An Agent But No Publisher Yet writers... after three years of her pitching the book to big houses, I told her I needed to start trying to sell it on my own to an indie press... Candace, I hope your agent finds a wonderful home for your novel soon, but keep in mind that if she doesn't, there are plenty of options still open to you! Hang tough, either way!

  16. Robin, thank you for the heads up. I wish you all best in selling your book on the indie market!

  17. Oh, Candace, late to the party today, but I'm SO with you!

    Listen--my husband and I don't celebrate the anniversary of the day we met. We celebrate the anniversary of the day BEFORE we met--and we call it "You Never Know Day." Because you never know what wonderful thing will happen just around the corner.

    SO you'll let us know as soon as you get the call, right? It'll happen the moment you stop thinking about it!

  18. I so love the 'You never know' anniversary idea.. And I love people who plan ahead!! Congrats on your accomplishments to date!!

  19. I finally did get published and yet I still do all those things, Candace. The main thing I did learn after publication is that when you do an event WEAR COMFY SHOES!

  20. First, thanks for the comfy shoes hint!

    Hank, I too love the celebrating of never knowing what's around the corner...

    I was talking to one of my best friends today, another writer, and we were saying how wonderful and supportive other writers are. I have seen that in spades today. What amazing lovely company to be in. Thank you, all of you, you made my day, and made me feel optimistic. Thank you so much for that.

    My, how I love writers!

  21. Candance, it sounds like you are doing all the right things while waiting. Personally, I would never have thought to plan my outfit or the party so to me you're ahead of the game right there. I do think about comfortable shoes. LOL

    Love your attitude. Hang in there. I wish you well and even more a speedy sale.

  22. Pat, thank you for the kind words.

    I went to bed last night so happy to have been so embraced by the Jungle Red community. All of you rock! xo

  23. Candace,
    You did write your book, from start to finish and with all the rewrites in between. So kudos for that. You have a great attitude. Have faith and keep writing. I hope your waiting game is over soon and you have much success.