Monday, March 7, 2011

You Can't Cut in Line

Or, There Are No Shortcuts

Let me tell you a story.  You've probably all experienced something similar.  Say you and your best friend are at Disneyland, both waiting in a monstrous, impossibly long line to get on Indiana Jones.  You've both done the exact same things to get there--saved your money, endured the hassle and stress of air travel, balked at the cost of entrance, not to mention the world's most expensive popcorn (are the kernels made of pure gold? THEY JUST MIGHT BE).  You've dodged through the crowds, you've done the research on which rides you most want to get on, and you're there.

In line.

You know that eventually you'll both get on the ride.  As far away as it seems, it's going to happen.  But at one point in the line it branches off--two sides of the same stairway.  What's the difference?  You can't see any.  So your friend gets on one side of the branch, and you get on the other, high-fiving and laughing and looking forward to reaching your destination at exactly the same time.

But.

For reasons completely unfathomable and (thanks to the twists and turns and hallways of the line) totally invisible to you, your line zips along at practically a jog, while your friend's line has patterned itself on the daytime activities of the three-toed sloth.  Your friend?  Is. Not. Moving.

You wave frantically, trying to get her to jump the line over to you, but the thing is once you're in your line, there's no jumping.  It doesn't matter that your friend knows you, that you've been through all of this together, that you think your friend is the single coolest person on earth.  Fact of the matter is, your line is moving, your friend's line isn't, and there's nothing either of you can do about it.

You get to the ride first.  You ride the ride.  Heck, maybe you even run back around and get back in line and somehow still manage to go on another time before your friend gets to the front.

It makes no sense.  It's not any fun, especially for your friend.  It just plain sucks.  But such is the nature and mystery of lines.

I see a lot of people trying to figure out how to cut in line in the publishing industry.  A lot of them seem to think if they can just make a connection with a published author somehow they'll be able to skip all of the steps, effectively cutting in line, and magically arrive at the front without ever having to wait in line, or even enter the theme park in the first place.  They think there's some big trick to it all, some magic, secret underground tunnel that will deliver them at the very front of the line if they can just get someone to tell them where it is or walk them through it.

There are no cuts in these lines, friends.  There are no secret tunnels.  It doesn't matter who you know.  Sometimes it doesn't even matter how good you are.  So much of publishing is writing the right thing at the right time and getting it in the hands of the right people.  You can't control that.  What you do are the same things everyone else does: You write the best freaking book you possibly can, and then you query, and then you get an agent, and then you go on submission, and then you sell a book.  Sometimes it happens in that order.  Sometimes you have to jump back to a previous part of the line--say, writing a different book and querying again, or writing a new book but keeping your agent, or keeping your book but finding a new agent, so on and so forth.  But the line is the line is the line, and unless you are Nicholas Cage at Disneyland* (which, hey Nick!  Thanks for reading my blog.  You're kind of weird, but that's okay), you wait in the line.

Your line might move fast.

It might move slow.

Regardless, the line is how you get to the ride.  Holding hands with someone who's already waited in the line isn't going to let you bypass it.  Trying to find a tunnel--or even dig one yourself--isn't going to let you bypass it.  So quit looking for a way to cut and instead find a way to entertain yourself while you're waiting.  I recommend writing another book, because these lines?  They're fickle, unpredictable things.  The ride at the end, though, is always worth it.

*True story: My sister-in-law almost knocked Nick down coming off of Indiana Jones.  His bodyguard was not thrilled.**

**Nick has nothing to do with publishing.  He just really likes Indiana Jones.  And nearly getting knocked over by petite blondes.  Like I said, weird guy.

Also I feel it's my duty to warn you that, while waiting in the publishing line, there are no humorous/threatening filmstrips narrated by Gimli from The Lord of the Rings.  But you don't have to stand behind that strange woman with the invisible dog and the overwhelming perfume.  So that's a bonus.  Also you can avoid that person in those creepy toe-sock-running-shoes-things that make you shudder.  And you can at least sit in a comfortable chair, too.  And make your own popcorn from kernels that are merely made of silver and thus far more cost-effective.  So many perks!  Best line ever!

53 comments:

Kathryn said...

(So now I'm picturing Nicolas Cage riding Indiana Jones with his bodyguard and getting annoyed at a petite blonde for knocking him over as he was getting off the ride... I almost hope he got annoyed, because that would make the situation even funnier)

Thanks for this great post, Kiersten. Just what I needed to read!

Take care! :)

Angela Smith said...

Great post describing how waiting for publication is like standing in line! And Nick...strange guy, but in a good way. :)

Jenilyn Tolley said...

But, you know, while waiting in the publishing line I can always put in whatever movie I want. And watching the actual LOTR comes with hot guys and swords, which helps pass the time. :)

This is a great post! Thanks, Kiersten!

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Amen Sista! I had to learn this the hard way in the very beginning. Then I realized the people who wanted to buy my book were probably scam artists and I exchanged a few tightly written hate e-mails telling them how naughty they were for leading me on. (psh...like I wouldn't notice that there was nothing wrong with them when they said there were only TWO gramatical errors in my MS!)

Okay, so I've learned a lot since then...several years later... and I'm not taking any ANY shortcuts. It wouldn't be fair for the rest of y'all.

Kiersten White said...

Yes! The Publishing Line has MOVIES. And television series! And books! And, you know, real life and stuff. Because that all can still happen while waiting. And should still happen...

pinksuedeshoe said...

So what you are saying is that there is no FastPass for publishing? Because the invention of the FastPass was the best invention since Disneyland. But I can see how it wouldn't work so well for the publishing world. Great post.

Kiersten White said...

Nope. And the people you think have fast passes have actually been waiting in line for YEARS in many cases. You just haven't seen that part.

Remilda Graystone said...

You know what I got from this post? YOU'RE A PART OF THE MORMON MAFIA AND THE YA MAFIA!! I knew it!

beth said...

We're in line to get ON INDIANA JONES? Heck yeah, I'll be in that line! ;) *dirty mind*

Sorry, sorry! Great post! Right as always :D

Kiersten White said...

Remilda--Well, of course the only REAL way to jump to the front of the line is to be a Mormon. But we try to keep that a secret.

Beth--For shame. I love you.

Aisha said...

Great analogy- but what an agonizing wait it is! :)

Steph said...

nice post, great analogy. I effing hate the indy line, and although I can't *attach* myself to someone else as I move through the line, I am loving all of the writerly friends I meet along the way. :)

Carrie said...

Thank you for writing this post. This is such a great analogy for waiting to be published.

Kiersten White said...

Steph, excellent point! Line buddies are a MUST. They make the waiting so much more bearable. And you can complain to them, too...

storyqueen said...

So very true.

Amy Ellerman said...

Love it! Your comparison also reminds me to stop being a chicken and get in line already! The line isn't going to get any shorter, the ride any less terrifying, and as you point out, I can multitask (write write write) while I wait.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm still cracking up over the Nicolas Cage comment.

Great post! :D

R.S.J. said...

Sometimes the line seems to be going so slow that I want to get out of it and try a different ride. The It's a Small World line is shorter. Ah, nevermind.

Myrna Foster said...

I'm still laughing over Beth's comment. Did you know there are 13 publishers listed over in your sidebar? I'm sure you did. That is SO cool, better than rides at Disneyland.

Whirlochre said...

Please don't tell me it was the real Indiana Jones?

I'd queue for a shoulder ride on Harrison Ford...

Anita Saxena said...

I didn't even know there was an indiana jones ride, but so glad to hear there is a choice between the silver and gold popcorn kernels. Great post.

Michelle Wolfson said...

Just FYI in NY we say waiting ON line. So you could all try that and see if it helps. Probably not, but you never know.

Mary Gray said...

I've been learning this. Thanks for the candid post! And congrats on finishing your trilogy! My book club is meeting to discuss Paranormalcy next week. Can't wait! Of course, I had already read it. :)

Ru said...

It's such a bummer when you learn this, but it really does apply to all sorts of things in life. Don't feel bad for being in the awesome line, though. :)

Buffy Andrews said...

Thoughtful post and so true. Thanks for sharing and have a super day:)

Kiersten White said...

If it makes you feel any better, Ru, I'm just in different lines now...

Kiersten White said...

Also now I really, really want a churro.

Alyson Greene said...

True story! I HAVE cut in line on Indiana Jones. It was over 10 yrs ago when the ride first opened, lines were over 3 hrs long. They had actors in costumes entertaining the line and then they had a trivia contest and I won! My friend and I got to go thru a secret tunnel and elevator and then jump right on the ride!

Ok, but I will wait patiently in the publishing line, eating my churro, wiping cinnamon on my jeans.

Kiersten White said...

Alyson--So maybe the secret is to hang out in New York answering trivia questions from people dressed up as editors from Harper and Random and Penguin and Simon, etc?

"YES! Harper WAS started in the UK by William Collins! CONGRATULATIONS! YOU GET A BOOK DEAL!"

It could work.

Right?

Ashley Harward said...

Kiersten,

Funny timing - I just got back from Disneyland two days ago (where I rode Indiana Jones and started reading Paranormalcy).

The ride was cool, but your book was a thousand times cooler on the scale of coolness! Loved it!

Just thought you'd like to know. :)

Chas Hathaway said...

Excellent article! Sometimes waiting in line can be frustrating, but those who are really determined keep writing while their waiting in line. Sure, you may have 5 full manuscripts by the time someone accepts one, but hey! That's 5 books you have ready for submission!

My advice to those waiting in line would be this: wait in all the lines it takes, but don't stop righting while you're waiting!

Kristine Asselin said...

Great post Kiersten. It feels like a line sometimes--and it DOES sometimes feel like some people get there first. And then you realize they started waiting in line before you did. :) By the way, the pic of you and your sweetie makes me smile every time I see it.

Emma Michaels said...

It really is just a transfer from one line to another. I am published and am having to repeat the whole process to get an agent for my next series. On the bright side, while in the first line I wrote six books, got to sit in my comfy chair, listen to a LOT of inspirational music, read who knows how many books and turn 21! I agree - best line ever. I just happen to be the friend who is going back to the end of the line. Who knows, maybe by the time I get an agent I might have another six books? *crosses fingers* Oh! OR a pink ipad will have been released! I just can't get myself to buy any computer that isn't pink for some reason. LOVE the post and it made my day!

kathrynleighaz said...

Great post! I'm currently in the beginning part of the line where I'm polishing my manuscript until it shines... and the line seems really long, but it gives me hope to know that others (Kiersten White for example) have made it through the line once and are going around again because the ride is totally worth it... right? Which is all that really keeps people like me going. I'd sure as heck jump out of line and head to a completely different ride if there weren't people telling me/blooging about how awesome this one is.

Thanks for a great analogy.

Heather Kelly said...

I love seeing people get on the ride. It means it does happen. Some days I feel like I'm not even in line. :) (But that's my own deal of taking my own sweet time writing and revising) But seeing people get agents, get book deals, publish--that stuff spurs me on! Thanks for the metaphor!

Elizabeth said...

I'm mixing analogies here, but when I was fifteen, my friend Misty and I went to see Scream 2 in theatres, only they wouldn't let us buy tickets because we weren't seventeen yet.

So instead we got tickets for a PG movie staring Jonathan Taylor Thomas (I can't believe I still remember his name) and then snuck into Scream II to meet up with our friends.

Only the movie theatre people totally knew what we had done, and just before the movie started, burst in and turned on the lights, and in front of everyone made us leave. We didn't even get a refund or get to see the movie we'd paid to see.

Which brings me to my point: sometimes you see people cutting in line and you wonder why they got away with it when you didn't. But the truth is, they didn't really get away with anything, even if it looks like they did. And if you were in that theatre, the one they snuck into, maybe you'd see what really happened--that they got caught, got humiliated, and ended up right where they'd started...outside.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I'm gonna sneak in the park after dark and hide on the carousel until morning. Failproof. Failproof, I say.

Sara B. Larson said...

Great post, and now I really want a churro, too. Also, I'm Mormon, so how come I didn't get to cut to the front of the line? Huh? Huh? ;)

Marsha Sigman said...

This is so true. Having someone recommend you is nice but it doesn't seal the deal if all the other elements aren't there.

Like being Mormon.

Nah, I just had to throw that in.lol

Everyone has to wait in the same sucky line, believe me if there was a trick I would have heard about it by now!!

Rusty Fischer said...

This is such a great post! (And not just because I live an hour from Disney World!)

I have been writing since I was 9; I have been submitting to publishers since I was 10! This, my 43rd year, marks the first time I can point to a book with my name on it and say, "Yes, that is mine! I can die knowing I've been traditionally published!"

Do I sometimes wish it had happened 20 or 30 years ago? Sure, but "waiting in line" has taught me so much, and now I can actually read what I've written and not blush; I think that's a journey in itself!

Thanks for writing this post and reminding me that all those years meant something, too!

Stephanie Perkins said...

Another fantastic post.

Also, I'd love to meet Nicholas Cage in line, so I could ask him to stop making movies in which he wears terrible wigs.

Anonymous said...

I find this condescending. Most unpublished authors are working hard, writing hard, and doing everything they can to get published, not trying to ride on the coat-tails of another author, or as you put it "cut the line". Fortunately, most published authors I know are thrilled to act as mentors and friends, and I am so grateful for them.

Kiersten White said...

Hey Anon, long time no see! I'm sorry you found what was essentially a light-hearted way of saying "there's no way to predict when you'll get there, but stick it out because it's worth it" as condescending. Guess we can't always convey emotion in writing as well as we'd like.

I was simply trying to point out that it doesn't matter who you know, the path to being published isn't easy. And I am always happy to answer questions and help people in ways that I can, as evidenced by pages and pages (and pages and pages and pages) of information on my blog, searchable by pretty much any writing term imaginable.

Stay awesome, Anon, and thanks for pointing out that my intention wasn't clear for everyone.

Jessie Oliveros said...

Planning a Disneyworld vacation for the fall, and hoping that the fall will have slightly shorter lines.

Kiersten White said...

I can't say for Disneyworld, Jessie, but it's a good time for Disneyland as long as you avoid any long weekends.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great post! And thanks for the encouragement - if we stick it out and just stay in the line, we'll get there in the end.

tone almhjell said...

Ha. I'm really confused by this Mormon business. Great post, though, even if the analogy is a little optimistic. Not everyone in line gets to meet Indy.

Kiersten White said...

Tone--It's an ongoing joke that Mormons have a special way into publishing because there are quite a few very prominent/well-known YA and MG authors who also happen to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But you know what they say, correlation is not causation, so on and so forth.

As far as being a little optimistic, yeah, it is. Not everyone who gets in line will get on the ride. But that just felt too depressing to address on a Tuesday.

Lynsey Newton said...

I'm sure it's quite wrong that I can't stop thinking "OMG there's an Indiana Jones ride?!?!?" LOL.

Great analogy Kiersten and so true.

M. M. Justus said...

Yes, but if you get in the Indiana Jones ride (great ride, too!) line, you know that eventually you *will* get to ride the ride.

That is absolutely not true of publishing. Not everyone who gets in that line will get published. Or are you saying that their lines move so slowly that they die before they get to the ride?

Kathleen Foucart said...

Thanks so much for this post, Kiersten, and the reminder that sometimes the lines are just plain different.

Marewolf said...

There are perks that go along with being in line as opposed to being on the ride.
That's why I say, "It's all fun and games until someone gets an agent"

http://marewolf.blogspot.com/p/why-is-it-all-fun-and-games.html

Christy said...

Thanks for the great post. You know, I think that it's a good reminder that sometimes the wait in line isn't so bad. You can look around, observe others, learn a lot, and visit with people. After all, don't they say it's not about the destinataion, it's all about the journey? I'll definately try harder to enjoy the writing journey as I aim for my publication destination.