You’ve written a book… a whole book and that’s amazing. I mean it. So many people say they could or will, but you did it! And you landed an agent and made it Twitter Official TM. *Guy throwing confetti at his own face gif*
Happily ever after now, right? Well… not so fast.
The in-between–from signing with an agent to signing a book deal–is as shadowy as it comes. There are a variety of reasons for this from non-disclosure agreements to books that sell on proposal, to people simply being afraid to talk about it, to it truly being a different experience for every writer. I’m going to be a little light on details but I hope to help with the shadowy “now what?” status of when you’re agented but haven’t sold a book yet.
Landing an agent is an incredible. Take that percentage of people who actually write a book and winnow it down significantly to people who actually hone their craft and revise and successfully query. But what comes next is usually… yep… more revising and honing craft. Very very few books are ready to go unchanged from the author to the publishers. You’ll likely go through rounds of revision with your agent as they help you shape your novel. Timelines vary wildly and so do styles. Some agents are heavily editorial, some just put a little polish on it and send it off.
But now you have something your agent can sell, what happens? Your agent will prepare a list of houses they think would be a good fit for your work. Some agents submit broadly all at once meaning they try every house that could fit. Others go in rounds so if there’s editor feedback that something is awry with your book you can fix it and have more houses to sub to. You should absolutely be able to see what houses you are going to. Red flag if your agent won’t tell you. But once a house says no, that’s it. Sadly, that’s the end of the road for your book with say: Simon & Schuster BFYR.
So now… we wait. *Finding Nemo when all the fish are in plastic baggies gif*. This is painful. I’m going to be honest. It’s much harder than querying. The passes are also harder. Decide with your agent if you want to check in for rejections or have them sent as they come. I like the check-in method as I could prepare myself and didn’t suddenly get a bad email.
What’s the timeframe? Well, there kind of isn’t one. Some books sell within days, some within weeks, some take months and multiple rounds of sub. Just because your book hasn’t sold in days does NOT mean it won’t sell. It’s a weird alchemy like querying.
But let’s say an editor falls in love. Excellent right? Yes. It is. It truly is. That means someone wants to stake their career on you and work with you for at least a year on your book and that’s incredible. Some editors will want to have a call with you to talk about their vision, some will just take it to acquisitions.
Acquisitions is where the entire team from marketing to the head of the house decide whether to offer on the book. Your editor will go to bat for the book they love but unfortunately not everything can be acquired. I’ll confess that I’ve had more than one book die in acquisitions and it’s really hard. *Lili & Stitch just leave me to die gif*. And when that happens you wallow for a bit but then you move on, whether it’s the next house or the next book. You may need to shelve your book and have it be an option or try to sell it when the market changes. It happens.
But if they do offer, you will have a book sold! And you may even go to auction with one offer in hand and a second or more coming in. When it rains it pours in publishing.
Okay, this legit sounds awful Mere, how do I survive? Well, however you survived querying will work for sub. The number one recommendation I always have though is to refill your creative well by watching and reading stories or by helping other writers and then go make something new. You get a little distance from your art and the passes sting a little less. And if you get a multiple book deal you actually will have another story started! As always I’m rooting for you!