You’re a writer who dreams of publishing a book. You write and write and write, until you think perhaps you have something that someone, somewhere, would like to read. You research agents and devour every blog post, Facebook post, and twitter announcement, trying to glean the secret, trying to figure out how you can move from form rejections to personal rejections to R & R’s to an email saying “I loved your book and I want to chat!”
Getting an agent is a monumental task. Much harder than actually writing the book, in my opinion. And so, when you finally FINALLY get one, when you can SIGN THE CONTRACT, and Tweet the good news, it can be…disconcerting to realize there is SO MUCH MORE LEFT TO DO.
The Internet is ripe with advice on how to get an agent, but there isn’t much out there describing what happens AFTER that. And so, this week, we’re talking about our paths to publication from the agent contract forward. Like finding an agent, it’ll be different for everyone. But writers like to torture themselves, trying to glean patterns or prophecies from other people’s publication stories, so here goes.
I signed my agent contract on December 2, 2016. It was an exciting moment, and my agent didn’t waste any time. She immediately set me to work on revisions. So began three months of work. And this was active work, not a few weeks of revisions followed by a few weeks of waiting for my agent to read. I swear, that woman either never sleeps, or owns a Timeturner. She’d get notes back to me in days.
We went on submission in early March, and had an offer about a month later, in early April 2017. The end, right? Wrong. The book I thought was so polished, having undergone massive revisions in Pitch Wars, and then MORE massive revisions with my agent needed….you guessed it. Massive revisions. My editor gave me some things she wanted done before she did her big edit, and asked that I get the revised manuscript back to her by June so she could then edit it. She thought she could have my edit letter back to me by early July, but publishing doesn’t always care what my editor promises me. Delays happen. Frequently. There are support groups on Facebook entirely dedicated to writers waiting for edits from their editors. When mine finally came back in early August, I spent two solid weeks working ten-hour days to turn them around before school started at the end of the month. Done, right? Wrong. We did a smaller polish after that one, before my editor declared that the book was ready to go into production.
Copy edits came in late October. This is much more involved than I imagined it would be. I got a ten page style sheet from my copy editor, outlining every single chapter, timeline, name (real or fictional) and the first page they appear in the manuscript. And if that wasn’t enough, she fact checked everything. Like, everything. She let me know that Mario Cart 2 was an online game, and that the missing game disk mentioned briefly in chapter twenty-three must be Mario Kart-with-a-K. I would like to state for the record that Copy Editor has surpassed Picture Day Photographer as “most thankless job in the world”.
Concurrently, my agent, editor and I were deep in cover designs and re-designs. It’s not unusual to go back and forth a few times, until you hit upon something everyone loves. I am very fortunate that my agent is such a fierce advocate of my vision for the book, but also that my editor was not satisfied until I loved my cover. This is not always the case.
First pass pages just arrived last week. This is where your book actually looks like a book. Page design is done, formatting, and fonts. I’m supposed to read through, make any small tweaks (and I SWEAR, I only made small tweaks. The biggest changes I made were rephrasing of a COUPLE sentences that still sounded clunky. Okay. More than a couple. But not too many. I deleted many others completely.)
After this, we push forward into marketing. We are assembling lists of authors we can approach for blurbs. My publicity team will put together a plan for how they’re going to market it (and me).
And…that’s where I am as of right now. The road ahead is still unknown. I look to my author friends to tell me what’s next, just as I can tell you what to expect up to this point. Publication is like driving with someone who has one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. Long weeks of silence, followed by a flurry of activity. So if you’re thinking Once I get an agent, the waiting will be over, think again. There is a lot of waiting on this side too. Write something new while you wait. Or take up knitting.
Remember, it’s not necessarily talent that gets you published, but grit and perseverance (and your ability to distract yourself for long periods of time). Stay on the road and you’ll get there.