One of my bosses congratulated me recently on signing with my agent. I was riding high, feeling pretty good about myself, and then he asked, “so your book’s going to be published, right?”
Screeeeeech. (Brake sounds, not internal screaming, but we’ll get to that.) “um…not yet…but maybe! Hopefully!”
His aghast response was, “Why is the publishing business so complicated?” (said the surgeon with multiple medical degrees…)
I am in what is politely referred to in the biz as “Submission Hell”. Or, Purgatory, as I like to call it.
For those of you who don’t know, the road to publishing your book is long and annoying. Most of us assume you send your manuscript to the publishing house and the publishers there decide yay or nay on your book. According to my mother, who submitted things in the 80’s, this was how it used to be. Nowadays, you need an agent.
Why do you need an agent? What do they do? Well, if you want to be traditionally published, an agent is absolutely necessary. About 98% of publishing houses won’t even look at unsolicited manuscripts. An agent is your in–they have contacts for the editors that might like your book. An agent will essentially draw up a submission list of carefully chosen editors/publishers who might like your book. And then, like a badass, they pitch your book to them.
Of course, getting an agent can be tricky. It took me about two years to find my agent. Two years of querying agents (basically sending an email that says “hey look at my book isn’t it neat you should represent it please love me”), undergoing revisions, and querying some more. I’ll go into querying in another post. This post is about what happens after.
What happens after? Waiting.
(FYI, I’m being a big baby, I’ve only been on submission for about two weeks–there are people who are on submission WAY LONGER–but where else can I complain about it but my blog? And in whiny texts to my friends?)
The annoying thing about being on submission is there is absolutely no way to know how long you will be on submission for. I went down a terrible rabbit-hole of a forum thread of different writers talking about how long they were on submission before they got their publishing deal. Some said two weeks. Some said six months. Some said three years. There really was no average. (There was one person who said twelve hours and I’m pretty sure they need to be eliminated from society, along with people who leave their grocery carts in the middle of parking spaces instead of corralling them.)
With querying, you have a certain amount of control over the process. You feel like you’re DOING something. When your book is on submission, however, you have to give up complete control and trust your agent. This is why it’s so vital to do your research on the agents you’re querying. And to be very careful about who you select. You need an agent who really believes in your book–who thoroughly LOVES your book. You want your agent to be as passionate about your book as you are.
Anyway, here is a select list of things to do and things NOT to do while you’re on submission. I have drawn these ideas from the approximate 100 blogs I’ve combed written by other authors who are in Purgatory along with me.
- Work on another project. Whether it’s a sequel or something else, you should always always be working on something new. I’ve read some authors can’t do this; they can’t focus on something new while they’re waiting on their book. I do not entirely understand this, but this may be because I’m always working on two separate projects at any given time. So during my waiting period, I’m working on the sequel to “Hell’s Heresies” and another project.
- Don’t Twitter stalk the editors your agent sends your manuscript to. I say this, knowing full well, that every writer is going to do this anyway. But I have to at least try and warn you off of it. It just makes you crazy.
- Focus on a hobby that is not writing. Luckily for me, I have a lot on my plate this year (*nervous laughter*). I’m studying for the GRE and applying to grad schools this summer, so that hopefully will take up a lot of the time I spend waiting. I also recommend running or kickboxing or some kind of exercise. Running is meditative and while I haven’t tried kickboxing (I really want to though!), it seems pretty therapeutic to punch and kick stuff.
- Don’t look up how to file taxes for freelance work or how much you owe the government after you get your first advance. It’ll just make you sad. Or worse, become a Republican. *shudder*
- Trust your agent. This is hard for my anxiety!brain, particularly the giving up control aspect. It’s hard. Believe me, I get it–and I suspect the mistrust is why some choose to go it alone and self-publish rather than do it the traditional way. But your agent has got this. I got lucky with mine because she updates me frequently and is stunningly positive and enthusiastic, which is a wonderful balm for the anxiety!brain.
That’s all for now. I think I’ll start updating this space about the adventures in publishing a book. I need some place to tear my hair out as I wait!