By Sara M. Harvey
There is this weird kind of myth that getting an agent is some kind of finish line. But I had read that once you clear that agent-getting hurtle all you do is trade in your old anxieties for new ones.
And it’s pretty true.
Authors spend months struggling with their manuscripts, finishing, polishing, perfecting, all the while worried if it I going to get finished? Is it going to be good? Seems like it takes forever to get from “Once upon a time” to “The End”.
And then, querying. Ugh. A fraught process that can take months or even years. I queried by latest book for two years (although there was a baby in the middle of it) and queried over 100 agents. Querying takes a LOT out of you. You have to write a summary of your WHOLE BOOK (YIKES!) and also a super compelling, charming-but-not-too-cute query letter. And once you have all of that, you send the query. And. You. Wait.
Depending on the agent and their workload and policies, you might have sent sample pages, the synopsis, or just the query letter, or some combination of all three. It can take a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months to hear a yes or no. And that waiting is HARD.
BUT! Let me tell you, that is NOTHING compared to the next step.
You get an agent and that’s so great and you and they made some revisions on your book and talked through the list of editors and publishers best suited to your book and the agent made some calls and sent some emails and sent your book to the people who said YES, LEMME READ THAT!
And. You. Wait.
Like your agent, these editors have a workload and house policies that will dictate their timing of turnaround on manuscripts.
The editors might give you feedback on why they said no, just like some agents might let you know why they passed on representation, but they don’t always. Sometimes that feedback is useful and sometimes, not so much….
I’m in the not-so-much useful spot right now. A handful of editors have said no to me (and my agent) but their feedback was the usual “This didn’t work for me.” Which is a legit, if frustrating, response. And honestly, if you are a halfway decent writer, that is going to be the thing you hear the most. And it SUCKS because you don’t know what didn’t grab their attention. But it’s mostly because it’s a well-written piece that is not connecting with them, not for any real reasons you can actually do anything about. In fact, one agent or editor might love a thing that another one really disliked. Just like readers! (Compare some one- and five-star reviews some time! It’s enlightening! [so long as it’s not someone complaining that your book is not a 36-pack of Jimmy Dean sausages])
So, while waiting, you are SUPPOSED to be working on another book, and not your theoretical next book in the proposed series…because your editor might not want to take your series in that direction, or might have some substantive changes to your first novel and then you have to rewrite TWO books instead of one. But damn, it’s hard to change lanes in your head to another storyline and characters, especially while waiting to hear back from this first one OCCUPIES YOUR ENTIRE BEING.
So, here’s where I am. My agent isn’t due to nudge our remaining editors for another week. Usual policy is to give editors three months to make their decisions. THREE. MONTHS.
Not a long time in the long run, but when each day you are obsessively checking your email, just like in your agent querying days, it can feel like forever!
But once an editor says yes, there’s going to be a whole SERIES of structural edits, plus copy edits, plus page proofs, and and and and and…. So a book sold today to a Big Six (Five? Four?) Publisher won’t be on the shelf for a YEAR OR MORE.
I knew there would be a lot of waiting, but you really cannot understand the anxiety and tedium until you have been there. And waiting. With new and exciting anxieties.
So, I’m going to go back to waiting, and cue up some Tom Petty.
SARA M. HARVEY lives and writes fantasy and horror in (and sometimes about) Nashville, Tenn. She is also a costume historian, theatrical costume designer, and art history teacher. She has three spoiled rotten dogs and one awesome daughter; her husband falls somewhere in between. She tweets @saraphina_marie, wastes too much time on facebook.com/saramharvey, and needs to update her website at saramharvey.com. Check out her Patreon!