by Katy White
Last month, I was excited to announce that I have a publishing deal. Before getting an agent, I never really had a firm understanding of what happens next, let alone how one goes from being agented to under contract with a publishing company. I can't say my understanding is exactly firm now, but I wanted to share what my experience has been to this point.
I got my agent a little over eighteen months ago on the book that also got me my publishing deal (but the second book I'd queried). At the time, my agent was in the middle of going to conferences, so she let me know that it would be a couple of months until we could discuss next steps. About two months later, I got an email with her suggestions for edits and changes to the book, and she gave me a general timeline for when to have it back to her. A couple of months later, she signed off on my revisions and we moved to the next step.
The way my agent explained it, being on submission was a lot like the process of getting an agent. She did her homework identifying editors she thought would like my work, from looking at their blog posts, interviews, manuscript wish lists (#MSWL), past conversations they'd had at conferences, etc. After she established the first list of six to eight, she essentially queried them. Then we waited to hear back from them. And editors, being tremendously busy, frequently take months to get back to agents on a project. We went through a few rounds of submission, and my full manuscript was requested by a lot of the editors, which was flattering. But it was also rejected by those same editors, which was not so flattering. The feedback was complimentary, but fairly similar to what those of us who've been (or are) in the query trenches have received: the story didn't quite connect for me, the characters didn't quite pop, it's too similar to something we've just acquired.
My agent and I had discussed how I wanted feedback beforehand, so based on that, my agent didn't send me every rejection, just occasional emails when one round of feedback had been received and we were submitting to another group of editors. After several months, I found out that an editor loved my book and wanted to take it to her editorial review board. I had never heard of an editorial review board, so I smiled and nodded when my agent told me this (and then promptly remembered that she couldn't see me, so I then used my words). While we were waiting for word back from that editor, she also told me that another editor wanted to take my book to her review board, too.
There was a lot of this happening.
I felt great about both possibilities, but I had a feeling about one over the other--I was just certain that it was going to work out. Oddly, this was the exact same feeling I had with my agent when she and a few others had my full MS. There was something about both of these experiences that felt different to me, even kismet. So when my agent told me that the editor I felt so good about was offering, I didn't have a moment's concern.
From there, my agent and the editor/publishing house went through negotiations. This also took some time. A few months went by between the time I found out the publisher wanted to offer me a contract and the time the contract was actually signed. There are a lot of moving pieces involved, and I probably don't know the half of it. But contracts and negotiations take time. I told myself this a lot, even as I secretly stress-ate my worries that my editor would change her mind. However, that didn't happen. Huzzah!
After the contract came the Publisher's Marketplace announcement. Evidently not every agent does this, but mine did, and I was glad of it. Truthfully, I didn't want to announce anything to anyone until that happened, as it made it all feel extra official to me. When I woke up to see the press release from my publisher and the PM announcement, I was half-convinced it was all a dream.
And then my baby spit up on me, and I realized it was real life. And I was elated.
If you have any questions about the process or have had a different experience, please share below!