As most of you know by now, I was lucky enough this past March to get picked up by Random House Children's for a two book deal. Well, I thought now might be a good time to summarize what I've learned to date about the process (at least how it's worked for me). I know that at least for me personally, I did a TON of research on how to get an agent and the submissions process, but I did little to none on what comes after. So, without further ado, I'd like to share what I've discovered with you. I've compiled 5 things that I didn't fully know or understand about this process before I was actually in it.
1. It can take months and months after your deal to get your contract signed. There's a lot to hammer out when a contract is put together and sometimes it sits on someone's desk while they're on vacation or working on other people's stuff or your agent has to negotiate some items on it. You will feel like that after the initial flurry of excitement surrounding the deal there's nothing but crickets talking to you and you might end up spending a lot of time rereading your Publisher's Marketplace announcement trying to convince yourself that it really happened. Bank on anywhere from one month to up to four or even five before you finally sign. I was on the long side of things, but well within the normal range at four months. This also means that any advance that you may be getting won't come until a week or two at least after the contract is signed. In other words, don't quit your day job just yet.
2. There will be long periods where you won't hear from anyone. Agents and editors are busy, busy people who can barely squeeze all that they have to do into any given day. Expect updates when they have them on your book and it's progress, but don't expect daily or weekly emails all the time. This is important to know because after you get a deal, you will go from ecstatic to scared crapless in the space of the first twenty four hours after your deal and will be looking for reassurrance and guidance and as much information as possible about your book at all times. But here's the thing: after the deal's made, chances are that your book won't be out for at least a year and a half, but probably longer. There's nothing going on with your book right after the deal because you still have a LONG way to go before anything needs to be done. Your editor will be working on your editorial notes, but that's about it and that can take her some time, think months here. Use this time to get your internet presence together (Twitter, a blog, Tumbler, a website) and to start working on your next project, especially if you have a two book deal. (this is what everyone's hoping you're doing which is sometimes why they don't bother you with updates until they need to). The only time you should be worried is if you send emails to your agent or editor and they consistently don't get back to you within a few days to a week.
3. Support groups made up of other debut authors and/or published author's is key. I joined The Lucky 13s AS SOON as my deal went through and am so glad that I did. Hearing about their experiences and realizing how similar they are to your own will save you many, many times from composing a paranoid, angst filled, and weepy email in a moment of weakness to your agent, or worse, your editor that makes you look less than professional and more than a little crazy pants. You will be insecure about 99.9999% of the time during this process. Embrace it and make friends who are in the same boat. It will save your life and your career, I promise.Publishing is a SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW process most of the time and you will have long periods where you are isolated in your little writerly hole waiting on news or fretting over edit letters or fretting over cover concepts or release dates or marketing. Other writers can help you figure out how to deal when you're just too close to the situation to see the forest from the trees.
4.Give yourself EXTRA time to write your second book. Here's why: there will be days when the highs or lows you're experiencing with the book that sold will keep you from being productive. You are going to be published now and so the expectations you have for yourself and the expectations that others have for you will mess with your head. It can be a real struggle to get anything good on paper and you may have to do more writing than you've had to do before just to get a novel you're statisfied with and want to show to your agent/editor. Add to that balancing the revision work that you still have to do for the soon to be pubbed book and the learning curve you're facing with marketing that book and a book that might've only taken you six months can take twice that now.
5. There will be authors with very different experiences from your own and that's okay. I know people who have editors that send them other author's books and little gifts whenever they send them something in the mail and others who barely hear from their editors except in the most business-like ways. I have friends who've toured their publishing house's offices and others who have yet to and their books are about to come out. I have friends who've had an accelerated schedule from the deal to the release date and others whose debut experience stretched out well over two years. Some people's books get a lot of marketing, some don't. Some people have IBN numbers and are on Goodreads the day after their deal and others wait months and months for these things. You will have days where you are getting all the love and people are green with envy over it and days when you'll be the one green with envy.
There's more. I mean there's lots more, but this is the big stuff. So, what about you? Learn anything important that you'd like to share? Jot it down in the comments, I'd love to read it!