Before I answer that, I want to emphasize that each writer’s road to publication is different. The process so far–write book, write query letter, get an agent–can play out in myriad ways. Some writers craft a book quickly and wait a long time to connect with the right agent. Some complete several manuscripts before moving ahead in the process. Others choose not to have an agent at all. Please remember there is no one way or right way to get your work published. In general, however, if you plan to head down the traditional publishing path, then you will likely follow the basics outlined in our series so far: write book, craft the query letter, land an agent.
Now what? Your agent may ask you to further revise your novel before it’s ready to submit to editors. When the manuscript is ready, your agent will send it to certain editors based on her experience and knowledge of the editors and publishing houses.
And what do you do? You wait and worry and dream and go to your day job and clean the house until it’s sparkling and check your email a thousand times a day at least and then you try to calm down by reminding yourself it’s out of your hands and after a few deep breaths and zen-like moments, you start a new project and whenever you have a moment, you refresh your email again and again.
Or, maybe that was just me. Like I said, everyone is different. In general, though, many writers agree that the process includes angst-filled waiting because your manuscript is now in the hands of editors, the people who may fall in love with your novel, take it to internal meetings, and offer you a contract.
At this point, the process can take weeks, months, or years. Your friend could sell her novel at auction to a major publishing house with a six-figure advance. You may be rejected dozens of times before receiving a contract. You will both end up on bookshelves, no matter how you got there. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. You will, but you shouldn’t.
Back to the process…editors will read your novel and say yes, no, or maybe but we want you to revise and resubmit. If the novel doesn’t sell, you and your agent may discuss the patterns in the rejections. If certain aspects are routinely criticized, then your agent may ask you to revise further before you go out on another round of submissions. This is exactly what happened to me.
I began working with Laura Langlie in August 2010. I revised certain chapters based on her notes, and we went on submission a few months later. Some editors responded within weeks, while others took months. This is normal. After a series of rejections, an editor expressed interest but wanted some changes. I revised and resubmitted the first eight chapters. After a few months of waiting, we learned she had left the business completely. Sigh.
I revised the rest of the novel in the vein of chapters 1-8. Once done, Laura submitted it to another batch of editors. More rejections–some very flattering, some not so much–and more submissions. In June 2012, we received an enthusiastic response from Mary Kate Castellani from Bloomsbury/Walker. She asked me to revise and resubmit the first nine chapters. After reading those, she gave me the thumbs-up to keep going. I completed the revision, and Mary Kate shared the novel with her team. We had an offer in March 2013.
I have since done another major revision and am currently working on what should be the last round of writing before it moves along in the process. Right now, the novel is scheduled to be published in Winter 2015 by Bloomsbury.
This was my first novel ever. I expected to make lots of revisions, but the thing is, I agreed with the suggestions. I didn’t make changes along the way only because I wanted to get published. I revised each time because I knew my agent’s or editor’s suggestions would improve the story. This back-and-forth between the writer, agent, and editor could make or break the submission process. As a writer, I often asked myself:
What is the heart of the story? Can I cut this or add that and maintain the heart of the narrative? The answer was yes.
And what is the goal? The goal is to share this story, to take it from notes on napkins to hardcover.
Do I trust my agent and editor? Are they respectful, professional, and enthusiastic? The answer was always yes.
So I trusted them, revised, and I made it through a long submission process that required a lot of work. In the end, I knew without a doubt that my much-improved novel landed in the right place.
Best of luck to all of you on submission! Please share your experiences with us in the comments.