I’m in the early stages of my journey as a debut author, so I thought I’d blog about my experiences and hopefully offer advice for anyone in a similar position!
The final stage in the publishing process (for traditional publishing) is when your literary agent pitches your manuscript to publishers. It’s arguably the most nerve-wracking part of the publication journey (yep, even more than querying agents!) because it’s the final hurdle before signing a book deal.
Please note: as is the situation with literary agents, no money exchanges hands between an author (or agent) and a publisher. If a publisher wants you to pay for your books to be published (also known as ‘vanity publishing’) you should be wary and careful about entering into an agreement.
When you sign with a literary agent, the first step afterwards is editing and polishing the manuscript (after celebrating, of course!) Your agent will probably have some thoughts and editorial ideas that will strengthen your manuscript before it goes out on submission to publishers. This can mean larger structural edits, for example, major plot changes, or smaller points, like word repetition and style guidance.
Looking back at my manuscript edits with my agent, Liverpool Literary Agency founder Clare Coombes, as an example (but without going into too much detail – no spoilers!), some of the major points we changed included:
The word count also increased from approximately 80,000 to 100,000. Altogether, Clare and I did around four rounds of edits until we were both happy with it. Clare’s input and vision strengthened the book in more ways than I can count!
Then it was time to approach publishers…
ARGH. Submission. Just when you think the most nerve-wracking part (querying agents) is over, you discover that being out on submission is EVEN worse. (Well, for me it was!)
Firstly, your agent will create a list of editors at publishing houses looking for submissions in your book’s genre. Then they’ll pitch your book to them.
If the commissioning editor is interested (yay!), they’ll read the full manuscript. If they’re still interested (double yay!), they’ll then pitch it to their team (made up of representatives from all relevant departments) in an acquisitions meeting. The editor generally needs the support and agreement of the team to go ahead with the book and offer a deal to the agent and author.
As this process has many different stages, it explains why the wait can typically be quite long. It’s natural to feel downhearted when time passes by with no news, especially if you’re reading announcements in The Bookseller about debut authors landing six-figure deals in 24-hour pre-empts (quite torturous – I do not recommend spending your time doing this!).
Ask any author and the majority of them will tell you that being out on sub is a waiting game. However, no news can be good news, as it means your manuscript might be getting second reads by the team and/or the editor is waiting to take it to the next acquisitions meeting.
I’m probably not the best person to be offering tips for dealing with submission anxiety as, see above, I struggled with nerves! HOWEVER, I did learn a few things…