I thought today I’d chat about a subject that’s shrouded in mystery for most writers:
What happens after a writer finally becomes represented by a literary agent?
This experience is different for every writer. There are hundreds of literary agents out there, and when you match them up with the thousands of writers who sign with them, the results can vary. So, I can only speak for myself when I bring up this topic. However, there are some commonalities that I’d like to focus on so that maybe, somehow, you’ll feel less anxiety should you ever find yourself courted by your own fabulous literary agent.
For me, the days that followed my signing with Golden Wheat Literary were a whirlwind, and actually not that much different than I pictured, imagined, and dreamed it would be like for the last seven years. A permanent smile was plastered across my face as I made calls to my closest family members and friends. I told everyone who asked the story of how Rebecca Angus requested my pages, how she eventually requested the full, how much she adored my book (yes adored!), all about our amazing phone conversation including her offer of representation and her exciting plan for my manuscript. (Yikes!)
It was an exhausting and exhilarating and crazy and wonderful time! For the full story click here.
That first week was something special because not only did I gain an advocate for my work, I gained a slew of writer friends at the agency including their founder, literary agent Jessica Schmeidler too. It immediately felt like a combination of a family full of encouragement and congratulations, and a team that I had just been selected to. It felt (and still does feel) amazing to become a part of something so fantastic that I’ve work so hard for, for so long.
I have to admit that suddenly being represented by a literary agent felt like validation—like I had finally made it to the big leagues or something. I can’t explain it any better except to say, I felt like I’d just jumped into the basket of a hot air balloon that was going to carry me to the next level in my quest to get my manuscript published.
Over the course of that first week after signing, Rebecca and I communicated mainly through email. She let me know what I should expect from her in the weeks to come, and a pretty specific timeline for when I should expect it. It was all so reassuring and made this journey into the unknown somehow less daunting.
So this is the part you’re probably all dying to know. What’s the timeline? How soon after I sign, will my book actually go out on submission to editors? Well as I said before, every writer’s manuscript is different and every agent’s situation is different.
Overall, here is my understanding of what happens next for most every writer.
A writer will receive an edit letter. But here’s where every agent and letter is obviously different. Some edit letters will indicate massive changes, and some will indicate minor ones depending on the readiness of the manuscript.
The other big question you’re probably wondering is how long after I sign with an agent will I receive my edit letter. Well, that depends on the agent and the condition of your manuscript too. If an agent handles hundreds of clients, it may take her longer to complete it and then send it along to you. If it’s a busy time of year, it may take her longer as well. If your manuscript needs massive revisions, the letter will take a bit longer still.
But here’s the thing, you will probably know the answers to these questions by the end of your call with the agent, or at least before you sign on the dotted line. Rebecca and I spoke at length about the condition of my manuscript and how ready it was to go out on submission during our call. I felt very confident and clear at the end of the call about what the next step would be for me.
Many agents are very good with communication. I am thrilled to say that Rebecca is one of them. She was in constant contact with me immediately after signing and was very specific about the time frame. It made it much easier to manage my expectations and not refresh my email every forty-five seconds. She was also clear with what I should be doing until I received my edit letter. We had talked during the call about a sequel to my manuscript and she was on board with the idea. Since I had already planned out the major plot points, she encouraged me to get started on it.
So that’s what I did while I waited for my edit letter from her. She also put me in touch with one of the other middle grade writers that she recently signed on to represent. The agency has a fantastic “team” philosophy and it was a great way to come off the bench so to speak. Ultimately we ended up reading each others manuscripts… I immediately felt like part of the team, acting as an additional beta reader for an amazingly talented author. I’m not sure if this happens often or rarely, but that’s what happened for me.
Rebecca also made me aware of the comp titles she would be using to pitch my manuscript in her proposal, and wanted my opinion. (My opinion!) So be prepared for that. A few were titles I had not read, so it gave me a chance to read a couple of recently published middle grade books similar to my own. It was a fun assignment to have because now it was sort of my “job” to read—which of course I was eager to do!
Some agents are more active on social media than others, and depending on how yours is, that may be a way that you communicate in an informal way in addition to phone calls or email. Rebecca happens to be pretty active and I’ve come to appreciate that she’s busy and inundated with emails—from querying writers, clients, editors…so interacting on Twitter is a way we can connect even if I’m not receiving weekly emails from her. When I tweet that I’m working on some new chapters, and she favorites my tweet or replies with a word of encouragement—it’s like an unofficial check-in. I don’t have to email her with my progress, but she’s still aware of what I’m doing. So it’s possible your agent may work this way too.
I received an evaluation of my manuscript and my edit letter from Rebecca a few weeks after signing, and got to work right away on revisions. They were like gold in my hands! I couldn’t wait to read through them and then dig right in. It was time to polish my manuscript up to a shine. 🙂 Meanwhile, Rebecca was busy preparing a list of editors she would target in the first round of submissions, and also the proposal she would present to them with regards to my book. What’s included in that proposal I will include in a future post if I am able to disclose that info. This is all pretty new to me so I want to be sure not to speak on anything that may be confidential.
After I completed my revisions, I sent my manuscript back to her and crossed my fingers. Its always nerve wracking having someone read your manuscript, and even more so when it’s your new agent! But she loved my revisions and I was fortunate that I didn’t need to revise a second time. However, many writers go through several revisions before their agent feels it’s ready to go out on submission. In fact, its pretty common from what I understand. So be ready for whatever’s thrown your way—Be open to his/ her expertise, be sure you understand what they’re requesting, and take your time getting it right. As much as you want to hurry and get your baby out into the world, you’ll have a better chance of ultimate success if you make your story into the best possible version of itself.
So that’s it. That’s what happens immediately after signing. Of course there are exceptions to this and if there are I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to hear them…so comment away! Or comment anyway if you’d just like to say Hi!
I hope this topic has been helpful. I always handle new situations better when I have at least a vague idea of what to expect. Hopefully this info can do that for you.
Because your time will soon come.
If you keep at it long enough and work hard to improve your craft, it just will. Because it only takes one agent to love your work—to become an advocate for your story. I’m so lucky to have found mine! Now go on and write something—and if you haven’t already, go find yours! ❤
*Photo credits- unknown