Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My last post was about the ups and downs (but mostly ups) about tricking an agent into thinking you can write and letting her submit this trickery to editors. This post is about what comes next.
So...You're submitted. You're chewing your nails. You're not sleeping. It's been a few weeks. (Okay, mine was two weeks out on submission before we got an offer, but I'm told that's rare. I've heard of novels selling within a day, though. Then again, I've heard of them never selling. For all intents and purposes, we'll say it's now been a few weeks.) But you don't mind, because you're used to waiting, right? WRONG. You're going freaking nuts. You're feeling bad about tricking your agent, and putting her reputation on the line like that. But you're too proud to tell her.
Anyway, after a few weeks, you get an email from your agent that says OFFER! CALL ME! You squeal inappropriately in the doctor's office waiting room, then proceed to call her in front of God and everybody. She gives you the details of the offer, which are specific, and some of which you wouldn't have even thought to negotiate. This is where you realize just how badly you really do need an agent. You get this feeling of awe that two professionals in the pub industry were discussing your work this morning without your knowledge. You're amazed that Fantabulous Agent was busying negotiating and hard-balling on your behalf while you were eating oatmeal for breakfast and escorting your elderly mother to the doctor. Sigh.
Fantabulous Agent then tells you all the reasons she thinks you should/should not accept the offer. In my case, the editor wanted to pre-empt my book, which means that she wanted to know what it would take to get it off the table at other houses. Sometimes an offer can lead to an auction if you notify other editors, but in this case we decided to go with the pre-empt. (Note: There are many reasons for doing this. Weighing in on the pros and cons of each scenario sounds like a great blogpost in and of itself, so be on standby!).
Soon after, you get a phone call from your editor(s). They tell you how excited they are to work on your book (and with you) and they tell you everything they love about it. THEN comes the editorial letter. The editorial letter is a honey-do list of things that do not work for them. Mine was four pages long. Single-spaced. (Note: I've heard of them being as short as one page, or longer than ten, so this is...wait for it...subjective). You're wondering why they bothered to buy it in the first place. You feel the only thing they didn't change was the names of the characters (note: sometimes they DO change the names of the characters, so get ready). When you email Fantabulous Agent the editorial letter, she'll probably tell you to read it through a couple times, then sleep on it a couple times. Then rinse and repeat. This advice is priceless.
After a week of stewing and percolating, I realized that the changes were GENIUS. They didn't tell me how to fix things, they just told me what wasn't working. Which means I had the freedom to be creative, to come up with my own brilliant solutions. This challenged me as a writer and lemme tell you, it made my book ten times better. Also, there were items on the list that they wanted to change, but I wanted to keep (not many, mind you). After I explained my stance on the issues, they agreed to let those items stay. This is where you will appreciate the gift of compromise. It means you trust your editors' professional opinion and respect their stake in your work. And it means they trust your ability as a writer. Whew! 'Cause for a minute there...
So, you turn in your renovated manuscript and wait for their feedback. What comes next is for a different post. Happy Monday!