the one nice thing about publishing being such a slow business is you have plenty of time to absorb all of the lessons learned along the way - to really let them sink in. but rarely - very rarely - something will happen quickly, and instead of learning your lessons slow, you will suddenly get a crash course in publishing. this was the case with my submission process.
so i thought i would share some of the knowledge i acquired at hyper speed over the last month.
1) you want/need an agent!
at least, i certainly do. (perhaps you are a contract attorney with connections all over the publishing industry. this is more a lesson for the unknown, unconnected like myself.) i knew i wanted an agent before i set off on my path to publishing. it was always going to be my first step. but it wasn't until i went on sub that i truly appreciated just how much i need her. and here's why:
- agents know what editors are looking for. heck, agents know editors - period.
i am 100% positive that i would not have found my publisher without my agent. no amount of research would have landed me this editor at this house with this deal. i needed my agent to make the connection. a lot of people say you have to "know somebody" to get a foothold in publishing. well, that's obviously hogwash. but if you're lucky enough to get pulled out of an agent's query slush, like i was - well now you DO know somebody in the biz - your agent. and she knows everybody else.
- agents understand offers.
all i knew about offers going into sub was that they included an advance amount. i squealed when i heard "hardcover" - that was a term i could understand - but beyond that, i can't count the number of times i asked my agent: "okay, and what does that mean?" and every time she was able to cut through jargon and explain things to me in a clear, concise manner.
- agents are your cheerleaders.
if you read my post a few months back about choosing an agent, you'll know i stressed to the point of making myself sick. i never dreamed i'd have another difficult choice like that ahead of me. but this time i had my agent there to remind me this was all good news and good fortune. countless times she asked me, "are you happy?" - which reminded me to BE happy.
2) a LOT of people need to like your book before it gets published.
i had been researching publishing long enough to know about editorial boards and marketing folks and how they all had input in offers, but i sort of naively pushed those thoughts to the side and told myself: an agent has to like it, and an editor has to like it - the end. HA!
after an agent and an editor, it can go something like this: *editor gets second and third opinions from others (including, most likely, their boss). *all of those readers discuss the merits and drawbacks of the book at an editorial meeting with even more people. *editor takes the book to acquisitions, which includes possibly a whole new group of people who may or may not be more into business than books. they don't just have to like your idea. they have to decide whether they can sell it - and how much they can sell it for. now take all those people and multiply by the number of editors who are interested in the manuscript, and it's suddenly sort of crazy to realize how many people have already read your book!
3) that manuscript you were so sick of editing? yeah, now that you're on sub, you suddenly want to revise again!
that was the case for me, anyway. crazies started to set in like, "is this part realistic?" "did i take too much liberty with the real-life setting here?" and if you're lucky, as i was, to talk to amazing editors and be inspired by their ideas, you'll have to fight to keep yourself from jumping back into the manuscript and making changes right away.
i soothed this urge by starting a new document on my laptop with all of my possible revisions and tweaks - mostly based on my editor's awesome insight - to discuss with her when the time comes.
4) fourth, and finally, not everything in publishing is slow.
okay, that's a lie. everything in publishing IS slow - most of the time. but occasionally you luck out and something goes at lightning pace. i am so fortunate to have had a fast submission process. it saved some of my nails from being bitten down to the quick. it also, admittedly, was a heck of a lot of fun to have something new happening almost daily, which sure beats clicking "refresh" on the email inbox for days, hoping for news.
but the speedy sub also taught me to appreciate the slow periods - when i can stop and smell the roses and all that. and believe me, there will be lots of time for rose-sniffing over the next two years, but i plan to put aside my impatience and savor every minute, because you can only make your first trip down the path to publishing once... so i intend to enjoy the ride.