Friday, April 25, 2014

The Book AFTER the Book That Snags Your Agent

Hey, lovelies!

Today I'm dishing out some behind-the-scenes info I wish I would have known before I signed with my agent. When I was in the query trenches, I didn't think that far ahead. I didn't even ponder the idea that after the contract signing and going on submission, I would eventually show my agent another book.

But eventually, there will be another book. The idea of that was…terrifying to me. Mostly because I did not enjoy the query trenches, like just about everyone, and I never ever ever ever ever want to go back there. Ever. Thoughts would flick around my mind like "What if she hates it and she drops me?", "What if she reads it and thinks I'm a hack and she made a mistake?", "What if I run out of wine while I'm waiting for her to finish reading it?" (Good news, that last problem was totally solvable.)

A year and a half later, after I clicked "send" on that email containing my wimpy excuse for a second book, I've learned a few things about this whole publishing thingy we're doing:

1) It won't be perfect. I can just about guarantee that no matter how many drafts you did before you sent your next manuscript to your agent, it will not be perfect. You will have to do at least another round of revisions with your agent, and they may even be major revisions. (In my case, seven. But who's counting?) And, from what I've heard, there's a high probability that you may even have to do more rounds this time than you did with the book you queried with. Why is this? *shrugs* I have no idea. My theory is that we spend so much time tweaking and prepping and polishing that first book, and less than we realize on the second because we don't have to query. It may be because we grow as writers, and we're trying out more complex story lines. Either way, you're going to have to revise. A lot. And that is A-OKAY. Your agent doesn't expect it to be perfect right away, either.

2) Dream bigger, darling. I wrote a little bit about this for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, but basically, make sure you're with someone you trust deeply. I hope when you queried, you looked for someone you would want to be with for the long haul. And what that means is not just someone who has the connections to sell your book, but someone you actually like. As a person. Bonus points if you have similar tastes. The reason for this is because you greatly heighten the chances that your agent is going to love your next book this way. If you know that you both love the same books, themes, music, whatever, then there's a huge chance you're going to produce something that she is excited about and wants to submit. Why does this matter, you ask? Because if your agent is excited about the story you're trying to tell, she will do everything in her power to help you tell it. For me, that meant endless brainstorming sessions, outlines, and her willingness to read this thing seven times.

2) It's okay to be assertive. This is your career. You have an agent now, and that's great! You're making a career out of this writing thing you love to do. (Note: This is not saying that if you self-pub or don't have an agent, you don't have a career. For the purposes of this post, I'm just talking the traditional publishing route.) So remember, this is your destiny, and you're co-creating it with your agent now. If she gives you revision suggestions, it is okay to question them, to disagree with her, and to come up with a new solution together. Honestly, I followed almost all of my agent's suggestions because I agreed with them. But the ones I didn't agree with, we talked about, and I explained why I didn't want to change them. Ultimately, we came up with an even better idea when I voiced my concerns over it. You never quite know what magic could happen when you're honest about your work.

That's all, folks! I wish I would have known all this when I first sent that manuscript. What are some things you've learned along the path to publication? 
Andrea Hannah writes about delusional girls, disappearances, and darkness with a touch of magic. When she's not writing, Andrea runs, teaches, consumes epic amounts of caffeine, and tries to figure out how to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (unsuccessful to date). She's represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman-Schneider/ICM, and her debut novel, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, is coming from Flux in Fall 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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3 secret replies:

  1. This is a really good subject, and one that you don't hear about often. I'm in the throes of my second book now and having the usual doubts and fears.

    Glad to know I'm not alone in this!

  2. Some writers advocate working with different agents for different projects (even book-to-book in certain cases). I never understood this. I mean, if you are a paranormal YA author and your next book was nonfiction, I can see where another agent may come in temporarily since one agent may not have the fire, contacts, or insight to do the new manuscript justice. But agent-hopping just for the sake of it? I don't get it.

    1. I've never actually heard of this! No one I speak to regularly has ever told me they want to jump agents from project to project. Most people I know are willing to cut off their left arm before going back in the query trenches. Interesting!