So you have a literary agent… What’s next?

If you are pursuing traditional publishing, getting an agent is the first big step toward that goal, and there’s resource after resource detailing and helping with the query process to get you there. But what comes next is shrouded with mystery – especially since authors aren’t able to share good news for weeks if not months after they receive it.

As some of you may know, I signed with my literary agent Rachel in April of this year, and I’ve gotten several questions on what exactly happens after getting an agent.

So today we are going to talk about the hazy timeline between accepting an offer of representation and getting a book deal.

I want to preface by saying that every author’s experience and every agent’s approach is different. This just reflects my experience and common processes of others.


Oh you thought your book was done?


Nope, almost all agents will ask for edits. Luckily, you should already be prepared for this because you will have discussed it on the call when your agent offered representation.

The amount and type of edits vary drastically. I recently attended a book signing with Stephanie Garber, and she mentioned that she went through four pretty massive rounds of edits before submitting Caraval to publishers. Other agents will only request a few small changes.

Agents will also usually make it clear which changes are make or break and which are just suggestions. Rachel told me right off the bat to only accept the ideas that resonated with me – amazing! But usually suggested edits will make the book better, so be open to them

As exciting and crucial as it is to get your novel in front of publishers, it’s even more important that it’s ready and the best it can be. Take your time, and be patient.

Preparing the Submission Package

While you are busy with revisions, your agent has work of her own, starting with the creation of a list of editors she will target for a first, second and sometimes third round of submissions.

The materials sent to each editor will obviously include your agent’s proposal for your novel, but I was surprised to see what else can be included! Maybe your agent has killer comp titles that enhance your book’s appeal. She may want you to ask your other author friends for a blurb to go along with the proposal. Maybe it’s an author’s note explaining your expertise and inspiration. Anything that will help sell your novel.


Once your manuscript and submissions package are polished and ready to go, it’s time for your agent to send it off to editors. This usually happens via email, but some will also call or even casually pitch at conferences or in passing conversations.

This is when you get to sit back and relax. And by relax, I mean obsessively refresh your email every few seconds for news from editors.


Just kidding. Don’t do that. Although I know you inevitably will.

This process can take a while – weeks to months, just like querying – so again I stress the need to be patient. The good thing is that your agent is the one doing the follow up, which is nice because I hate feeling like a nag.

So now that you know what happens after signing with your agent, what can you do to help make this process at seamless as possible? Good question. Keller Media has a great post with six tips to help your agent sell your book!

And while your agent is pitching one book, make sure you’re working on another project. It will not only keep your writing skills sharp, but it will keep you sane while you wait for news!


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