You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right, and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.
1. Your Book Will Soon Be Published
Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.
In addition, the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor, we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus, beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent, this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course, there are exceptions; but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.
2. You Will Soon Be Rich
A common myth about writers: They live on easy street and vacation in the Caribbean. Few writers are able to generate enough income on their books alone to make a full-time living. You read about them because they are the exceptions and are thus newsworthy. Of course, a full-time salary is defined differently by each person because needs vary.
One author I know signed with an agent and then immediately quit their job because they knew that the dough was going to flow. A couple months later that author was in serious financial straits. Be wise with your finances. And read the article called “Author Accounting 101.”
3. You Never Have to Pitch a Book to an Editor Ever Again
While your agent has a critical role in shaping your proposals and putting them in the hands of the right editor and publisher, there is no one who can sell your idea better than you. We agents encourage writers to keep in touch with their editors and even brainstorm new ideas. That is a natural part of the editor/author relationship–if you are already published.
If you are attending a writers conference, talk to the editors. Get to know them; some are actually nice people! Editors like the world of ideas; and when they hear your passion and read your brilliant writing, they can become enamored with your project. The agent can become the “closer” in a situation like that. If in doubt, talk to your agent prior to that conference and strategize who would be the best editors to meet with. We do this all the time with our clients. I have talked with and encouraged dozens upon dozens of now-published writers at these conferences.