In this final installment of my submission process series, I’ll tackle what happens after submission, whether the submission resulted in a book deal or not.
No Deal Next Steps:
Despite the best efforts of yourself and your agent, your book didn’t sell during the first round of submissions. At this point you should talk to your agent about next steps. The first question you can ask is: will there be a round two? If the agent says yes, then the next thing you need to determine is whether or not it makes sense for you to revise the manuscript before round two. If most of the editors that read your book turned it down for the same reason, then it makes sense to revise it. If the reasons they turned it down varied wildly, then it can be hard to determine what changes need to be made, if any. Talk to your agent about revisions before you invest a lot of time making them to see whether or not she thinks it would be worthwhile.
If your agent is not planning to send out your book for round two, you have a few options:
1. Give her a new book to send out.
You may have a novel you wrote a long time ago or one you’re in the process of writing. In either case, this novel is a fresh slate, so your agent may want to send it out. However, your agent isn’t required to send out this other novel if she doesn’t feel it’s ready or right for her. At which point, you may have a third novel she might be interested in, or you may want to try one of these other three options.
2. Void your agency agreement and try to find a new agent for your book.
When and how you can cancel your agency agreement should be spelled out in the agreement itself, so make sure you look at that before you move in this direction. Assuming nothing prevents you from voiding it, make sure your agent gives you a list of the editors that read your book before you start querying new agents. The reason for this is that any future agents who might represent you on this book can’t send your book to the same imprints or publishers that already turned it down, so the agent will ask to see this list before making a decision on your book. If the list contains all of the imprints he would have sent it to, then he may decide not to represent you on this book. Many agents also will not represent a book that they don’t believe they can sell to a major publisher, so if your book has been turned down by every or even most major imprints, then a new agent doesn’t have much of an incentive to represent you on that particular book. In which case, you may want to try option 3.
3. Try to find a new agent for a new book.
Your new book is a blank slate that doesn’t have the submission baggage of your initial book. Hence, agents can consider it with fresh eyes. When I receive a query from an author who was previously represented on a different book, it typically makes me pay more attention to it, because I know the author has a talent that has been recognized by a fellow agent.
If none of the above options work out, you can try option 4.
I have mixed feelings about self-publishing, as I detailed in this blog, but for some authors it’s the best option.
Yes Deal Next Steps:
YAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!! You received an offer on your book!!!! Next, your agent notifies the other editors reading your book that you have an offer and often gives them a deadline by which they need to make their own offer.
If no other editors make an offer, then your agent negotiates just with the offering editor for things like a higher advance, possibly higher royalty rates, and control over sub-rights. If you have offers from two editors, you have more leverage during negotiations. If you have offers from three or more editors, your agent will have an auction. During an auction, each publisher makes an opening bid, then the agent notifies the editors that don’t have the high bid what the high bid is, and the lower bidding editors increase their bids. Then the agent notifies the editors what the new high bid is, and so on and so forth until things start stagnating, at which point the agent asks the editors for their final bid. And once the agent shares those final bids with the author, the author decides who he wants to work with. At which point the agent notifies the winning editor that author accepts the offer.
One difference between publishing and a lot of other fields is that once an agent accepts an offer on the author’s behalf, the publishing process swings into motion, even though there is no contract yet. The contract will come from the publisher’s contract department, not the editor. The contract department has a backlog of contracts they’re working on, so it’s not unusual for it to take 2-4 weeks to receive a contract from them.
In the meantime, the editor may ask the author to fill out a questionnaire detailing the author’s contact information, bio, websites, blogs, marketing connections, a short synopsis of the book, etc. The editor may also provide the author with editorial feedback on the book and a delivery date by which the author needs to turn in his revisions.
Once the agent receives the contract, she will review it herself and pass it on to the author to review and/or share with a lawyer (or anyone else) should he choose to do so. At this point, the author has already accepted the basic terms of the contract (advance, royalty rates, sub-rights control), so these terms are not open to negotiation. What is open to negotiation are areas like: royalty rates not presented during initial offer (for things like highly discounted copies), cover approval/consultation, the definition for how a book is deemed “out of print” (which is important if the author ever wants their rights reverted), the number of free copies the author receives and the discount at which he can purchase more copies, the author’s responsibility in the event of a lawsuit over the book and his control over any settlements, and a myriad of little details like that. The agent then compiles a contract memo detailing the revisions she and the author are requesting, and sends it to the contract department. It can take the contract department anywhere from a day to a few weeks to respond to this request. Some revisions they will easily agree to and others they may push back on, so it’s not unusual for there to be multiple rounds of negotiations.
Once you’ve accepted the final terms of the contract, huzzah! You have a book deal!