This post is for people who are writer-adjacent, the friends and family of writers (hi, friends and family!) or for people who are new to writing and still trying to figure out how this whole process works. So, for my experienced query-warriors, you may mosey on past this post if you’d like to.
With the conclusion of the PitchWars agent round, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about what comes next so I figure now is as good a time as any to break down what happens after an author writes and edits a book that they hope to traditionally publish (meaning not self-publish.)
Outside of the world of PitchWars, it usually goes like this:
- Write: Finish and revise a book. Get feedback and critique and polish it to a glimmering shine.
- Query: After finishing a book comes the slow and often painful process called querying. Querying means that you write a query letter (like a cover letter for your book) and you email it to agents who you think might like your book, usually with the first few (5-10) pages of your book.
No, seriously. Get comfortable. It’s pretty common for it to take months before an agent will read a query letter. Some agents are incredibly fast (I know people who have received a response in 3 minutes, literally) but most commonly it’s more like a month to three months. But eventually you may…
- Get a response: This can be the dreaded “Sorry, but I’m not a good fit for this manuscript” (sad face) or, sometimes, a request for more pages (happy face!)
If a writer gets a request for more pages, either a partial (first 50/75/100) or a full, then they get to….
- Wait (again): It can still take months before an agent works his or her way through their pile of reading and reads those requested pages.
But eventually they will and if they like what they read, then comes:
- An offer!
Yay! Celebrate! And then, of course, comes more…
- Revision: The author and the agent usually work together to revise the manuscript even more, so that it’s perfect before the agent sends it out on….
- Submission: This is the part when an agent takes the shiny manuscript to the editors at publishing houses that they think may like it. If the editors like it, and they can convince their publishing house to make an offer, then you have a…
- BOOK DEAL! And that’s when the champagne gets popped and your mom and aunt and grandma start telling people that you are a “real live author of real books” although, let’s be honest, they probably started doing this ages ago.
So that’s the process. Sounds fun, huh? And so speedy. Ha! No. Not at all. Very slow, actually.
Granted, contests like PitchWars can speed up this process a bit and often do for a segment of each PitchWars class. Already this week we’ve had a number of mentees receive offers. Some of them have multiple offers and they’re in the process of choosing the agent they will work with from this point forward. Which is AWESOME!!!!
But it doesn’t happen quite that quickly for everyone. While many mentees wait to hear back from the agents who requested their manuscripts during the agent showcase, most are jumping into the query trenches. After all, a request is not a guarantee that an agent will fall in love with a manuscript. And many many many former PitchWars mentees in previous years found their agents through good old cold querying after the contest ended.
So there you have it! The glamorous life of an unpublished author! A lot of writing, revising, and…. waiting.
Have a great weekend everyone!
(To any of my fellow mentees reading this, I would tell you to step away from your email inbox but I know that isn’t happening. So, pour a glass of wine or whiskey with one hand while you hit refresh with the other, okay? Love you all!)