Agency Lessons: What does the path look like

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I came across this quote a few weeks ago and it really hit a chord with me.
Many bloggers fail to realise that what they know and consider 'BASIC' is actually 'ADVANCED' to many of their readers. ~ Darren RowseThink about it.
Think about it. If you are new to the world of publishing, I'm willing to bet that most of the blog posts you read feel like mini epiphanies. I remember the first time I stumbled upon a post that listed standard word counts for different genres. Mind. Blown. But if you've been around for a while, it can start to feel like everyone must know these publishing truths that have just become a part of your assumed knowledge.

But of course, not everyone does know that. Every day someone new wakes up and thinks, "I want to write a novel. Wonder what I need to know?"

To celebrate these new writers, I figured it was time to go back to the basics and talk about some of the publishing info that I started assuming everyone already knew. Today, let's talk about the path a book takes to be sold to a publisher. In the interest of simplification, I'm going to talk about the traditional book path.

So, you start with a manuscript. In publishing, we refer to anything that isn't yet published as a manuscript. Once a book is sold and is set to be published, we start calling it a novel. This is not a hard and fast rule. You are not going to get angry side eye if you call a manuscript a novel or vice versa.

Once you got your manuscript shiny and polished to the very best of your ability AND you've let other people (who are not related to you) read this manuscript, you are ready to query. At this point you can query agents or small publishers that are open to unsolicited manuscript. Unsolicited manuscripts are what the industry calls submissions that do not come from an agent. For today, let's go with the agent route.

When you are ready to query, you'll need to do some research, find agents who are open to queries and looking for your type of story. This process alone deserves several blog posts, so we are going to glaze over this part for now. Mazel Tov, you rocked the query process and got an agent.

Now the hard work really starts. Your agent will probably have you do at least one round of edits. I have yet to have a manuscript that I send out without doing at least a light edit. Once that is ready, your agent will do her own research in finding editors they think will like your manuscript.

If the editor is interested, they will read it (or have an intern/assistant read it). Let's say they love it. Congrats you're on a roll, but still not there yet.

At smaller houses, an editor might be able to just say "Love this. Let's get it." At the bigger houses, you've got even more hoops to jump through. The editor will have to put together a proposal, including a profit/loss statement and then go in front of a board to argue why this book belongs on the house's list. They will need to convince the marketing group that the book has an audience, they need to convince sales that the book will be attractive to book buyers (at book stores, not individual readers), and they'll need to convince everyone that the book has the potential to make money.

Obviously, if you are a debut author this is harder to prove. Which is why a debut author has a harder time getting a new book deal than an established author with a solid sales history.

Keep in mind, through this whole scenario, everyone loves the manuscript. You can have a manuscript that both an agent and editor love, but still end up without a deal. I don't say that to discourage, only to show that there are a lot of factors involved in getting a book deal that have nothing do with you or your ability to write an amazing story.

This is a very scaled down example, but hopefully it gives a good idea of the process a book takes. I realize that it can be intimidating as a newbie to ask questions. But sometimes, that's the only way to find out what you don't know. If you have questions, I encourage you to leave them in the comments or email me. I promise, agents aren't scary and we really do want you to know everything that can help you on the path to becoming an amazing author.