from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

My agent II
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From Jennifer:

"So for three years you waited for your agent to sell your novel. Did your agent recommend any revisions or was he selling it the way it was?

"In the interim I'm assuming you wrote another novel or two. Did he sell the next work at the same time? Does it often take a few years for an agent to sell a first book? (I've heard that before.)"

My agent happens to be a good editor, so he did ask for some revisions before he started to show the book around. Some agents are editors and some aren't; it's not really part of their job, but if they can do it, that's just one more strength for the writer. I always take his comments very seriously on a ms., though, like my editor's, I don't always comply with them.

In the meantime I wrote a second book. He stopped sending out the first and sent the second. Also no dice. Meanwhile, I wrote a third. What was I thinking? I couldn't tell you. Anyway, the third, which was different from the other two, attracted the attention of an editor who asked if he could also see the second. He bought them both, and eventually the first, too, which, with some rewrites, was published later in my series. (My first 8 books are a series, which I'll go back to after ABSENT FRIENDS and the one following AF.)

Yes, it can take a very long time for an agent to sell the work of a new writer. From a publisher's point of view, they're being asked to take a chance on an unknown, and they have to be persuaded there's a compelling reason. Lots of factors come into play: the chemistry between agent and editor (and later, between editor and writer -- did I blog about the two-and-a-half-hour size-each-other-up lunch?); the other books the publishing house has already lined up; what's hot in the market right now; and things like the editor's internal situation in the publishing house's politics. Most of these have nothing to do with the writer or the book. That's why you just have to keep on writing the book you want to write, don't try to outguess the market, and let your agent do his/her job.

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