The last time I was here, I chatted about the things rejection has taught me. Little did I know that when I wrote that post, I was about three weeks away away from selling my debut. It’s been a whirlwind past year, and I’m so honored to have been invited back to share the things I’ve learned since the sale.
1.Agents are worth their weight in gold.
So it turns out that I vastly underestimated the enormity of a literary agent’s job. My prior dealings with my agent were basically: Here, read my book and send it places. But now, after making that first sale? Whoa.
We can start with the contract. When I read my publishing contract, there were several bits that confused me and one entire provision that might as well have been written in Mandarin. I read it a dozen or so times and had no idea what it meant. No earthly idea. Which was kind of embarrassing because, you know, I’m a lawyer. Without my agent, I wouldn’t have known which terms to negotiate and which to leave alone. And things I thought I understood, like all of the subrights? I quickly realized I couldn’t define things like first serial, second serial, and premium rights if my life depended on it.
And then there’s everything my agent has had a hand in after the contract was signed, sealed, and delivered. Editorial letters, deadline extensions, sales and marketing decisions. I could go on and on. And while it’s true you technically don’t need an agent to make a sale or negotiate a contract, I honestly can’t imagine not having one on my side over the course of the past year.
2. No matter how prepared you think you are, you are the deer and there will be headlights.
Like most aspiring authors, I dreamed about finally making the sale. And like most authors who finally made the sale, I had no idea what it entailed. Talking with other author friends who are set to debut in 2014, I’ve discovered that entering a completely catatonic state in which you basically find yourself unable to function is perfectly normal.
I sold the first two books in a series. While I was waiting for the editorial letter for my first book, I knew I needed to be writing the second book. But…I couldn’t. I sat down every morning, fired up my computer, and stared at the screen, plagued by self-doubt. Because now, all of a sudden, writing was real. People were going to read these words. People were going to love these words. People were going to hate these words. People were going to say mean, vicious things about these words. And so I sat there, unable to write a single word, for months. The second book has reduced me to tears more times than I care to admit, and it all comes down to FEAR.
Fear that it won’t be good enough. Fear that my editor will reject it. Fear that everyone will read it and laugh. Fear that my friends will talk about how bad it is behind my back. And I wish I had the magic answer for how I finally pushed myself through the fear, but the truth of the matter is, I haven’t. I’m still scared. But I also have deadlines, and fear don’t pay the bills, you know?
3. Get ready to start answering questions like you’re in a deposition.
There are the awesome questions. The questions you answer with a huge smile on your face, even if you don’t know the answers yet, because you’re just so darned happy to be asked them.
“When does the book come out?”
“What’s it about?”
“Who’s your publisher?”
“Where can I buy a copy?”
“Can I preorder it?”
“When’s the launch party?”
And then there are the not so awesome questions. The ones you have to have to politely answer with a forced smile on your face.
“You’re going to give me a free copy of the book, right?”
“So how much did you have to pay someone to publish your book?”
“How much do you make?”
“Hey, I have this half-baked idea for a book. Can you introduce me to your agent/editor?”
I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. Savor the positive, brush off the negative. Because, at the end of the day, I’m realizing a dream. It’s a long, crazy, twisty sort of the dream, the kind that alternately wakes you with a feeling of pure satisfaction one night and makes you spring up, clutching the covers and gasping for breath the next.
But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
MEREDITH MCCARDLE is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Her debut, The Eighth Guardian, will be published by Skyscape/Amazon Children’s in May of 2014. It’s the first in a series.