If you have an agent you already did this once; you sent the words of your heart and soul out into the bleak world of the agent’s inbox to fend for itself and — miracle upon joyous miracle — they succeeded. You achieved a huge thing, and you can rest easy that your work is of publishable quality. It simply is – because your agent wouldn’t submit it otherwise. But of course, there is no resting easy, not ever again. The fun is just beginning…

What to expect

So now you have to go through submission all over again, except this time you may not be alone, if you’re agented, they have your back. But they can’t force publishers to buy your book…

Things that are totally normal:


Possibily for months. I know one (now successful full-time) author whose first book took a year to sell. You will almost definitely have to wait weeks, it is common you will wait months. 

Image credits: Brandi Redd [Source: Unsplash]
  • Silence

You’ve probably had a lot of contact with your agent on the run up to submission with the edits and planning. Now it may go quiet. This doesn’t mean said agent has forgotten you, but there’s not much they can do other than nudge editors every few weeks. Agents really are very busy.

Revise and resubmit

You may get an R and R (revise and resubmit) this is a good sign but can also be difficult as you are then developing your manuscript for an editor who hasn’t yet committed to buying the book. I haven’t had this experience but would advise you are very specific about the edits needed and keep open communication with both agent and editor. 

  • A sale

One offer or multiple offers, a pre-empt or an auction. There are so many different ways a book can be sold, some every sell abroad before they sell here. Ask your agent lots of questions at this stage – that’s what they are there for. And remember fancy auctions are NOT the usual way books are sold, that’s just what we hear about. Readers do not care what your advance was or how many publishers wanted it. 

All sound terrifying? It is a bit, but you can do this. Some tips on how to cope:

  • Agree with your agent when you would like to be contacted. Every response or only positive responses? Depends what type of person you are. 
  • Ask your agent for the list of editors it is going out to, but only if you want to know. There isn’t much benefit in knowing at this stage. 
  • Avoid comparison with other authors – everyone has their own journey and nothing is ‘normal’ in publishing. This probably means avoiding social media. Stalking the editors you know have your manuscript definitely won’t help the time pass more quickly. You know I’m right. 
  • Even the most robust mental health may suffer in this brutal waiting time, so step up your self-care – whatever works for you, but getting outside and doing things non-book related is a great start.
  • Write. I was unsuccessful at this – too nervous to get the creative juices flowing. If not don’t be hard on yourself…read and watch wonderful stories on TV. Fill your creative cup.

All that and the beloved book didn’t sell? 

You are in good company as this happens to many authors. Your agent will tell you this, and they know, they expect that your first book may not make the sale. Definitely allow your sad feelings, you’ve worked so very hard and it’s horribly disappointing. 

So sulk. Eat Chocolate. Cry. 

But you must never despair. Quality does not guarantee a book deal. You need the right editor, at the right time and the right story for them and their list. The stars must align, and luck is involved. It’s easy to feel that book was a colossal waste of time, but this is not true. You get closer to your goal through every word you write and every experience. Books can sometimes even be filed away and come out later when the time is right. But don’t dwell on that now, because you wrote a book once so you can do it again, and it will be even better. Now is the time for the second novel and this time you are probably working with an agent from the beginning. 

That was one step in your unique writing and publishing journey. Now flip down that visor and get ready for the next one. 

Lindsay’s first book The Secret Deep came out in the UK in 2018 and the next, Darwin’s Dragons, is to be published in early 2021. She writes YA, MG and has adult and younger fiction works in progress. She reads in all genres and loves to edit, she is an experienced mentor plus a critique partner of published authors.

Lindsay came late to writing, self-taught, after a career teaching which is now part time. She is a slush-pile (talent pool!) conqueror who came from nowhere and had no contacts and – although it took a while – had the first ever book she wrote published by the excellent Chicken House.

An experienced teacher, Lindsay’s workshop style is upbeat, constructive and focuses on the practical. She is sensitive to those at different stages of their writing journeys and the courage it takes to share work. Her workshops have a positive supportive atmosphere, intended to empower writers. All questions are welcome.

Lindsay is also a Spark Mentor and runs our 6 week MG WriteMaster course.