What Happens AFTER you get a Literary Agent?

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If you are new to my site or my story, you can read my announcement post here about my upcoming book and signing with literary agents Aemilia Phillips and David Patterson at Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency.


Many readers and aspiring authors have asked me about the next steps after you sign with a literary agent. Everything about the process of getting the Rebel Heart book published has been new for me. Even though I’ve blogged and written articles and essays for years, it was new to write a full-length creative nonfiction book. It was new to sit down and look at the business of a book proposal and to dive into the different type of writing it required. It was new to work with developmental and technical editors through draft after draft. Querying agents was also new and the courage it took to send out queries was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

In addition to writing and editing, I read books about the process of getting published. And I devoured memoirs and creative nonfiction from authors whose work I admire. I polled my readers and drilled down into Google Analytics on my websites to understand who my readership was, and present that within the context of a book proposal. All with the understanding that a book proposal is really a business proposal, or a marketing plan for how to sell your book. I wrote and researched and dug and analyzed until I find myself at this moment, signed with my literary agents, Aemilia Phillips and David Patterson.

Signing with an agent is not the finish line, it’s actually the start of the race (towards publication). Yes, acquiring an agent is a massive hurdle and you should go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief once your contract is signed. Heck, take a bubble bath. Pour some champagne. Savor the moment. Just know there is a lot more work to come. And that’s okay. It’s part of the long road to getting published. The good news is that signing with an agent means you are closer than ever to having a published book.

The steps from signing to publication will look different for every author based on your genre, whether you submitted a full manuscript, a partially completed one, or a proposal, etc. Here are what the next steps look like for me (and many others):

Step One – Elation & Validation. These two emotions are often swirled with the relief I mentioned above. This is the part where you announce your news from the rooftops, to your friends and family and the online world. It’s the part where people ask you about the book and you get to affect a fancy accent when you say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my Ahhhh-gent about it.” During this stage you’ll meet people while out running errands who you haven’t seen in a few months and you’ll get to gush about signing. You won’t just reserve this exuberance for friends and acquaintances either, you’ll also let the UPS guy know, all of the cashiers at your supermarket, and literally anyone who happens to ask how you’re doing that day.

While you may have been a writer for years before acquiring an agent, there is something so validating about signing that contract. You now have a professional on your side who believes in your writing and will go to bat for you when it’s time to approach editors. You are a part of their agency family. I recommend following other authors your agent and agency represents and reading and supporting their work too.

The elation & validation step should be enjoyed. You’ve earned it.

Step Two – The Edit Letter. Sometime after the high of step one, you’ll need to get down to the nitty gritty. This is when you meet with your agent to look at the scope of work still needed before your agent can take the manuscript to publishers. Step two can look different depending on the agent you signed with and the current state of your manuscript. Some agents only sign with authors whose books are ready to submit. Other agents like to act as editors and will often work through rounds of edits to get a book ready for submittal.

You’ll need to do your homework on what kind of agent you want and know which kind they are before you query them. I met with my agents and went over in detail their suggestions for the book and whether or not I agreed with them. I thought their ideas would make the story stronger so they formalized the suggestions into an edit letter and sent it my way.

Step Three – Editing (and sometimes rounds of editing). This step will depend on the scope of your edit letter and the revisions needed. You may work on specific sections of the book and send them to your agent as each is completed or you might work on a complete draft each time. Some authors will only have a few changes they need to complete. Their agent will then review and send back any further revision requests and that will be it. Sometimes several rounds will be required.

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(You can view a PDF of this image here. )

Step Four – Submitting to Editors (Publishing Houses) for a book deal. There are many steps involved in the process of submitting to editors, reviewing and accepting an offer, and the proceeding steps of working with your new publisher. The process will look different for each author based on your genre of book and if you publish with one of the big five publishers, a mid-size/large press, or a small press. This image by Jane Friedman shows just how intricate ‘step four’ is. Indeed it will warrant its own post with its own steps on the path to publishing.


Right now I’m diligently working through a round of edits from my agent’s edit letter (step three) and hope to have this round sent off by the end of the month. They might come back with additional revision requests and we’ll go back and forth until they think the manuscript is ready to submit to editors. I’ll keep you posted!

If you have any questions about this article or other parts about publishing a book, feel free to ask in comments.

All the best,



Tags: What happens after you get a literary agent? What happens after you sign with an agent? You have an agent for your book, what’s next?

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