Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Sale: A Timeline

I was wondering how long it took to sell your book from the time your agent sent it out to when it sold. Also, how often were you talking to your agent during this process? Would you mind sharing?

Happy to share. Officially, it took ten days. Unofficially, it took a little longer. Why? Because my agent was savvy. The ms was ready to go toward mid-December, but she didn't want to send it out during the dead period of the holidays. So what she did instead was call all of the editors who were on her list a few days before they left for their vacation, telling them that it would land on their desks on Jan 3rd, the first day they were back. Her enthusiasm must have transfered over the telephone line because a few editors requested a sneak peek, which meant that they toted it home with them over the Christmas holiday. So by the time everyone got back to their offices and cracked open the ms, we already had a few requests for second reads and a lot of positive feedback. Which meant that all of the other editors, who might normally have tucked the ms at the bottom of their bags and gotten to it when they got to it, read it within a few days. Thus, we had four offers about a week later.

Keep in mind, however, that there really isn't a set timeline for how quickly a ms should or will sell. I remember reading that Meghan Daum's The Quality of Life Report sold in, like, a day (seriously!), and that James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (I know, I know) was rejected by 13 imprints before Nan Talese made an offer. Whatever you think of Frey and his book, it's still an example that it only takes ONE offer, and that offer might be the first or last one you get. Who cares, really? As long as it's an offer.

As far as how much contact I had with my agent during the submission process, well, I had a lot, which I think I've mentioned on the blog before. We emailed or spoke on the phone every day, even if it were only for her to calm my nerves. But again, this will vary. I chose my agent in part because I liked her collaborative approach: I'm a hands-on type of gal, so it was important to me that a) my agent knew this and b) she was cool with my involvement. She was and she still is. We still talk fairly often, whether it's about the cover art or film rights or whatever. If you're on the agent hunt and want to be more actively involved, ASK your agent HOW she feels about this. If you don't, and you find yourself shut out, you really can't complain much.

Any other authors out there want to share their own timelines? I really do think that each one is individual and will vary. So don't panic if your ms hasn't sold overnight!


Joe @ said...

One medium sized, ordinary elm tree will transpire 15,000 pounds of water on a clear, hot, dry, day.

Deforestation --> Desertification

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post! Because the waiting period can be so difficult--but there really does seem to be no set time for how/when a book will get picked up.

My first novel was picked up in about a week. (My agent sent it out on a Thursday, and we received an offer the following Tuesday.)

I have a good friend who received her offer two months in--and she has a great editor now, and the book is set for success.

From what I can gather, the length of time depends on a bunch of factors--like what is happening in an editor's life at a given time. (For example, there are huge book fairs in early October and late May...if your book goes out at those time, it will probably take longer because editors tend to be away.)

So I firmly echo Allison's sentiments. NO need to panic--much need to take deep breaths.

Trish Ryan said...

Waiting for an offer is like waiting for the phone to ring after the guy you've oggled for months casually hints that he might call you sometime. Honestly, it's excruciating.

It was only 2-3 weeks between the day my agent sent out my proposal and when the offers came in (which is nothing when you consider how long I'd been hoping/praying/practicing my humble Oscar acceptance speech for the film adaptation...) but it felt like forever.

Like the phone call, though, when it comes it's worth the wait :)

Amie Stuart said...

I sold first with no agent but here's how it went. I sent off the query and 3 chapters, got a request for full a month later and didn't have it. Instead (since it was a single-author antho) i sent the first story and the synopsis for the other two stories. Five months later I got an email from my editor wanting the book. I'm honestly not sure if being epubbed weighed in as far as buying a not finished book or not.

Larramie said...

According to Allison and Laura, timing IS everything and planning your submissions accordingly seems to lessen the waiting game.

BTW, how impressive is it to post along with Laura Dave (London Is the Best City in America) and Allison? Not only is this blog informative, it can even make a newbie feel somewhat "professional." ;o)

Thanks much.

Sara Hantz said...

I got a request for revisions after about 10 days, then a second set and then an offer - the whole process took maybe a couple of months, possibly three - I can't remember! In that time some other publishers took second reads. In the grand scheme of things fairly swift.

From starting to write the book to finding and agent and selling it took 8 months!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Very enlightening! And interesting how much variation there is in the timeline.

It's gotta feel great to get that call anytime, but imagine getting it in just a couple of days (hours!) Whew! Better get back to work...

Anonymous said...

My proposal for BITTER was ready in early December, but my agent wanted to hold off until the new year, too. We sent it out Friday afternoon and started getting calls on Tuesday. Fortunately, there was enough interest to have an auction two weeks from the day it was originally sent, which is also when we struck the deal.

I feel incredibly lucky it happened so fast because I was a basket case, complete with terror sweat.

What was particularly surreal about the experience is the book hadn't yet been written. (My proposal only had three complete chapters and a detailed synopsis which took me over a year to deliver.) I was more than a little anxious because I couldn't manage to get a check to my student loan people in a timely manner, which only entailed writing about ten words -- I had no clue as to how I was going to deliver EIGHTY THOUSAND of them in four months.

(It seemed to work out, though.)