I used to think that once you got an agent, your book would sell and your career would begin. Now I realize that getting an agent is one step along this journey of a thousand miles. Sometimes your book sells right away. More often, though, you get feedback from editors and you revise. Or you get passes and your agent recommends that you begin your next book. Or you and your agent figure out you’re not such a great match and you look for another agent.
In case any of these less than immediate scenarios applies to you, I came up with a list of things to do AFTER you get that shining offer of rep.
1. Begin your next book. The great Lisa Unger swears by retreating into the next work to cope with sub purgatory, and I myself can’t stress the importance enough. Not only will it occupy your mind during the anxiety of they submission process, but it will look good to editors who are considering your work, and in the immortal words of Jodi Picoult, possibly even sell first.
2. Write to authors whose work you admire. When I started doing this, I had to write actual snail mail letters (and possibly looked a little stalkerish, since coming up with addresses sometimes took, uh, a certain degree of wile). But my letters were nice, since I felt genuinely humble in the face of such talent, and a surprising number of people were kind enough to write back and even agree to provide blurbs for my unpublished novel. Even if you don’t receive blurbs in advance of publication, by beginning an occasional correspondence now, you will have people to contact for them when your book does sell. And it’ll be easier for you than it was for me, since most authors accept contact by email. (If you do send a real letter, don’t hand deliver it, or bring a bunny along to boil, or what have you.)
3. Meet booksellers, especially independent ones. (Indie booksellers make authors into stars.) You can do this merely by going in and browsing in the store. If you can afford it, buy something. Support an author, the store, and print publishing. Then look around for the person behind the information counter, and say hello. Mention that your own novel is on submission. Always get the person’s name and tuck it away. I never visit a friend, go on vacation, or take a business trip without finding every bookstore within a certain radius. (Yes, I have nearly bankrupted us since I practice my buy-a-book preaching.)
4. Start a website and begin blogging. You’re reading this. ‘Nuff said.
5. Be nice to your agent. S/he is working for you for free out of pure faith, passion, and commitment. Send holiday cards or small gifts and remember that if it gets frustrating, your agent is in the trenches, trying to get you out.
I would love to see your additions to the list!