You’ve Submitted Your Book: Now What? By Karina Cooper

…Now you do a rain dance.

Or, and stick with me now, you can do something far more productive to pass that time. If we’re talking me, I vote for that, but if you’re really into superstition and deific intervention, I’m not going to judge you. Out loud. Where you can hear me.

If you’re not so into wild gesticulation, salt over the shoulder, and sacrifice (human or otherwise)—or even if you are but want options—here’s a few suggestions to get you through that eternal period after the book is pitched and sent out.

Write Another Book

This is advice primarily for those authors who intend to have more than one book out a year. This may not apply to you. If you are one of those Richard Castle types, then I suggest you ignore this, kick back with a glass of something that burns going down (not gasoline, though), and practice looking smug.

For the rest of you, ask yourself this: once your book is out (think positive!), do you intend for that book to be the only book you put out that year? Or ever? No? You want more books, right?

When did you intend to write it?

I find that the point when I submit a book to an editor or to my agent—and yes, this is a habit going all the way back to when I first submitted Blood of the Wicked, my first (publishable, I won’t lie) book, to my queried agents—is the perfect point to work on a new book. This is my default choice.

Here’s why: say your book is out there, and it’s read, and the note comes back. Dear you— the market isn’t great for this/this has a lot of potential/I don’t rep this kind of book exactly, what else do you have? Love, agent/editor of choice.

What are you going to say? “Erm, nothing,” seems to be the default. “If you can give me six months, I can write something?”

The agent/editor shrugs, says to go ahead and pitch when you’ve got something, but who the hell knows what the market will be doing in six months, anyway?

Or you pitch that second book you’ve got half-way or completely written. (Some agents/editors get back within a few weeks, others within a few months, still others sometime in the next two quarters.) The agent/editor then sees that not only do you have the drive to write more than just the one break-out book, but you are treating the writing aspect as a discipline, and you have multiple ideas.

But What Book Should I Write Next?

As much as I’d love to treat this like there’s one solid answer to ease all your woes, there just isn’t. Every author will have different advice here. It really comes down to your speed of writing, your ideas, and an educated guess.

As a rule, I like to suggest that authors write something different than their submitted book. If you just sent out a science-fiction romance, why not give another genre a try? (This is best utilized when your chosen agent represents multiple genres, as a note.)

If you’re keen on writing romance, then pick your choice from the wide array of sub-genres: historical, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, western, and so on. If you want to try something from a different genre or category entirely—Young Adult? New Adult? Speculative fiction? Mysteries?—then do it.

Another option is to write the second book in your series—if what you just submitted was series. This can be really nice for prospective agents/editors. It shows that you’re going somewhere with the series, that you can keep writing, that you’re dedicated, and it can allow them to make a marketing choice that includes quicker release days (you know, for when your book eventually sells).

It’s a gamble, but this career always is. What you need to decide is if you want to put all your wordeggs in one fragile basket, or if you choose to have options to pitch.

Karina Cooper’s School of Practical Experience

I was too busy to do a rain dance. Here’s what I did: the very instant I finished the manuscript that would become my first book, I plotted and began writing the second book. At the same time, I was lobbing query after query to prospective agents. I maintained 4 different queries out at any given time—but I kind of recommend 7, as a rule. I was lazy.

Choosing to write the second book was definitely a gamble, and it’s not a path that I would recommend for anyone who wants a safer alternative. In my case, I’m weirdly stubborn and a little bit inclined to think I’m invincible—don’t worry, this job knocks that out of you quick—and I did it anyway. What worked in my favor is that I write legitimately fast. My baseline is four books a year (not including novellas), and I’m generally content doing that. This meant that even if Blood of the Wicked never sold, leaving the second book in the lurch, it wasn’t a huge loss (except to my pride) because I could write another book fairly quickly.

I honestly believed I would sell. Fortunately, I was right.

But here’s how it works for me now, repeat published as I am and officially an award-winning author (so you have to listen to me, because I’m legit; you can tell by the ‘Fucking’ now placed between Karina and Cooper in all official correspondence*). I currently, as we speak, have a book out on submission. Here’s the steps I took:

  1. Get the email agent has submitted book.
  2. Freak the fuck out, and yes, do a rain dance. Shut up.
  3. Plot and begin writing a whole new book in a completely different genre.

Number three is especially important, because for me, it passes the time while I wait to hear back from my agent about the progress of the book. If I didn’t focus on meeting my daily page count goal, I would be obsessing over each day as it slipped away. Some books sell very fast. Some don’t. During summer, all bets are off.

If this submission does not sell, it will sting, but it will not be the end of my career—or even more than a bit of a delay. At best, I’ll have a new project to send my agent. At worst, I’ll have excellent headway on said project, so that I can send it to her sooner rather than later.

If I waited for official word to come back, I’d find myself in one of two positions:

  1. officially committed to a new series, which means I’d have to start work on book 2 right away, thereby holding any other projects on a delay until I can finish it; or,
  2. stuck twiddling my thumbs until the reply comes back with a no, and have even more time between my last sale and a new one since I’ll have wasted these weeks/months and still have to write a new book.

No matter how you look at it, I’m too impatient for either. If I’m lucky enough to sell, not only will I have this new project mostly done by that time, clearing the way to send this one out on submission and write book #2 of the new sale after, but I’ll be looking forward to two contracts in the near future, rather than one for now and another sometime much later.

Win/win.

Work On Your Platform

I hate, loathe and abominate this option. I always feel like it’s so disingenuous to go out with the express purpose of gathering an audience—a veritable Pied Piper melody of wordbitchery and personal opinions. However, no matter which way you slice it, this has to be done. You can’t really release a book into a vacuum. Or, well, you can but why would you?

My two favorite ways to work on any sort of “hi, I exist!” effort are through a personal (or group) blog and through Twitter. These work best for me because I’m chatty as whoa, damn. Your platform of choice might vary: Facebook, if you ask me, is made of Satan’s tears and soured whiskey gone bad, but if you like it, get on with your bad self.

As we all know, Herr Wendig created a hell of a platform with this here blog, Terribleminds. Obviously, he spent years doing so, and you won’t reach the same amount of people if you’re only just starting and in limited time, but a blog is a viable method to get your name, your voice and your sense of self out there.

Problem is, this requires more words be shuffled along from your brain through your fingers, into your recording device of choice, and lobbed into the great, wide world that is the trackless waste of the web.

If you’re at all like me, this is a slow process with not enough pay off in a fast enough manner. Like writing pages every day, it requires discipline, perseverance, and some modicum of wit—without trollskinning yourself by relying on rage, mockery or bullying to do it.

Still, you’ve got to exist on the net. Readers, these days, expect a certain amount of personal investment of your time. They like to know that you exist, that you’re a real human being, and that you’re more or less in touch with the world. While I don’t recommend setting up cameras in every room of your house and parading around semi-nude—do a rain dance! a rain dance!—I do find that reader investment really does alter when you make an effort to walk among them. Like normal people.

No, we aren’t normal. That’s not the point. Sometimes, you have to wear the hat.

It’s hard to be introverted in an extroverted business, and most authors are—at least in varying degrees—introverted. We’re all some level of hermit, but the key is in behaving like we aren’t. It’s not all acting. After all, we genuinely do enjoy our readers (or at least that we are read), so it really does behoove us to reach out now and again. If it means having to play a part, then play it to the hilt.

And they said all those years hanging out with actors wouldn’t give me anything but herpes**. Show what they know!

Commit Seppuku****

I understand that you need a friend to hold a blade over your head to ensure you die quickly. I also gather that said blade needs to be wicked sharp, and said friend wicked skilled, or else you get to sit there and bleed in excruciating pain while your unskilled friend with the dull blade hacks your head off after a few tries.

I don’t recommend this option. Nobody likes a one-book-wonder. Write more books instead.

Make Friends

Confession: I have excellent author friends.

Second confession: I befriended them mostly by finding them online on various social platforms and reaching out in my usual balls-out way (which is to say, without overt fear, not with my pants down about my ankles—although I remain a strong proponent of pantslessness as a rule) and striking up conversations with those who weren’t bothered by said balls-outness.

See Work On Your Platform above.

It’s really very hard to survive in this world without friends. While I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and cultivate fake friendships just to get people to talk about you, I am talking about finding like-minded individuals who will understand you when you blog about depression, who will cheer for you when your book comes out, and who will be made happy when you cheer for their book release days.

This job gets hard at times. Socially, mentally, even physically when your wrist starts exhibiting RSI symptoms or your back compacts from too many hours with ass in chair. Have you ever experience chair-ass? You will. You will.

Friends who Get It™ are invaluable. They will goad you when you need to be goaded, cheer you up when you need cheering, keep you informed about changes in the industry simply be doing what they do best—which is the same thing you should be doing best, which is working hard and paying attention and making friends. They will remind you, through their own foibles and neurosis, that you are not alone.

Sometimes, they have whole months of absence from their blogs and they will call you a friend and let you write a blog post on their multi-bajillion readership blog platform.

Look, I’m not saying that you should find friends you can use. What I’m trying to say here is that nobody can operate in a vacuum anymore. Writers have a hard job—living in other peoples’ heads for so long is taxing, to say nothing of the rest of the business (which is, I am convinced, intent on fracturing my soul).  We get tapped for energy, we lose steam, and we need help. We all lean on each other.

Chuck needed a hand filling some guest slots, and I had stuff to say. It nets me views—how you doin’?—as well as allows me to share some bits of wisdom for you. I could offer Chuck a space on my blog in exchange, but that really wouldn’t serve him—instead, I make it a point to talk about his new books when I tweet, because I luuuuurve Chuck and want him to succeed.

Do you know how many authors climbed out of the woodwork to send me messages of love and support when my depression hit somewhere near the bottom? Do you know how many tweets I send to authors who are feeling angry, frustrated, depressed or scared about the world and their place in it? (We are all basket cases, don’t even try to lie).

Authors understand authors. The sooner you find yourself part of a healthy author community, that happier you will be. Take my word on that.

Don’t Forget Your Other Life

You know, family. Friends. Food. Whiskey.

It might not take the sting from waiting, but don’t forget they’re there and hopefully waiting for you to succeed, too. Give them hugs. It helps.

Submission is scary. It’s a long, long, eternal, forever silence from your agent/editor, and no amount of rational thinking will make that easier. All you can do is busy yourself with more work, with the family waiting for you to feed them, with social interaction.

Before you’ll know it, you’ll get the response you’re waiting for.

Dear you— I love your work. Let’s do magic. Love, the agent/editor who wants to sign you.

Footnotes:

* … Not really.

** … They totally didn’t say that. Well, I mean, some people said that, but it wasn’t about you, high school theater friends. They meant Hollywood***.

*** … Sorry, Hollywood. I love you, Tom Hiddleston/Benedict Cumberbatch/Olivia Wilde/Emma Stone/Robert Downey, Jr.

**** … Please don’t commit seppuku. Seriously.

Author Stuff

After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romances, steampunk adventures, crossover urban fantasy, and writes across multiple genres with mad glee. Her award winning series, The St. Croix Chronicles, is the RT Reviewers Choice Awards recipient for Best Steampunk Novel 2012.

One part glamour, one part dork and all imagination, Karina is also a gamer, an avid reader, a borderline hermit and an activist. She co-exists with a husband, a menagerie and a severe coffee habit. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.

If you like what she has to say—or if you just want to do a good deed—then sally forth and acquire The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway, the prequel to her award-winning steampunk series. Half of her proceeds from the novella will be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation.

19 comments

  • great advice….As an author in a limbo state (multi-published, yet not-and-wants-to-be-agented–about to release a genre cross over novel and terrified about it) I have to get off the effing internet and write another book I know that. I wrote and released 6.5 of them this year. And since 2014 is the Liz Finds A Great Agent year guess I’d best stop reading blogs but I sure am glad I caught this one! thanks for the guest post. (p.s. I always insert a “drink a lot of beer” in between hitting “send” and “hitting they keyboard ….again”.
    cheers
    Liz

    • I had considered the beer angle, but then I’d have to devote a whole other section to which type of booze I’d recommend and why. This seemed like it would push this blog over into way too long, you know? And booze is such a personal choice… You’ve got your beer drinkers, whiskey lovers, hardcore bourbonites, wine in the bottle, wine in the box, beer in a can, small breweries snobs, mixers, blenders, and let’s not forget the flavored vodkas.

      … Thank you for coming by. ;) And good luck on your agent search, Liz!

      – K.

  • Great post. Love the advice – and yes, it’s what I do myself. Actually, I’m rolling on my current series (under contract) and the first book in a possible NEW series – because, you know, if one book is good MORE BOOK IS BETTER!

    Also? Nailed the seppuku thing. A lousy kaishakunin (the Japanese name for that second with the hopefully-sharp blade) will spoil your whole day.

  • Can I ask a question that’s going to totally make me sound like an uber-jerk and one, which if you ever quote me as asking, I’ll entirely deny?

    I write about kids and sleep – don’t fall asleep yet, I won’t talk about it here. Anyhoo I KNOW I need to build my tribe, but all the other parenting-type writers are either a) really dull (seriously, like seriously seriously dull) people I don’t want to party with or b) entirely non-responsive.

    Truthfully most of the other bloggers/writers I’m interested in connecting with are 1,000% outside of my genre. (Fantasy fiction, how to blog blogs, and pop culture is honestly more my preference if truth be known.) So what do I do?

    • It’s not as uncommon or jerky as you think! You see this across the genres in milder to more intense patterns, from paranormal romance authors who don’t hang with the PNR tribe because they read Regencies to the YA writers who don’t form bonds with the YA crowd.

      The fact of the matter is, in the end, writers are writers. Sure, there are folks who say you need to band into genre tribes and rely on them to get your name out there, but I don’t believe that. The ones who have a dedicated reason to talk about you are the ones who like your books—and that means any author, reader, blogger or everyman who reads what you have to say and likes it.

      For example, I don’t read a ton of paranormal romance, despite the fact I began my career in it. The primary reason tends to be because I do write it, so I don’t want to over-saturate myself. However, my “tribe” is comprised of YAers, historical authors, multi-genre authors (like myself), mystery writers, crime writers, UFers, and more.

      Look at Chuck’s platform—this very blog—as a very large (and thus easy to grok) example of this. Not every person who comes to this blog reads (or likes) Chuck’s books. That’s practically impossible. Yet among his blog readers are those who connect to one book or the other, whether they are writers of the same genre or not, and they talk about his books. That’s an example of connections at work.

      Chuck does not write paranormal romance, nor does he write steampunk urban fantasy. Chuck and I don’t share publishers, or agents, or anything like that. He had no actual reason to allow me this spot on his blog, except that we are both authors in an industry where we craft words. We became friendly on social media, and I like to talk about his books. He sometimes likes what I have to say outside of books. Chuck is not my tribe… according to genre lines. Yet he is my tribe because we share interests of a similar nature, just like one would with anyone else one forms bonds with.

      This is a really, really long way of saying: you do your part within your genre because that’s business, but you don’t focus everything into that small group of people. Part of your platform is YOU, and the people who like and follow you will talk about your books. Even if I don’t have kids, and I’m not that keen on sleep, I might read your book and talk about it because it was interesting. From me, others might pick it up, and so on.

      Does this make sense?

      – K.

  • October 10, 2013 at 12:33 AM // Reply

    Really great post! I’ve gone the author-publisher route, and barter a lot for things like editing. Sometimes that means really long waits for my feedback. So I’ve learned to start the next book while waiting for the edits on the last one.

    Since I don’t drink much, my procedure is to send the tenth draft off to the editor, then take a nap. Then I can get up and start the next book.

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