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You Signed the Contract! Now What?

You ever notice how in romantic comedy, the Happily Ever After always happens right when the couple gets together? It doesn’t happen a few months later, when they’re fighting about why he won’t stop leaving his dirty socks on the couch or when she’s crying to her sister on the phone because they can’t afford a house and why did he insist they needed to buy a purebred dog for $2,200? It doesn’t happen a few years down the line either, when the happy couple is now a permanent threesome, only the baby has colic and neither partner has slept for more than two hours at a time. Nor do we see it later on, when she has her inevitable mid-life crisis and takes up pole dancing “to feel sexy again,” or when he develops a deeper relationship with Netflix than with anyone who lives in his actual house.

Rom-coms stop at the exact right time – the orgasm of togetherness, if you will. Everything that happens afterwards is just the messy, sticky towel you throw in the laundry once it’s over, only to have to wash, dry, fold, and put it away again until the next time.

In other words, the rest of it is work.

For those querying authors out there, I thought it might be helpful to share a little bit about what happens after an agent comes and sweeps you off your feet, offering the glorious gift of representation, for which you sign on the dotted line.

Now, as always, I’ll start with some book recommendations that also discuss this topic (and are way more eloquent than I am). Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal helped me get through many a sleepless night when I was panicking about what life might look like if I ever got lucky enough to find an agent. Also, Jane Friedman’s Publishing 101 and The Poets and Writers Complete Guide to Being a Writer by Kevin Larimer and Mary Gannon. These are all great resources to keep on your bookshelf or nightstand for reading during the query process. As the saying goes, The best defense is a good offense. By preparing yourself now, you won’t get quite as overwhelmed when your moment in the sun comes.

I signed with Copps Literary Services on September 9th, following my big phone call with Elizabeth Copps on September 8th. Here are the steps I took immediately after the call:

1) Celebrated! Had a drink with my girls at the office, followed by a yummy dinner at home with my family.

2) Waited until the following morning, when the contract arrived in my inbox.

3) Sent said contract over to an attorney friend of mine for review before signing.

4) Asked Elizabeth her thoughts on media presence. (This was a big deal for me. I have never been on social media.) Together, we decided I would eventually need a Twitter account and a website.

5) Sent back signed contract.

6) Began researching how to build a website. Checked out the websites of the other authors CLS reps so that I could get a sense of what I would need to include.

7) Received my manuscript from Elizabeth, chock full of notes and comments for my impending review and final rewrite.

Okay, let’s push pause for a sec. All of the above happened within the first 48 hours of signing. It was a lot to take in all at once! But, in my opinion, the publishing business is a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait, so knowing I was going to have a bunch of stuff to do in a short time only reminded me that I would have a nice, long pause to look forward to once the initial work was done.

So, back to the list:

8) I got headshots taken. Lots of them.

9) I chose a domain name and started – slowly, carefully – building a very simple website.

10) I wrote my first blog post.

11) I toiled away on my manuscript every day for no less than three hours. Thankfully, the edits were pretty minor, which was good given the fact that I had already gone through a major rewrite of the novel.

12) I researched Twitter. (There’s a sad sentence, lol. But for real, if you’re not on social media, you don’t know how to like or friend or follow or retweet or do any of the things teenage girls would roll their eyes at and be like, “OMG, that’s so 2016.”)

13) I – slowly, carefully – set up a Twitter account, which I would not be ready to use until my website was ready, given that the website link would appear in my Twitter bio, and nobody wants to click on a link that leads to a page with nothing but a picture of an orange traffic cone that says, “under construction.”

14) I chose a few fave headshots from the hundreds of proofs I got and used those to design the various pages of my humble website.

15) I finished the basic website layout, asked Elizabeth to take a look, and once she gave it the thumbs up, I launched the site and wrote my first tweet. She retweeted it and then added her own tweet to it and somehow people saw it – and liked it! – and my itty-bitty online presence was officially born.

16) I finished editing the manuscript.

17) I wrote my second blog post.

18) Sent both (#16 and #17) to Elizabeth for a read-through, and here we are, exactly 20 days after signing the contract.

So, what’s next? Well, now the ball is out of my court – so I’ll go back to the “wait” part of “hurry up and wait.” Elizabeth will craft a pitch letter for the novel and I’m sure she’ll give the manuscript a final read-through. She’ll make a list of editors at different publishing houses and do what agents do – she’ll try and sell the thing. And I’ll get busy writing new stuff.

My advice? Pre-write some blog posts, if you’re a novelist and feel like you might need some fodder for a potential website one day. Also, play around with Wix or Wordpress (I couldn’t figure Wordpress out to save my life, sadly) so that you’re not in a tailspin once you realize you’re really serious about pursuing writing as a career. And, if you can spare the money, get some headshots done during a particularly good hair week.

But, if you can’t? Don’t worry. That’s why God invented Photoshop. 😊

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