My First Novel: And Then There Was Haggling

Now that I had an agent, I mostly got to sit around and twiddle my thumbs while waiting to find out what was going to happen. Obtaining an agent did not mean an instantaneous sale. At many publishers, the editor who has read a manuscript and wants to buy it (aka “the acquiring editor”) has to go discuss the matter with the rest of the department, or at least with the senior editor (or whatever the appropriate title may be). This was the stage we now went into, since my possession of an agent meant they could now officially consider buying my novel.

These things sometimes go slowly. We went into this stage in November, and I was warned that the publishing industry pretty much grinds to a halt between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Therefore, I was unlikely to hear any firm answer back before January at the earliest. I sighed, tried to remind myself that I hadn’t even expected to hear back on my submission before then, and settled in to wait.

At which point, of course, something shifted in the Warner schedule and suddenly everything kicked into high gear. Forget January; now they wanted the deal closed before the end of the year.

I rather pathetically baby-sat my e-mail and telephone, waiting for updates from my agent as they began to chew over the main points of the contract. Would it be world rights, or just world English? How much of an advance? What would the royalty schedule be? The pay-out schedule for the advance? And various other arcana I’m only beginning to learn. I was very, very grateful somebody more qualified was handling this stuff.

Then the kicker out of left field: they wanted to buy two books. Would I be willing to write a sequel?

To step back for a moment, let me say that I wrote Doppelganger as a stand-alone novel. They’re generally easier to sell than the first parts of incomplete series, when you’re a newbie. So while I’d vaguely thought of a short story that might take place after the end of the novel, no, I didn’t actually have a sequel in mind.

But, if I may quote from Ghostbusters for a moment . . . “When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes.”

“Yes, yes, I would be delighted to write a sequel.” Actually, what happened was, I heard they wanted one, thought about it, and within five minutes had seen how I could take that short story idea, have this character react in that way, and then oh god there’s that thing I forgot about over THERE — okay, yeah, I’ve got a sequel. It was a little unnerving to agree, as I’ve never before sold a novel before I even wrote the bloody thing, but so long as my editor didn’t want some kind of detailed chapter-by-chapter outline before I wrote it (she didn’t), then I was wililng to give it a shot.

So, long story short (too late, and a bad pun), December eighth, my agent called to say they’d reached agreeable terms, and I had just sold my first novel (and my second, too).


Next: If at First You Do Succeed, Revise, Revise Again