What I wish I knew before my book deal

Today’s guest post is by Emery Lord, whose first contemporary YA novel is out with Walker/Bloomsbury next April. I’ve had a few posts on indie publishing and small presses, so I’m really happy that she and Amy (whose post will go live on Sunday) have provided us with the other side of the coin.

Hi y’all, I’m Emery! Cass was kind enough to invite me to talk about what I wish I knew before my book deal.

My biggest Wish-I-Knew? That the querying process was giving me tools I needed for the rest of my publication path.

(Just for clarification, I’m going to be talking about the way I pursued [traditional] publication: wrote a book, revised it a lot, queried agents, signed with one, revised some more, went on submission to houses, sold. Also, add in some rejection, angst and brownie-gobbling during and between every step. 😉 )

I guess I thought of querying as a wall—a tall gatekeeper set up on the road to publication. For some people, it’s a glass wall, easily demolished with a few thrown query-rocks. For others, it’s a brick wall that is chipped away at over years. It can be laborious and time-consuming and sometimes disheartening. I think it’s easy to wish that an agent would magically pick you from on high, before you even struggle through the querying.

But the querying process isn’t just a way to get an agent. It’s a way to get vital practice for what’s waiting down the publication road. If I’d known that at the time, I think querying might have felt a bit easier to handle!


When querying, you write up a few-paragraph pitch, maybe a synopsis, and possibly a one-line “elevator pitch.”  Learning how to describe your story with brief but distinct details is vital once you sell a book. Plus, your agent may actually pull from your query text to create the submission pitch! So, all that time laboring over my query and synopsis? I now see it as a training ground for a skill I needed to start learning.

Waiting/Radio Silence

It’s so hard. But waiting is a reality of every step of traditional publishing. It’s good to learn your coping mechanisms sooner. (Mine: whipped cream straight from the can, shoe shopping, and diving into a new project.)


It happens with editors much the same way it happens with agents: inevitably–some quickly, some slowly. You might get feedback; you might get a generic ‘not for me’.

These are hard messages to receive, but I’m glad I’ve gotten a taste of that. Because writing is so personal … but publishing makes it public consumption. There will always be rejection or disinterest from someone, and that’s okay. It’s still worth it. (Can you tell I’m trying to emotionally prepare myself for the 1-star Goodreads reviews…? 😉 )


Sometimes you get feedback from agents you queried; sometimes you don’t. Same goes for editorial submissions. I learned not to judge that feedback from my first week’s reaction to it. Sometimes it rang true once the sting wore off. Some agents (and likewise some editors) will give you an R&R (revise and resubmit). Even if they don’t ultimately sign you, they’ve given you experience in revising with/for someone, which is a huge part of the post-book-deal process!

So, there you have it: the fruitful moments I wish I’d recognized when I was in the querying trenches! Happy writing to all of you, and thanks to Cass for having me!

Emery Lord is a 20-something American girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close. Her first book, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, will be out in Spring 2014 with Walker/Bloomsbury.

Emery Lord

5 Comments on “What I wish I knew before my book deal”

  1. KateBrauning says:

    Loved the post. 🙂 Based on this, I’m going to have to tell my husband I’ll be spending a lot of money on shoes this summer.

  2. Patrice says:

    Great post and some wonderful words to keep me pushing on through the querying trenches!

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