Okay, so let’s say you follow the traditional route for publishing, and you now have an agent. Congratulations! In a lot of ways, that’s the hardest part. It’s a lot of waiting and a lot of rejection, but once you’ve gotten The Call, everything changes.
Because now you’re no longer in control. Before, you chose who to query. You knew how long it had been since you sent a manuscript. You were getting rejections directly. Now that’s all your agent’s job. So, how does selling a book work? It’s very simple. Your agent, who probably has a list of contacts a mile long, sends your book to editors they think might like your book, just like you sent your book to agents who you thought might like it. Just like you, your agent will receive rejections and feedback. They’ll receive a lot of no’s and hopefully some yes’s. Sometimes, when a book gets more than one offer, the book goes to auction, where publishing houses will bid on which one of them will get to publish your book. This is the absolute best-case scenario.
But let’s say you aren’t able to sell that book. Not every book sells on its first time through, and some books never sell, period. But lucky for you, while your agent was trying to sell your book, you were working on your next book. So, if your agent isn’t able to sell your first book, then take a look at your next one. Sometimes they love what you’re working on next, sometimes they don’t. The good thing about an agent is that they know the market. They know what editors (and readers) are looking for, and so they know if something is going to sell or not, and if it’s not, they’ll either help you edit it until it looks like something they can sell, or else they help you come up with something to work on next. Either way, you now have someone on your side to help you move forward with your career. Agents represent people, not books.
I sincerely hope that your first book sells and that it’s highly successful, but that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s usually not the case. Most authors have stories to tell about the books that got them their agents that never sold. It’s normal. But that’s not the end! Let’s keep moving forward!