In comments on my post about what advances are really made of, anonymous wanted to know: I know the actual amount of time it takes to sell varies, but could you do a rough timeline for the marketing process of a first novel? ie: agreement to represent to getting it out there to publishers? Does this part of the process happen over months or weeks?
I wish I could give you a concise answer on this one, but I’m afraid it’s far more variable in my experience. If I am signing up a brand new manuscript by a writer that I’ve never worked with before, it is probably pretty close already to the quality needed to send it out.* Keep in mind that it’s possible I already read a previously submitted version and sent notes and have now read a revised manuscript prior to making representation official. However, if there is still editorial work to be done on the project before it can be sent to editors, the elapsed time may largely depend on how quickly the writer can do the revisions (and how quickly I can read them once they are back in my queue). Once the author and I are agreed to go forward, though, why would I wait? The book isn’t going to sell sitting on my desk. It may take me a day or three to put together the marketing package and get pitches in with editors before it actually hits their desks, but I would say that once I have a final, polished manuscript in hand, then it’s time to get cracking.
*This is not always true, but it’s generally the case. I did sign up a book at the end of last February that still was undergoing revision and it wasn’t sent to market until the beginning of May due to that ongoing process. But it sold to the first editor it went to, so I think the investment of time was worthwhile.