The Agent series
Featured columnist: Jenny Bent, Trident Media Group
"First Year Out"

Getting published for the first times is at turns exhilarating, frightening, exciting, nerve-wracking, and sometimes extremely disappointing.

Remember the old saying, "be careful what you wish for?" Having your book published offers much potential for happiness, but also carries the possibility of a fair amount of disappointment.

This article is an attempt to make the experience a happy and rewarding one for first-time authors, by talking you through the process as directly and honestly as possible.

There can be nothing so exciting for a writer as holding your finished book in your hands for the first time. And while there is no way to comprehend the experience of being published before the actual event, it can helpful to know a little bit about what you're getting into as soon as you get that momentous call from your agent: "We have an offer!"

The following questions and answers are my attempt to prepare you for the joys and the sorrows of being published.

Hopefully, forewarned will become forearmed, and you'll be able to better enjoy the experience if you're prepared for some of the potential pitfalls:

Q: How long will it take before I get an offer for my book?

A: The time it takes to sell a book varies wildly. I have sold books in three days; I have also sold books after a year or even two.

If there is a great deal of enthusiasm for your book, it is possible to make a deal for it right away. And most editors will respond to an agented submission within a month or two. A book can take a few years to sell if you send it out for submission, get no takers the first time around, and decide to revise and resubmit.

Q: How much money can I expect for my book?

A: This is one of those questions that have no real answer. Amounts received can range from zero dollars to over one million dollars.

It's almost impossible to place a dollar value on a book because the real answer to this question is that the market, meaning the publishers, decides how much money your book is worth.

The more publishers that want to buy your book, the more money it will sell for. If you only have one publisher that wants to buy it, they can often use the lack of competition to get your book for a real bargain.

Q: What is this thing called a book auction?

A: A book auction can take many shapes and forms. The basic premise is that you have more than one publisher who wants to buy your book project.

Your agent will then give the houses a date and time by which they need to make their offers.

The auction, which is conducted over the phone, can then proceed round by round, or by best bid offers, or via a variety of other options.

Agents vary in the way they conduct auctions and in the frequency with which they conduct them. Some agents auction every title they sell, and some reserve the auction for only those books for which they anticipate a great deal of interest.

Q: What if I don't think I'm being paid enough money? Do I have to accept the deal my agent brings me?

A: Surprisingly, I am often asked this question. Always remember that you are the one ultimately in control of the situation.

If you don't want to accept an offer, you don't have to. End of story.

Once you've signed a contract, it's a different situation, but at this stage in the game you are still free to walk away from any situation in which you don't feel comfortable.

Remember that writing a book involves a great deal of hard work and energy. If you don't feel you are being fairly compensated, now is the time to walk away - not later when you've already committed to delivering a quality book in a certain amount of time.

Next month:
- Advances/Royalties 101
- North America vs. the world: Rights explained
- Hey, where's my money?

NB: Lit agent Jenny Bent is providing this information as a courtesy to readers. She is not accepting new work at this time. Unsolicited materials will not be read or returned.
Bio: Jenny Bent has ten years of experience working in the publishing industry. She is currently a literary agent with the firm of Trident Media Group, LLC in New York City. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked at "Rolling Stone". She was also an editor at Cader Books, where she was responsible for books on pop culture.

About this series: "The Agent" is an ongoing series of columns or Q/A sessions with literary agents, providing practical advice for writers.

Catch up with "The Agent" in every issue of "Arte Six"