From Submission To Acquisition: What Happens After You Get A Literary Agent

Mike Chen
20 min readAug 16, 2021
The submission and acquisition process involves a LOT of waiting

So, you’ve landed a literary agent.

Now what?

Signing with a literary agent is a major milestone, something that most writers will never, ever achieve. If you sign with an agent, that most likely means that you’ve got that right combination of technical prowess, creative spark, structural know-how, and marketability. You’re in a place that sometimes takes decades to achieve, and it’s a very significant milestone in your career.

At the same time, it’s really just the beginning. The problem is that there are many public discussions about agent querying. Whole websites are built around that, and conferences sell plenty of admissions just to entice writers with in-person pitching of agents. But once you sign, there’s not that much information out there. You really have to dig around for it, so there’s very little that can prepare you for the terror of Submission Hell.

What is Submission Hell? Simply put, it’s the process where your agent submits your manuscript to editors. It’s kind of like querying by proxy and you have no control — and no one really talks about it, making it a unique kind of hell that only writers at this stage understand. Once you hit Send with your ready-to-go manuscript, it is literally out of your hands.

But what actually happens during this secretive process? It’s something that every writer needs to know, so let’s break down the steps.

Step #1: Agent Revisions

You did it. You got the paperwork in your hand, signed off on it (while taking a picture, of course), mailed it in, and announced it on social media

You have a literary agent. There’s photographic evidence now that you’ve achieved what 99.999% of other writers could not. (That’s a scientifically accurate number, by the way.) Bask in the glory, pump your fist, and take a deep breath.

But at some point, you’ve got to sit down and realize that you’ve got more work to do. In some cases, a lot of work. And a good part of how that plays out really depends on your own revising technique and how hands-on your agent is with editorial.

Mike Chen

Mike Chen is a Bay Area-based writer of critically acclaimed science fiction. He also covers geek culture and used to cover the NHL. He loves dogs very much.