*This post is currently being updated. Apologies if it’s a bit scattered; it should be all fixed up shortly.*
Hey guys! So upon reading over and updating this post, I realized two things: 1) I said “Part 1″ in the title and yet never made a part two. (WTF, John?) And 2) there is absolutely no way I can cover the basics of how to publish your book in one post, so what I’m going to do instead is break up each of the three major types of publication–traditional publishing, small-press publishing, and self-publishing–into their own separate articles. This post will focus on traditional publishing with mid-sized to Big Five publishers, but you can read the small press post here [LINK] and the self-publishing post here.
So you guys know I love answering your questions, especially because it distracts me from my pastimes of eating Goldfish and stalking attractive YouTubers on Twitter while I’m supposed to be writing (*awkward pause*), and the question I tend to get asked most is: “I wrote a novel. How do I get it published?” I’ve always had trouble answering this one as there are not only a number of great ways to get published, but there are so many steps in each process that it’s really difficult to cover in one email, which is why I’m writing this series now. I hope it will help you make a little bit more sense of this whole, crazy publishing thing.
Before you read on, please keep in mind I’m by no means an expert (however, I have spent years on both sides of the query process, both as a querying writer and as an agent intern who has read and responded to thousands of queries, so I do feel I have a strong handle on how traditional publishing works for writers) and so, to give you some other sources, I’m linking to a few sites I recommend also checking out:
- AgentQuery – If you only visit one site, make it this one. AgentQuery is by far my favorite resource for new writers trying to understand how to get published traditionally, as they not only give the basics of traditional publishing (see here for some info on literary agents, here for how to submit to agents, here for how to write a query, and here for a literary agent database to help you find agents to query.)
- QueryTracker – I can’t say I’m as big of a QueryTracker fan as most other writers are, but I still find it to be an incredibly valuable resource that is worth checking out if only to look up the average response time of a particular agent. (You know, for anyone as anxious and impatient as I am.) But my favorite part of the site, and the main reason I’m linking to it here, is this list of published authors and the agents who represent them. It’s perfect for finding agents who like books similar to yours.
- Literary Rambles – Ah, I love this site! If you check their left sidebar, you’ll see a whole long list of agent features, wherein the bloggers highlight different agents, the agents’ interests, snippets from the agents’ previous interviews around the web, the agents’ average response times, and so on.
- The Daily Dahlia – Dahlia is an incredibly smart author, editor, and supporter of the writing community, and I especially recommend checking out her Perpetual WIPs series, specifically her one on literary agents, wherein she asks real agents common questions writers have. (Her querying writers Perpetual WIPs post is also extraordinarily helpful.)
- Nathan Bransford’s Blog – Although now that Nathan is no longer an agent his recent posts aren’t very relevant to the query process, if you go back into the archives of his blog, you’ll find that he has a ton of information on what to do and what to not do when querying, how to write a great query letter, and so on.
And without further ado, the post:
What is “traditional publishing?”
Basically, traditional publishing–also often referred to as “commercial publishing” or “trade publishing”–is using a professional publisher to get your book out in the world. (How many times can you say some form of “publish” in a sentence, John?! Apparently a lot.) There are three different kinds of traditional publishers–small presses, mid-sized presses, and the Big Five publishers, the latter of which you probably read most of your books from–and the larger the press, the more likely it is they don’t take unsolicited submissions, which means you’re going to need a literary agent to send your manuscript to them. For example, to submit your work to any of the Big Five publishers (which are HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster, the big names that publish) and many of the top mid-sized presses (Scholastic, etc.), you need a literary agent to pitch them on your behalf. For the purpose of this post, I’m narrowing the definition of traditional publishing so I can focus exclusively on those larger publishers who don’t take solicited submissions, but if you want to know more about submitting to the smaller ones, see here. [LINK]
Okay, you mentioned literary agents a few times. What are they? What’s the point of them?
What an astute question, self! (*cue eye roll of anyone who is reading this*) Literary agents, pretty simply, represent literary works. They’re basically the middlemen (/middlewomen?) between you and a larger publisher. Since many of the above-mentioned powerhouse publishers who tend to create the big hits in the Young Adult/Middle Grade world don’t take unsolicited submissions, agents are your “in” to them. (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, Mortal Instruments, to name a few, were all published by these larger publishers.) And while you don’t need an agent to get published since you always have the option of self-publishing or working with small presses who take unsolicited submissions, getting an agent is a pretty widespread goal among writers, even if the writer only wants to self-publish (because agents can sell your book’s translation rights, audio rights, movie rights, etc. which you wouldn’t be able to do on your own) or only wants to work with small presses (because agents can negotiate your contract for you, among other things).
So what do agents actually do? If one falls in love with your book enough to want to represent you and you accept, they’ll most likely suggest edits on your manuscript until they feel it’s the best it can be, and then they’ll pitch it to their editor contacts at various large publishers. (But only if you want them to. If you only want them to try to sell, say, audio rights, and you tell them that and they agree, then there you go. An agent and an author have a mutually beneficial RELATIONSHIP–meaning, the agent can’t just do whatever she wants with your book without your consent, and vice versa. So, talk! You can make your partnership work however you both want it to work.) And after your agent pitches your book to their editor contacts, if an editor reads, loves it, and the different departments in their office agree that they want to publish it, then success! You’ve got yourself a book deal!
(Please keep in mind, however, that even if you land an agent, there’s no guarantee your book will get published. Plenty of agented writer don’t sell the first or second book their agent pitches to editors; it takes time, but getting an agent–which is no small feat–is a major step toward a publishing contract with a big publisher.)
Okay, so now that you have your shiny new book deal, the agent will become useless, right? Wrong. This is where agents really shine: they proof your contract for you (there are lots of evil clauses some publishers will slip in that, without an agent, can end with you accidentally signing away rights you don’t want to sign away), negotiate to get you the best advance and royalty rate you can, help you build your online presence, communicate between you and your publisher, and basically become your ally in this whole crazy publishing thing. For more, Joanna Volpe sheds great insight into what exactly agents do here.
However, agents don’t do all of this out of the kindness of their hearts, even if they are generally nice people. They need to make a living too, so they ask for a standard 15% commission on all money you earn on a book they sold.
Wait, agents are asking for 15% commission? Those greedy swine! How dare they!
A REAL LIFE photo of an agent. #TheyAreGreedy
Unfortunately, agents hear stuff like this a lot, which, when you think about it, is a little bit ridiculous. Let’s break it down:
- First of all–and this is important–agents do NOT ask for money upfront; they only make money when you do, which means until they’re able to sell a book of yours, you don’t pay them anything. Also, remember that they only make money on a book they actually sold. So if you self-published a book before landing your agent, they have no claim to that money, because they were not the ones who sold it; all 100% of it is yours. But on the contrary, if you split ties with an agent after they sold a book of yours to a publisher, they still get your 15% commission, because they made the sale.
- Second of all, 15% is a really small percentage when you think about all agents do (see the above link). Also, when you consider that 85% (your cut) of zero is still zero. So if without your agent–and I’m assuming you want to be traditionally published if you send them your book–you would be making nothing, 15% is a pretty sweet deal.
- Third, agents work day and night talking to clients and editors, pitching books and combing through the query slush pile, and for agents to put in hundreds of hours on making their authors’ work great, keeping their authors happy, and then selling their authors’ books, negotiating the contracts, helping with the web presences, and remaining constantly in touch throughout the whole process, only to make 15%? It seems like the agent’s cut is incredibly well earned to me.
I still think they’re greedy, but okay. So you’re talking about agents and big publishers… but how do I know if traditional publishing is even right for me?
(Just because I’m going to be refer to it throughout this post, I’ll quickly define “self-publishing.” Unsurprisingly, it means exactly as it sounds: self-publishing is the act of publishing your book in a professional capacity without the assistance of a publisher. Often authors self-publish eBooks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and so on. But to be clear, when I say “self-publishing,” I don’t mean posting stories to fan-fiction sites or to Wattpad or Figment or something; I’m only referring to the more professional self-publishing of uploading your books to Amazon, etc., often for profit.)
So to answer the question, I’m going to be perfectly honest here: unless you already have a vast knowledge of the publishing landscape, writing, the Amazon Kindle store, how to market a book, and all that jazz, I don’t believe you should do anything but query agents and select small publishers with your first novel. I know that’s going to upset some people, but hear me out. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re pretty new at this (and that’s 100% okay, because everyone has been there) and chances are you want your book to get published. Like, you REALLY want it to get published. And that’s a good thing, and we all feel that way, but I don’t believe you should rush into publishing something until you absolutely know you’re prepared. And yes, querying has its flaws, but it is generally a good indicator of this, of whether your book is ready to publish or not.
Now, I hate making blanket statements like that because there is SO much subjectivity that goes into traditional publishing (a book can be the Next Big Thing but an agent will pass just because they don’t relate to a character, something that reflects more on the agent than the quality of the novel), but if you query, say, 75 agents and don’t get a single request? Chances are your book isn’t quite there yet, and rather than throwing it out there in another medium to spite the agents, you may instead want to get some more feedback on it from other writers, revise it, or even begin a new project. (By the way, that rejection thing? It happened to me. With my first book, I queried 90 agents. I didn’t get a single request until I was well into writing my second novel. So yeah, I know it stings sometimes.) But more than that, I suggest that people only try at traditional publishing for their first couple of books because the traditional publishing process helps you learn a ton about the publishing landscape. It teaches you to take a critical look at your book and realize you still have a ways to go, teaches you to be patient and to accept rejection, teaches you to writer query letters and synopses, but above all, it teaches you to write better. Yeah, agents are sometimes “wrong” about a certain book, but the learning curve you get from querying is invaluable to beginners, and that’s why I suggest, until you feel comfortable with the industry and how it all works, to stick with trying for traditional publishing. Because, honestly, it’s much harder to improve your writing once you start publishing, as there is no way to know if your book needs work or not (aside from reviews, which only come in small numbers) without the feedback from other writers and agents–which means, you can’t improve. Plus, trying for traditional publication and failing can’t hurt you from a publishing perspective, but self-publishing can.
(To add to that last point, basically, publishers value your status as a debut author–it’s easier to sell readers on a new author than one who has published multiple times before without much success–which means agents also value your debut status, which means that if you self-publish a book that garners low sales, it can hurt your standing with agents if you plan to try for traditional publication again in the future. It won’t hurt much, don’t worry, but a “clean resume” always looks better than one consisting of a sloppily-published book. (However, if you gets lots of sales and have professional cover design/editing/websites/etc., this becomes a non-issue–which is why I suggest you wait until you’re comfortable with writing a novel and with the book world, because you’re much less likely to sell a lot when you know nothing about publishing.))
For more info on why I think you should wait until you’re experienced before you consider self-publishing, see here [link]. (It’s worth noting that, when you are well-exposed to the writing world–which querying does for you!–I personally believe self-publishing is on equal footing with traditional publishing as far as your chance of success is concerned; all I’m saying is, I don’t think you should self-publish the first book you ever write.)
So you mentioned “flaws” with big publishers? What are those?
This is sort of a difficult question for me to answer, because I’ve only self-published (under a pen name). I’ve never worked with a traditional publisher so I don’t have firsthand experience. However, what I hear from friends is essentially this (and take the following with a grain of salt, please, because I don’t know the extent at which any of the below happens; it could only occur in a few isolated incidents for all I know. I really just want to make you aware that it does happen, if only very rarely):
- Very little control. Publishers get the final say in your book title, book cover, and even the editing of your book. This is usually for the best–big publishers typically know what they are doing–but sometimes the author can end up incredibly displeased with the presentation of his or her book, and while they can talk to their editor about it and often the editor will try to work to make both sides happy, the author does not get the ultimate say in the matter.
- Easy to be left out. The thing about these major publishers is that they have really wide-reaching marketing, and they can, if they put enough effort in, all but guarantee that a book becomes a bestseller. However, the problem with this is it inherently guarantees that for every person whose book gets marketed to a very large degree, there is someone whose book hardly gets marketed at all.
- Earning out. Big publishers offer you advances against royalties in your contract, and sometimes these advances get to be pretty sizable. While advances can be a great thing, they can also easily backfire on an author. For example, if an author either consistently doesn’t earn enough to offset the advance and thus loses the publisher money, it’s a very slippery slope to them dropping the author and other publishers turning their backs on him or her as well. Unfortunately, this is especially true for authors with the really big advances. If publishers pay lots of money for your book and it flops, it will get incredibly difficult for you to publish with them, or any other large publisher again, as they aren’t as willing to invest in an author who already lost them so much money.
On the flip side, the pros of major publishers are pretty obvious: you tend to get better marketing of your book, better cover design, better editing, more widespread bookstore placement, more sizable advances, and so on. Ultimately, many people still try to go with big publishers because they does tend to be the safest choice–and they give you the best chance at reaching the largest audience.
Okay, okay, John. I’ll try querying agents. But how do I get one? Where can I find one?
Although things would be much easier if they did, agents don’t automatically represent you. (Dammit!) In fact, getting an agent to offer you representation is a long and cumbersome task, but if you put in enough time and effort in, it will happen for you, I’m sure of it.
Luckily, finding agents to query is incredibly easy (it’s finding one who will love your book that is the issue). I did a whole post on how to find agents here, which, if you skim through, gives you the gist of where to start.
So aside from those “schmagents” you mentioned in the above-linked post [just read paragraph a) to know what I mean, in case you don't want to read the whole thing], are there any kinds of agents I should avoid?
Yes! Unfortunately, while schmagents are often well-meaning agents who simply aren’t experienced enough to do you any good, there are a number of of not-so-well-meaning scammer agents out there. Luckily, they’re incredibly easy to spot. ANY agent–I repeat, ANY agent–who charges reading fees, asks for a commission higher than the industry-standard 15%, or asks you to pay any sort of fee before your book sells is NOT LEGIT and you should run far away from them. DO NOT WALK, RUN.
(Sorry, I just don’t want anyone to be ripped off. I’m protective of my people. *group hug* And the above also goes for a “publisher” that makes you pay any sort of fee upfront–they are bad news and you should run the hell away from them.)
EDITED TO ADD: The same is also true for publishers. You should pay your publisher nothing up-front. (Or ever, aside from their percentage of royalties.)
Yes, John. Teh Scammerz. Very eloquently put.
Beware the scammer!!
I know, John. I know. Now, what is this querying thing you referenced a few times? How do I write a query?
Since agents are incredibly busy people, they don’t have time to read the completed manuscript of every writer who submits to them. Instead, they ask people to write what is known as a “query letter,” which is basically a 250-word(ish) pitch of your book, and if they like the query, they’ll request some of the manuscript itself. Most agents nowadays ask for email queries, so you should be able to find their email addresses on their agency website. If not, check their AgentQuery or their QueryTracker profiles.
Unfortunately, query letters, while short, are far from easy to write. (Though, as corny as it sounds, they make for a seriously great learning experience for you as a writer.) You have to put more than just a few minutes of work into writing them, and you should also get critiques from other writers once you finish. Writing a query takes a lot of trial-and-error, and it’s usually best to get outside opinions on yours–especially from someone who knows the querying game–before you send it out.
So how do you write a query? In my original post, I attempted to cover this in depth, but now that I’m updating I realize that there are a number of sites that explain how to write a query much better than I can. And while I’ll still give you some of the very basics, I’m going to post several helpful links below.
But basically, query letters are like back-cover book blurbs, except queries are meant to lay out the groundwork for the plot, stakes, and major characters as much as they are meant to entice (and queries should be around 250 words in length!). A great query letter should contain the following:
- Hook. A hook doesn’t really need to be more than one line, but it should be the first line in your query. For example, this query starts with, simply, “Andromeda Jaunsten isn’t a very good alien.” What the hook does is set the tone for the rest of the query and, while hooks aren’t entirely necessary per se, they’re a great way to pull in an agent. Because agents read LOTS of query letters, and the best tool you have to get their attention is to start off with a bang. So, ask yourself: what’s special about your book? Then put that, in your main character’s voice, into a one-line opening. So if in your book the main character is, say, a ghost, your hook could be, “Seventeen-year-old Georgia is dead and loving it.” That kind of opening is short and simple, but it’s so unique and playful that agents will immediately want to know more.
- Voice. A query should be written in the voice of your protagonist, so whatever your main character’s voice is in your novel, you need to translate that into your query. So if your main character is snarky and sarcastic, make your query snarky and sarcastic. Don’t be afraid to give your query its own, unique flare (i.e. rather than saying “Detective Mulder is great at his job” say instead, “Detective Mulder eats murderers for breakfast.”) A great example of a query with a strong voice (which is, in this case, snarky) is now-published author Kody Keplinger’s query for THE DUFF.
- Character/Motivation. Remember, you only have about 250 words to pitch your novel, so don’t bog it down with introducing characters. Aside from your protagonist, pick maybe one or two characters who you feel you absolutely need to introduce in your query, and then slip those characters in with very short introductions. However, for every character you introduce, you need to explain or at least imply their motivation. This is especially true for your main character. Hint to the reader what she wants. What is her endgame? Why is she going to all this trouble to achieve it? Because if we don’t know what a character wants, we don’t know the character, and thus the query makes a lot less sense.
- Stakes. So in your query, you answer in some way what the main character wants. Good! Now, you need to identify stakes. What’s holding her back from her goal? Where is the central conflict coming from? What happens if she fails? I know most books have a number of subplots, so for the purpose of your stakes, stick with the main, overriding issue in the story, and make clear what the stakes are for the main character if she fails. Stakes give a sense of urgency and tension to your query, and they’re what gives the agent a reason to read on. Because if nothing happens if the main character fails whatever her goal is, what is the point of the book at all?
- Show, don’t tell. I know we all know this, but it’s still worth reiterating, as this rule is especially important when it comes to query writing. Don’t say that your main character is a nice person. Say she walked the neighbor’s dog instead. It brings the same conclusion, but in a much more real, concrete, specific way.
- Don’t spoil the ending. Do that in synopses, not queries!
- At the end of your query, you should include:
- The book’s wordcount.
- Possibly a personalized reason for querying the particular agent. i.e. “I hope this book will appeal to you because of your enthusiasm for gritty, character-driven books with historical settings.” (Or whatever.)
- Possibly a pitch. i.e. “Pitched as The Fault in Our Stars meets Sharknado, The Fault in Our Sharks is a YA fantasy…” or “Pitched as The Great Gatsby in space, How To Lose The Alien of Your Life is a YA sci-fi…” Pitches are great because they gave an agent a really clear sense of where your book will fit in the market, but if you can’t think of a strong, apt pitch for your book, they aren’t important enough that you should use one.
- Possibly a short bio. But only IF you have either experience relevant to your book or previous publishing credits, in which case make the bio no more than three sentences. If you don’t have either of the above, don’t include a bio. I promise it won’t work against you; not many authors have experience before getting an agent. Also, since I’m assuming most of you reading this are teenagers, I want to quickly note: being a teenager does not help you this early in the process. Your age can be a good marketing tool for publishers later on, but being that the stigma against teens writing still exists, it’s best to leave that kind of thing out until the agent offers.
Okay, so now for the query links. Writing a query, once again, is not something to be taken lightly, so I recommend checking out at least a few of these websites and reading other successful queries before attempting your own query. Some places to get you started:
- More AgentQuery: I linked to this above, but it’s worth noting again: this whole page on query letter writing on Agent Query is fantastic.
- Nathan Bransford: I mentioned him above, but here is a direct link to one of his posts about writing a query. It’s definitely worth reading through.
- QueryShark. QueryShark is my favorite. The site is run by agent Janet Reid, and she goes through and publicly critiques queries by writers, stating what works and what doesn’t. (Go to the bottom of the left sidebar where it says “Queries that got to YES” and click some of the links for examples of Janet-approved queries. They’re great ones. And if you find that helpful, here are more successful queries according to agents.
- YA Highway: YA Highway does this whole fantastic query series, wherein they post the successful queries of now-published authors and ask their agents to explain what worked and what didn’t. It’s worth scrolling through all of the queries (there are only, like, thirteen-ish?), but two of my personal favorites are here and here.
- Writer’s Digest: More good info on how to write a query letter.
Also visit Miss Snark and Miss Snark’s First Victim–if you go through their archives, both sites have some really great information.
Hope this helps!
So what else?
- Make sure you follow exactly the submission guidelines each agent sets (info on that is usually on the agency website). Think of them like your first test, and remember that almost every agent asks for something different. For example, some agents want sample pages from your book to be included with your query, while others don’t; some ask for the first fifty sample pages, while others ask for the first ten; some agents ask for synopses with your query, while some prefer none at all. So be sure to read the submission guidelines carefully. (This does matter, because if you can’t follow simple guidelines, it reflects poorly on you.)
Don’t procrastinate so much that you forget to follow the submission guidelines!
- Be sure to format your query and sample pages to each agent’s requirements (Times New Roman, 12 pt font, 1 inch spacing is pretty universal if they don’t specify). Both, unless the agent requests otherwise, should go in the body of the email–no attachments!
- You are welcome to query agents outside of your country, but be mindful that most agents prefer authors who are not all the way across the world (because it’s easier for a publisher to work with an author living near their country). However, with a stellar book, I’m sure location won’t be as much of a factor. :-)
- That myth that agents only read query letters if they know the author? Not true. (Also, take it from me, agents really do read queries from unknown writers, and they read them closely.)
- Also, remember that agents are slooooow in their responses. You can check QueryTracker Literary Rambles or AbsoluteWrite to see how long a particular agent usually takes, but know that agents are famous for their slow response speed. Many can take around eight weeks to reply to a query, and many don’t reply at all (due to the hateful things they often receive in response to rejections), which is why, if they don’t respond at all to a query, I honestly would not recommend following up. Chances are, it just wasn’t for them.
And… that’s it! Now you’re ready to query.
I did it, John! I queried! But… I got rejected. :(
Congratulations! You have joined the club of authors like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, and every author you can think of. Every single one of those literary geniuses was rejected by an agent or publisher or theater group or something to that effect at some point in their lives.
Okay, but I sent fifty queries. Every single one of them was rejected.
I have three things to say to you:
1) First of all, the world is lying to you. The best medicine is not laughter, but puppy GIFs. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Go on, click them, and let them warm your soul.
2) Feel a little bit better? Okay, good. Now, remember what I said above. I got something like 90 rejections in a row on my first novel before I ever got a request. But I’m by no means anyone to look up to/to compare yourself to in any capacity (I still struggle to get out of bed in the morning tbh), so take it from now-NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot who spent “two years [getting] rejection letters from agents almost daily” and who “kept all [her] rejection letters in a US postal mail bag under [her] bed,” which, judging by the size of a postal mail bag, is a lot of rejections. And look where Cabot is now. My point being, rejection is TOTALLY normal. It happens. And without it, we have no way of improving. I know it doesn’t feel like it at the time, but they do help you. They propel you both to improve your writing and they also help you develop thicker skin for the future (which you’ll need to deal with negative reviews when you get published. Yes, I said “when”). And if you keep getting rejections? Ask a friend to read over your book for you and give their opinion on it so you can improve it. And in the meantime, write something new and even more awesome than before!
3) This whole post. (Tl;dr: everything about the industry is subjective, and rejections tend to reflect more on the person sending the rejections than on the quality of your book. For example, agents could dislike a character that someone else absolutely loves. I mean, for some reason, there are people who genuinely hate Augustus Waters, and he’s… well, he’s Augustus effing Waters, the un-hate-able boy. (Point being, we all have our tastes.))
John, what are you– Oh wait! Oh my god! I just got an email from an agent. She says she wants to read my full!
First, celebrate. You earned this! Full requests, or really requests of any kind, are hard to come by, so make sure you give yourself the break (and reward) you deserve. Then, send them the full manuscript! Unless they state otherwise on their website or in their email to you, attach your manuscript as a .doc. Be polite and brief in your response. Just thank them for your interest, maybe tell them you’re excited that they are interested, and send your manuscript; unless they ask for something else, that’s all you need to do. But make sure your manuscript has your phone number at the top so the agents can contact you when they inevitably love your book.
Also, bear in mind that agents are not generally fast when replying to requested material. Some state how long you should wait before following up on requested material, but if they don’t specify, it’s usually safe to wait eight weeks before checking in. However, please don’t follow-up on requested material before that. I say this because, having read through the slush, it really does not reflect well on you.
(BTW: If an agent requests a “partial” and doesn’t specify on his or her website or in his or her email to you how many pages/chapters that partial is to them, it’s safe to assume they mean the first fifty pages.)
Whoa, John, the agent responded! She really liked it, but she had some suggestions and asked me to resubmit to her once I made them! …What exactly does that mean?
That is what writers call a Revise & Resubmit (shorthand: R&R), and it is amazing. Once again, celebrate! Do the Dumbledore dance, because an agent liked your freaking book! And once that is out of the way, look at the suggestions the agent made and decide whether or not you agree with them. If you do, thank the agent for his interest and tell him you’ll get back to him once you complete the revisions. Then, revise! If you don’t agree, it’s probably best to politely decline.
(Note: if you do the revisions, don’t rush it. Agents like it when you take your time to really improve your work based on their notes, so if you send the revised manuscript after only a week, it looks to them like you didn’t put enough effort in.)
Fine, but @#$#$!!!!^&$(*)$# I sent the revision and got rejected. :( :( :(
Keep querying! The fact that an agent even liked your book enough to R&R is a VERY GOOD SIGN. Don’t give up because of the one, subjective rejection. You’ll sort of know when it’s time to stop querying a certain book, and you haven’t hit that point yet. So keep at it, and in the meantime, write something new! The most effective to deal with rejection is to write a newer, better book while you’re querying the old one.
But while you try to cheer up, I’ll just redirect you to this VERY IMPORTANT GIF:
The cuteness never gets old
(If you have questions, let me know in the comments!)