Okay, so it's partially my fault. I never thought about what would happen BEYOND that first contract. So here's a quick run-down of things I have learned so far.
1) If you use a pseudonym, people will be BOUND AND DETERMINED to find out your real name. I have no idea why. Maybe it comes across as some sort of challenge. Who knows. But please don't tell me if you do find out my real name. You will just frighten me.
2) Everything you say on your blog becomes a platform. If you don't like red shoes, and you say so, the friends of the red shoe brigade will come out in droves to defend. Everything - even on your 'private' (ha ha, yeah right) journal must be scrutinized.
3) The real work only begins once you get the offer.
4) Promotion takes a helluva lot of time. There's LJ, MySpace, Facebook, industry blogs, email loops, newsletters, webpages...
5) And money. RWA, SFWA, Conferences, swag, websites...
6) Everything tied to NY publishing happens at a snail's pace. Which is good, really, because if it happened faster, I think they'd have to hospitalize me.
7) Editors are super-cool people that have an absolutely freakish love of books. I always thought they'd be some stingy jerks looking to keep a new writer out, but all the editors I have talked to so far are absolutely lovely and more fanatical about books than me.
8) It kind of IS like being in the cool club at high school. And other writers are so friggin nice, too.
9) Everyone is nice, actually. I have yet to meet an asshat.
10) You have to pick your hill to die on. If that means that you will have mantitty on your cover or a title like "Love's Labor Lost", then by golly, you will. Because it's really not that important in the scheme of things. Your book. Still being published. Still awesome.
11) Agents really do a lot more than just phone up editors and say "Want to buy this book?" Seriously. I thought that was all they did until I actually got a contract. Silly me.
12) You now have an Image. You should conform to this Image because you are now a Product. Do not stray from the Image because you do not want to confuse the Audience.
13) Did I mention your book is now a product? It is. It's not your baby. It's got more in common with a can of Coors Light than your child.
14) Getting a contract can fry your creativity temporarily. This is still ok. You'll work your way out of it.
15) Deadlines DO whoosh by. Frighteningly so. I thought people were joking. Ha ha. Not funny.
16) Your parents will be proud to tell everyone "My daughter writes books about vampire sex!" Parents are the greatest fans of all. I love mine.
17) People look at you differently once you get the Mighty Contract. Some people will think your opinion has weight now (it doesn't). Some people will think you have changed into an authorbeast (you haven't) and everything's gone to your head (trust me, it hasn't). You have changed, a little. Your writing priorities and scope just got shuffled over to a totally different (and sometimes bewildering) arena.
18) Your book is still a product. Still. So if your editor calls you and says "I really like the sequel, but marketing thinks that your were-billy-goat book will sell more copies if we change him to a vampire that sounds like a duck," then you'd better be prepared to start quacking. Because guess what? It's their product now. You sold it. If you want complete control over your product, NY is not for you. (For the record, my editor has made very small - but wonderful - suggestions about my book. But I have heard stories.)
19) Love your book, love your genre - even if marketing picks your genre for you. Read it, research it, and love it. Because your next book is going to be in this genre too. And probably the next. And the next. So make sure you love what you're writing.
20) It's ok to have professional jealousy. Really. Think about it like your dayjob, except you are *all* doing the same job. Someone runs down the hall and squeals "OMG I just got a 20k a year payraise!" And everyone cheers! And...then you look at your paystub. You didn't get a raise this year. You do the same job. Jealousy? Sure. Bound to happen. But she might get fired tomorrow for losing the big account, and you'll still be slow and steady you. You can envy other people's careers, but in the end, be happy with what you have. You're still employed, after all!
21) Still the best job in the world. Wouldn't trade a thing.