After the screaming and the jumping and dancing subsides, you wait. If you're lucky, someone you love will surprise you with a really expensive bottle of champagne, which makes the waiting easier. You'll also call everyone you know and tell them you just sold your first novel. You'll tell this to waitresses, grocery store cashiers and anyone who foolishly asks you, "How are you today?"
Enjoy it, and ignore the occasional strange looks.
Then it's down to business. Details will vary depending on the agent, sale, editor, book, etc., but for me it went something like this:
The agent and editor will need to hammer out the final contract, and there's a ton of very complicated language in there that needs to be just right. It took about four months before I saw my contract, and I'm told this is pretty common, if a bit weird. (I'm sure others have had different time frames depending on the publishing house). It's a bit surreal actually, because there's so much activity for a while, then nada. It makes it so much easier to convince yourself you dreamed the entire thing.
Eventually, you realize it wasn't a dream, and you did indeed make that sale. You'll get a call from your editor, probably with your agent on the line too, and you'll talk about where you go from here. Your editor will have ideas for the book, and she'll want to get to know you a little better. This was a fun call for me, as both my agent and editor are way cool. We laughed a lot, which is how all business calls should be if you ask me.
This is also when my editor asked me to send her a list (I sent a PDF with actual images) of covers I liked and why I liked them, so they could get started on some cover sketches. Of my book. -squeee!-
Time will pass, then you'll get your editorial letter.
This is a letter with all the notes and thoughts and suggestions for your book. This is when you find out all the things that are wrong with your precious baby. You're asked to make changes to it. It can actually make you feel a little bit like this...
Okay, I'm kidding, kinda. It can be scary, but my editor had such great ideas and her excitement about the book was contagious. I knew how dead on she was in that letter and how much better The Shifter would be when we were done.
So what does this letter entail? It might have some line edit corrections (typos and whatnot), some general tightening of the text (cut down this scene, trim this chapter), and other wider reaching issues (deepen a character, highlight an aspect of the story). It can be long or short, and the joke is that the longer the letter the better, because shorter letters usually mean bigger problems. It takes longer to point out a lot of easy-to-fix things than to comment on one huge issue. (After three books, I can say this is more truth than joke. My shorter letters were always on larger issues.)
You'll probably go over the editorial letter with your editor and she'll clarify some things if you have questions. She'll also likely remember things she thought of after she wrote the letter, and this might continue for several days. Keep chocolate nearby for emergencies. And keep telling yourself that this is nothing. The real edits will come later, after you've been lulled into a false sense of security. (See copyeditors-of-doom. This is when they start planning world domination)
Sometime during these editing times, you'll get your contract in the mail. You'll read it, and a lot of it won't make sense. But don't worry, just call your agent and ask about anything that looks like it's in an alien language. She'll be happy to explain it to you. You'll sign a bunch of copies and send them back. Sans one, of course. That's yours.
Another round of dancing and cheering will occur here, because "on signing the contract" is often the point in which you get the first chunk of your advance check. When that comes in, you're officially a professional writer because some has paid you to write. There will be much rejoicing. Possibly more champagne. Definitely more chocolate.
You'll go back and forth with edits until you have a pretty clean manuscript. Some edits will be on hard copy (and you make any changes directly to the pages and send them back). Other edits will be on the electronic file. It'll seem like this process never ends but it does.
This all leads to the next stage, the galley proof.
So endeth part one.
I told you there was waiting.