There’s all sorts of information on the internet about how to write, how to land an agent, and even information about how to market your book after it’s released. But in the past year I’ve discovered that there’s not much about what happens in-between. What happens after you get The Call from your agent? What happens after your book sells?
(Caveat: This was my experience with my particular publisher and agent. I have no idea how things are handled with different publishers/editors.)
So, your dream has come true, and your agent has called to tell you that An Editor wishes to buy your book. First thing, after the exciting rush of euphoria, comes the post-partum let-down. Seriously, you’re going to experience this. You’ll tell a million people, and not everyone will be as excited for you as you think they should be. And then you will run out of people to tell. Not only that, but absolutely nothing will happen for four-to-six weeks.
But then, finally, the contract arrives! A huge envelope will come in the mail with three copies of a document, 15-20 pages long, on legal-sized paper. It’s definitely intimidating. READ this thing carefully. Read it with the internet in one hand and your contract in another. Make sure you understand what each clause means and what its implications are, especially clauses that have the potential to limit future sales, such as anything dealing with Non-Compete, or First Publication, or Option on next book. I actually ended up going back to my agent with some issues that I had with my original contract, and we had to ask for some changes to a few of the clauses–which, fortunately, my publisher was willing to grant. I’m not going to go into details about what various clauses mean, since I’m by no means an expert; these are things that should be discussed with your agent. But just keep in mind that the wording of your contract can have a lasting impact on your writing career.
Once all of that is done and the contracts are signed, accepted, and turned in, you should receive your first check–depending on how your contract is worded for payment of the advance. My contract had my advance split out as follows: 35% on signing, 50% on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript, and 15% on publication. And, since my contract was for a two-book deal, I was paid the signing portion for both books at the same time.
After that, it was time for more waiting–this time for the revision letter from my editor. Since all editors are pretty heavily overworked, it might be a couple of months before your editor has a chance to sit down with your manuscript. But, eventually, you’ll receive yet another package in the mail–this time containing a marked-up manuscript, along with a letter from your editor pointing out all of the places in your book that work and don’t work, as well as suggestions for fixing the problems. (I ended up having a lengthy email exchange with my editor for several days as we tried to figure out a fix for what was a fairly major weakness in the plot.) Finally, once you’ve made all of the revisions, you can finally deliver your new and improved manuscript. Hurray! It’s delivered! Now you can paid again, right?
Well, not necessarily! My book ended up going through a couple more rounds of revisions, but yes, eventually everyone was very happy with the final product, and another check came winging my way from my agent.
Next, the manuscript was sent to the copy-editor. A few weeks later, yet another big package arrived in the mail, with a heavily marked up manuscript that also had the added feature of (what seemed like) about a hundred sticky notes scattered throughout the pages.
The package also contained a several-sheet document called a style-sheet, that kept track of EVERYTHING.
(For a really great description of what a copyeditor does, see Deanna Hoak’s post on the subject.)
It took me a few days to go through the copy-edited manuscript (after going online and printing out a page describing what the various copy-edit marks all meant,) answering all of the questions asked on the sticky notes, or dealing with issues pointed out, and then checking each mark and marking STET on the changes I didn’t agree with (which weren’t very many.) By the end of it, my brain felt fried, and I had a new-found appreciation for how much a copyeditor has to keep track of!
So, I was finished with the copy-edits, but before I sent it back I went down to my local Kinkos and had a copy made of the whole thing (making sure they were doing it dark enough so that all of the markups could be seen.) It cost a few bucks, but I’d been advised by other writers that it was worth the money to do this for a wide variety of reasons that I’m sure you can figure out on your own.
Finally, I had my copy, and the original was on its way back to New York. At this time the manuscript was given to the typesetter–who apparently then rekeyed the entire thing in from scratch. (I know this sounds really strange in this day and age of electronic documents, but after seeing how many changes were needed on darn near every page, I can see that it would probably be less work for an experienced typesetter to just type it in all over again.)
During the wait for the page proofs, I also received emails from my editor with samples of cover copy for the back cover, the tag line that goes on the front, and the excerpt that goes in the front of the book. As I said before, I have no idea how other publishing houses do things, but I was given the opportunity to offer suggestions for changes, which I really appreciated.
Then the page proofs arrived!
But I eventually did receive a clean (and dry!) set of proofs. Hurray! I could see my book beginning to look like a book!
Now, the not so ‘hurray!’ part: Oh my god, I had to read through the entire thing. Again. Meticulously. Since typesetting often introduces new errors (and since sometimes the typesetter can’t read the copyeditor’s marks and interprets them as they see fit, with interesting results) it was necessary to read through very very carefully. This was also my last chance to change anything that I thought needed changing. (Fortunately, I managed to restrain myself from rewriting whole chapters at this stage in the game.) This time I didn’t need to send back the entire set of page proofs–just the pages that needed errors fixed. But, once again, I still had copies made of those pages. Also, I was very glad to have my copy of the copy-edited manuscript, because there were several times that I referred back to the marked up copy to try to figure out why the typesetter typed what was typed!
And, that’s the end of After the Sale: Part One! (Part Two will come later in the year, after the release.) If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks! And, be sure to check back tomorrow for our “Sunday Quickie” segment, where each of us will answer the Question Of The Week.