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 X-posted from my personal journal:

You're sitting there, stunned.  You just got 'the call'…the call from your agent or an editor—they want to publish your book!  Visions of bestseller lists, megamoney, and fame and fortune run through your head.  Oh, you can feel that Caribbean Island sunshine beaming down on you right now!

Wake up, come on, time to wake up.  You've been dreaming, my friend.  Time for a reality check.  I know you don't want to drag yourself away from the sunlit beaches and tropical drinks, but I've got a checklist for you of what you can reasonably expect now that you are going to be a (gasp) published author. ~grins~  I'm sorry it's not a bed of roses, but trust me, it's fun in its own sadistic little way.

I was giving a talk the other night to a local RWA group and realized how much misinformation is out there about what happens when you get 'the call'…and while some of it makes for high hopes, it can also lead to plummeting gutbombs when you realize just how much of a dinosaur the publishing industry still is.  Remember, there are always exceptions to the following, but for the most part, don't count on it. 

1: You may wait up to two years to see your first book in print after they make an offer.  Or more.  A few writers I know have waited longer.  I was lucky—Llewellyn bought Trancing The Witch's Wheel in…I believe it was April 1996, and the book hit the shelves in the summer of 1997.  For my fiction, Berkley bought Ghost of a Chance (and two other books to be written) in August 2002, and Ghost of a Chance hit the shelves in August 2003.  I've also seen the downside—Sexual Ecstasy and the Divine was contracted in 2000, along with Crafting the Body DivineCTBD came out in November 2001, just in time to crash and burn along with the Towers—a lot of books that came out around 9/11 died a resounding death.  The book isn't out of print, but the publisher went under thanks to the economic downturn, and by the time they sold to another publisher, the book had been hit by the kiss of death.  SETD didn't hit the shelves till March 2003—almost three years after it was contracted.

2: Expect revisions.  They may be few, they may be many—sometimes as you go along in your career, they get fewer and fewer per book as you learn.  But the bound, printed volume on the shelf is likely to be significantly different than the one you sold the publisher.  Why?  Because new authors, especially, make a lot of mistakes—mistakes in pacing, or in length.  When my agent sold Ghost of a Chance, I was amazed when I talked to the editor about revisions.  She loved the book, but wanted a couple major shifts in the plot and the villain, she wanted extra scenes inserted—things I thought would kill a book's chances at being bought.  So you've got work ahead of you.  Don't play the diva—do NOT argue unless it severely compromises your vision of the work.  If you're cooperative on the smaller stuff, when something really does matter, they're likely to take your protests more seriously.  Now, my revisions seldom take more than an hour or two, but I know people who get extensive revision letters.  I've usually had about a week to finish revisions. 

3: After the book is revised, it goes to the copyeditor, who checks for consistency, for typos, punctuation, all sorts of things.  Most houses send you the copyedits to go through.  If there's something that just doesn't sit right (and sometimes the copyeditors do make mistakes), you write STET in the margin by the change, which tells them to leave it alone and not make the change.  I've had ms where I was using STET over and over again because the copyeditor tried to rewrite the book in her own style (NOT a good thing).  I've also had manuscripts that were a breeze to go through.  This is the last chance to make big changes and I've often inserted a few extra scenes here, or re-written paragraphs.  Most often, turn around time for me has been ten days—meaning it was due back on the editor's desk ten days from the time it showed up on my doorstep.  Meaning I give Fed-Ex a LOT of business.

4: After the copyedits are done, the manuscript goes to what are known as page proofs (sometimes also known as galleys).  The book is printed the way it will look in bound copy, but it's still on single sided sheets of paper.  Most houses send you page proofs—I would dread working with a publishing house that didn't.  Here it's vital you go through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb.  This is the last chance you'll get to make changes—and you can't make many unless the publisher screwed up, because it costs them a lot of money and will come out of your royalties if you're just making changes for the hell of it.  The publisher will also have people proofreading through it—but be aware, there's always going to be some slipup, some typo that you don't catch.  It's like some unwritten rule of the universe—there cannot be a book in print that's typo-free.  And it's like a slap in the face when you see it in the bound copies—sort of that, "oh crap" moment when you realize your eyes jumped right over some stupid, obvious mistake.  Turn around for page proofs differ, of course, but for me it's usually a week or so.

5: The next stage won't happen for all books.  This is when ARCs (advance reader copies) are printed up for reviewers.  If you're lucky, you'll get some.  I get a handful, there are other publishers that give their authors more and some that don't print ARCs at all.  These are sent out to reviewers and that's how come you'll see a review for a book that's not on the shelf yet.  ARCs aren't supposed to be sold—it's usually plastered right on the front—NOT FOR SALE…but a number of reviewers do, anyway.

6:  And lastly—the bound copies of your book come out.  You'll get a certain number (stipulated in your contract).  Usually between 10 and 50.  These are yours to use for promotion, to give to family, whatever you want to do with them.  I usually give a few away in contests, I use them for inclusion in promo baskets and for conference promotion, and I give my sister, my MIL, and my sisters-in-law copies, along with one or two friends who can't easily get hold of my books.  You'll most likely get your author copies shortly before it hits the shelves.  If you're lucky. 

By the way, during all of the above, you'll be busy writing your second book--so you'll have to learn how to drop work on one to make room for the above process.  Get used to multi-tasking. Now.

So now, your book is on the shelves—release date is here and you're holding your breath.  What can you do, promotion-wise, to make it sell better?  And what about advances and royalties?   Tune in next time for part 2.



( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you SO MUCH for this. Over at Debut2009, a bunch of us have been trying to figure out the exact order of things. This is wonderful, thank you!

-Saundra Mitchell
Feb. 15th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I'll post Part 2 either tomorrow or next day. :)

Feb. 15th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
YAY for part two! Thank you again! :D

Feb. 15th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
This struck a chord. Actually, reading this through reminds me how fortunate I was with my own first novel (Bloodangel, from Roc/Penguin) -- although I didn't know enough to appreciate many things at the time, and I was really hungry for information like the kind in your post...

One of the reasons why it's so great to be a writer in the age of the Internet is because we do have this medium to compare experiences and learn, learn, learn -- bridge that gulf that feels like it exists between us and the publication process. By the time I got my first book deal, I thought I'd learned quite a bit about the publishing industry. And possibly I had. But it was nothing compared to what I learned in the time leading up to my own book being on the shelves, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was able to travel to New York and meet with editors and agents face-to-face and finally ask them all sorts of questions. Otherwise so much of what happens on the other side of the publishing fence would have remained much more of a mist for me...much like in that Stephen King story...
Feb. 15th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I'm working on my 22nd book--published. (Seven novels in the closet). Nineteen of those books have hit the shelves. I still learn more with each new book--if not within my own process, I learn because the industry shifts and changes as we go along. Back in the mid-90's, I felt so damned isolated and knew very few writers--the net hadn't hit big, at least not for me, and I remember the wonder I felt in 1998--right after my second book hit the shelves--when I suddenly could reach out and talk to other authors. It was like mist rising to reveal a whole new world.

Feb. 15th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
Great stuff, Yasmine!

One of the reasons why it's so great to be a writer in the age of the Internet is because we do have this medium to compare experiences and learn, learn, learn

This is SO true! And it's so much easier for aspiring authors to get "up to speed" quickly if they're just willing to spend some time surfing the net and reading authors' (and agents') blogs. A lot of us try to post writing tips and useful tidbits, hoping to help those along.

Feb. 15th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Right there with ya on the time-tables. My offer on my book came in April 2007. My book should hit the shelves sometime in 'Spring 2009' though I wouldn't be surprised if it got pushed. Stuff just takes a long time to schedule.

-Jill Myles
Feb. 15th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
My release dates have been stepped up quite a bit...I'm turning in my books about seven-eight months before they hit the shelves, but this series is coming out faster than my previous ones.

Feb. 15th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
and we readers are all QUITE happy about the speed up :-)
Feb. 15th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this! It's so helpful to see it all laid out like this. Can't wait to see part 2! :)
Feb. 15th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
Making the big bucks?
Do you mention in part II that it may take a year to see a royalty statement with a nice big check? So the book it took you ages to write to begin with, then takes 2 years to be published, we need to add yet another year to get the royalty checks after advances. And they hold back thousands for reserves... Thousands. For most first time authors, don't expect to be rolling in the dough after your first book is published--especially not right away.

Notice I say *most*. There are many authors out there whose books kick such major ass that the number of zeros has your head spinning. Not to mention some have advances that will blow your mind totally away.

Just another wake-up call...
Feb. 15th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Making the big bucks?
Yeah, I'm planning to go into the reality of royalties and reserves against returns and so forth. It's sobering, isn't it?

Feb. 15th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
sometimes as you go along in your career, they get fewer and fewer per book as you learn

And sometimes, the more you learn and the better your books are, the more your editor asks of you and the more you know how to do with those books, so you revise more rather than less. :-)
Feb. 17th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
Amen! When does this novel-writing thing start getting easier instead of harder? :-)

Feb. 17th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
I'm just glad no one told me how much I didn't know when I started, or I might have given up in despair long ago. :-)
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Because the actual release date has become so anti-climatic so often, I try to throw a small celebratory dinner party for my local writer friends on or close to their release date so the date doesn't just slide by without recognition.

It's such a weird feeling, especially when you have a release date, but books start appearing on shelves early or whatever.

I treasure the good copy editors; the other kind just make me want to bang my head against the desk!
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
Sometimes, I wonder how book publishers stay in business because this process is so long and slow and complicated. Plus, it seems like it takes forever for each one of these steps to happen. I always tell people I write to stay sane while I'm waiting for stuff to happen (cover art, copy edits, contracts, etc.) :-)
Feb. 16th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
Wonderful post! Thank you for doing this.

Feb. 16th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
I need to show this to my husband. I just had an agent request a partial, and I can already see the dollar signs in his eyes. Heh, wait until he finds out what the advance for a first-time genre novelist really is. (He wants to buy a new car with the damned thing. I told him that if the book sells, I'll get him a Matchbox with whatever the government doesn't take.)
Feb. 17th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
Show him part two, which is up now. That may help stop the pressure. LOL

Feb. 17th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
Oh, Elvis. I read it. He's going to cry.

I fully expect to get a call from a Ford dealership one of these days. "Ma'am, could you come and get your husband? He's stretched across the hood of a new-model Mustang, singing it to sleep." (Seriously. If I go through the whole marriage process again? Totally going to be a woman, namely one that doesn't get misty-eyed over sports cars.)
Feb. 16th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for laying it all out there. I've also sent my partial to an editor and I'm a bit giddy, but I'm also battling high blood pressure and freakish heart palpitations so I have to find some sort of zen place to chill and not take it all so seriously.
Feb. 17th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
Terrific stuff, Yasmine.
Feb. 17th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Great info--thanks so much. =)
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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