Advice abounds on the web for aspiring writers trying to get an agent or get published. A great deal of angst and energy is expended leading up to the signing of the book contract. What then? What's beyond the curtain? Let's take a peek.
I can tell you that it isn't all putting your feet up and waiting for the accolades to roll in. You'll be plunged into the work on your next book and the ever-growing work on the business of writing. Here's an outline of a theoretical (but grounded in reality) year after the contract is signed.
You sign a book contract December 31, 2008!
Here’s what you have to look forward to in the months to come.
Send your agent a thank you card or gift.
In rare cases your acquiring editor will assign a new editor to work with you - if so, introduce yourself and establish a working relationship.
Begin work on any revisions your editor has requested.
Begin collecting a mailing list of bookstores and individuals for promotion.
Supply any needed permissions to editor for quotes used inside your manuscript.
Continue working on the proposal for your next book, which will be done under a deadline.
Contact possible sources of jacket quotes for permission to send a manuscript to them. Be bold. Ask members of writing organizations you belong to. Be sure you're selecting writers whose work is similar to yours.
Turn in revised manuscript as negotiated with editor.
Your book is placed on production schedule
Pub Date set at January 1, 2010 - it seems so far away!
Send out manuscript copies (unbound) for advance quotes - let recipients know the deadline for getting quotes in. Make sure you let them know you are not demanding a quote, but that you'll have to earn it.
Plan your web site, if you don't already have one. Choose your poison for social networking and begin to establish yourself in your real or pen name.
Get written permission from publisher to use a book excerpt on your web site. Don't give away too much, and be sure to stop at a "tease" point.
Receive the payment of your advance for the first book, but don't get too attached to it.
Plan on spending those dollars on promotion. Unless you have struck it big, new authors can plan on plowing
the advances for the first three books into developing a readership.
Make contact with the publicist assigned to you by your editor and determine what, if any, promotion will be done. Plan yours to complement, not duplicate. Some publicists will want to wait until the book release date is much closer before even making plans. This is okay for web promotion, but watch out for long-lead print media.
Plan giveaway items such as bookmarks, but don't order them until you get the cover art for your book.
Study proofreading marks - you'll need to understand those squiggles if you don't already
You did make sure that your contract specified review of the copyedited manuscript and not just the galleys, didn't you?
Remind your editor that you would like to review/correct the jacket text (in rare cases, you'll be asked to write the jacket text).
Think about cover art and be prepared to offer suggestions. Don't expect to have too much influence over art or jacket text - it's a marketing thing.
Do you have a mailing list, email or snail, to whom you can send promotional information? If not, work on assembling a list of individual readers via your web site or look for lists of bookstores and libraries that you can obtain. Some writer's organizations help with this.
Turn in jacket quotes to the editor. You can send one reminder to anyone who hasn't responded yet, but don't make a pest of yourself. If you haven't heard anything, there could be a perfectly good reason for that. If a writer doesn't like your book and doesn't want to blurb it, most will not want to confront you directly about that. They'll just not send anything.
Turn in your photo and bio for the book jacket if requested.
Send the proposal for your second book to your agent to get feedback - you have been working on that, right?
Send thank you notes to authors who have provided quotes. Later on you'll send them a copy of your signed book.
Jacket design (artwork and text) may be finalized by now. Order any promotional items that incorporate the jacket design, such as postcards or bookmarks.
Revise the proposal for your second book and send it off to your agent again.
Yikes! Editor resigns and moves to a different publishing house. Your book is now an orphan waiting for reassignment.
Introduce yourself to the newly-assigned editor and start all over building a working relationship.
Confirm the publication schedule with your new editor.
Yikes! Release date has been postponed three months until April 1, 2010 due to new editor's workload. That promotional material you printed is now out of date. Do it again.
Begin cultivating a local bookstore with the idea of having a book launch party. Contact the manager directly. It will become your "home store".
Your book proposal finally passes the agent's scrutiny and is sent to the editor. Fingers crossed for a contract for book two. Some editors will not want to commit to a contract until your first book is released and they get an inkling of sales. You can still submit your proposal for the second book early, and you should begin writing the book.
Your editor loves the proposal and is confident of good sales on your first book. A contract signed for second book with a deadline of February 1, 2010.
Send a thank you card to your agent.
Celebrate, then get back to work adding chapters to your second manuscript--you're writing on deadline.
Request Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) for your own use. Ask for 100. You might actually get half that many, if you're lucky. More likely, when your editor stops laughing, you'll get half a dozen. But it's worth trying.
Review the jacket text and offer suggestions - gently.
DROP EVERYTHING! The copyedited manuscript has arrived for your review. You have ten days to respond. Return the entire manuscript by a delivery service (tracking, baby, tracking) with your corrections marked. Do not get cheap here and miss the 10 day deadline. If you are paranoid about losing all your effort, make a copy of the manuscript before sending it. This is your last chance to make any substantial (a paragraph) additions or deletions. The next time you see this manuscript, it will be 99% set in stone.
Begin thinking about a proposal for your third book!
Work on getting your web site linked to others and listed in search engines. Do social networking (Facebook, Twitter) if you are inclined to. Your editor may request that you get involved.
GET FRUSTRATED - New York City's publishing industry virtually closes down this month for vacations. No one is returning your emails or phone calls.
Finalize your mailing list and assemble the promotional mailing or emailing. Check out newsletter services like Vertical Response.
Work on that second book manuscript (you are a writer, remember?).
Don't forget to drop in on your home book store from time to time, and actually buy a few books. It's in a good cause, namely getting their attention and getting them to like you. Talk to the manager. Besides, you can read those books in your spare (!) time.
Receive the advance for your second book - probably only half of it. The other half will come after you deliver the completed, accepted manuscript. Your editor may request changes before officially accepting it.
DROP EVERYTHING! Galley proofs have arrived for your review. Fax back only the corrected pages within seven days, or mail or email them, as the editor directs. Remember, you can't use the galleys to add large amounts of material you forgot the first time around. Changes at this time are very small. It would be surprising if you were sending back more than fifteen or so pages, each with a minor change.
Your book appears in the publisher's catalog for the first half of 2010!
Orders begin to be placed for the book. You incessantly check your Amazon sales rank, until it grows old.
Begin scheduling convention appearances for 2010. You may or may not want to tour. In my opinion, it is not a good use of your time and money. You will go to a bookstore and sell maybe three books, unless it's in your hometown and you have packed the audience with your friends and relatives. Instead, consider buying copies of your book when it's avaiable, and sending signed copies to bookstore owners with a nice hand-written note. If you can get the bookstore owner on your side, you will sell more copies due to recommendations than if you appeared in person.
Schedule a pub party at your home store, with refreshments and local publicity. You may have to split costs with the store owner. The pub party should be your first signing in your home town.
Corrected galleys sent to print for final printing and binding. Another milestone on your publication schedule checked off.
Author receives ARCs for own use
Author sets up signings for April/May 2010
Take a short vacation now if possible. Relax and do nothing. Have some turkey. Let out your waistband.
Promotional mailing sent out, including the advance jacket quotes you obtained
Your uncorrected ARCs or bound galleys - ARCs have your cover art on the front, bound galleys have plain covers - may arrive now. You'll get one or the other, generally not both.
Marketing department starts to promote your book to book buyers.
Send ARCs to selected recipients. If you have only a few ARCs, save them. Later on, you'll really wish you had them, when you get personal requests. If you have 100 of them, focus on local reviewers and media before considering anyone else. Refer anyone for whom you can't (or don't want) to give one of your precious ARCs to the publicist.
Hand-deliver an ARC to your home store.
ARCs will be sent by the publicist to some review sources and bookstores - coordinate so you don't duplicate effort.
Churn out chapters of second book - no writer's block allowed, you're on deadline.
Grow a thick skin in preparation for seeing your book reviews.
Reviews may appear in trade journals late this month or next - Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal.
Put the finishing touches on your second manuscript that is due February. You're a professional author and don't miss deadlines.
Right about now your first print run size will be determined by adding up actual advance orders for the book and projecting from there.
Send out a second promotional mailing incorporating the glowing reviews you have received from trade journals. Or not.
Order additional copies of your book directly from the publisher at the author's discount, usually 40%-50%. You'll need them for promotion.
If you have scheduled signings, send complete press kits (photo, press release, bio, quotes, reviews) to stores where signings are scheduled.
Turn in your second manuscript and be prepared for editorial changes.
Send the synopsis of third book to your agent for review and comments. What? You weren't working on that? Tsk tsk.
The books will be shipped to distributor this month.
Your author's copies of your first book arrive - dance in the streets!
Send signed copies of your book to all who contributed a quote.
Hand-deliver a signed copy to your home store. Buy a book or two while you're there.
Books will probably be shipped to stores by mid-March. Shipping date is generally two weeks in advance of the on-sale (or pub) date.
Reviews begin to appear in the consumer media. Remember that thick skin you grew? If you get a bad review - and you will, sometime, somewhere - feel free to rant privately, then get over it and get back to writing.It is unprofessional to make any comments about bad reviews. Yes, that means on Facebook, too. You, as the author, are above all that.
Revise the synopsis for your third book. The agent really didn't like it and asked you to consider going back to square one with it. Bah.
See your book on the shelf for the first time near the end of the month. Walk on air. Kiss clerks. Grab bystanders and point out your book to them. It's okay. You worked for it.
Enjoy your pub party!
Send a gracious thank you note after each signing.
Greet your adoring fans, but be prepared for signings with zero turnout. Getting people to know your book is out there is hard, and getting them to part with dollars is harder.
You are suddenly inspired for a new approach for your third book and the words jump onto paper. Your agent loves it.
Bookstore signings and other appearances continue. If you are touring (as I've said, I recommend against it), build some down time into your schedule.
Sign contract for your third book, with a deadline of December 1, 2010.
Thank your agent - go ahead, send that gift basket of fine wines! You treat your business partners well, don't you?
Begin chapters of your third book
Stash away a box of your first books in the basement as future collectibles.
Experience a very strange emotion when you see your book advertised on eBay with a starting price of 99 cents.
Make time for conferences and conventions, to network with fans and writers. Face time very important at these large events.
You're beginning to live your dream.
Stay grounded in the realities of the writing business. Don't quit the day job too soon.
Everything in publishing takes longer than you expect! That's why this "Year in the Life of a Novel" turned out to take eighteen months.