What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Be Published

by Boyd Morrison

If you’ve just gotten an offer for publication of your debut novel, congratulations! Keep the celebration short, though, because you’ve got a lot of work to do ahead of its release. Before I got that magic phone call, I didn’t realize how much an author has to do in preparation for a book launch. It’s no longer a hobby; it’s now a job. So here’s a compact primer on the responsibilities you’ll have during the gestation and birthing of a published book.

1)   Sign the contract. At this point, you will usually receive one-third of your negotiated advance (sometimes a fourth portion of the advance is retained until paperback publication of a hardcover release).

2)   Deliver the manuscript to your editor.

3)   Receive notes from your editor. These can come as comments in the document, a summary letter of notes, or both.

4)   Revise, revise, revise.

5)   Deliver revision to editor. Continue steps 3-5 until revisions are complete.

6)   Editor officially accepts the delivered manuscript! You get the second third of your advance.

7)   Receive the copyedits. The copyeditor is a different person from your editor, who comments on story issues. The copyeditor comments about typos, grammatical errors, repeated words, inconsistencies (name changes, timing issues, etc.), and typesetting notes (italics, bolding, etc.).

8)   Copyedits are also called galleys. The cover of a galley is typewritten with the title and your name. You suggest other authors to send these galleys to for possible blurbs. I often get blurb requests that require me to read the book in two weeks, which is usually impossible for me to do because of other commitments. You want to give authors at least 2-3 months to read it, and even then it’s very possible they won’t have time because of other galleys on deck for blurbs or deadline issues.

9)   Go through all the copyedits and either accept each change, modify it, or write “stet,” which means you want it the way it is.

10) Send the approved copyedits back to your publisher.

11) Approve the cover. Most authors have no say in the cover art, so the publisher usually sends it and says, “Isn’t it great!” But some authors get consultation so you can at least raise concerns if you find something objectionable. However, the final decision is with the publisher.

12) Write the book jacket and back cover summary.

13) Write your author bio for the book jacket.

14) If you don’t yet have a professional-quality author photo, get one.

15) Receive the proof. This is what the book will actually look like in print.

16) Proofread the book. This process is called proofing.” Sometimes you will get a second proof to read.

17) Send proof back. A part of you hopes you never have to read this novel again.

18) Once you approve the final proof, it goes to the printer. No more changes can be made unless they’re incorporated into a future edition.

19) Ooh and aah over any ARCs (advance reader copies) that are sent to you. ARCs look like the final book with the actual cover, except it is in paperback instead of hardcover. ARCs are typically sent to reviewers and bookstores to generate reviews and excitement about the book.

20) Approve or write publicity releases. These will be sent out with the ARCs or to news outlets to create buzz about a book.

21) Approve or write marketing materials. These will be used for advertisements, catalog inserts, or in-store promos.

22) Approve or write website materials. These can be for your own website or the publisher’s website and can consist of your process for creating the book, extensive Q&A sessions, or book club guidelines.

23) The book hits stores! You get the final third of your advance. But you’re not done…

24) Write blog posts to promote the book. This can be done as part of a blog tour, where you visit a new blog every day for a few weeks.

25) Keep Twitter and Facebook followers engaged and informed about the release.

26) Double-check all of the online booksellers where your book is listed to make sure there aren’t any errors (this has happened to me many times—e.g., bookcovers that were the wrong version, inaccurate descriptions, broken links).

27) Respond to written interviews. An interviewer gets to email you 5-10 short questions, and then you have to write all the (sometimes lengthy) answers the way you want them to appear because they will be published verbatim.

28) If you or your publisher has put a good effort into publicity, you’ll need to do phone or in-person interviews with radio and TV stations.

29) Even if you only visit bookstores in your own town, you’ll be doing some booksignings. This can also involve traveling to multiple cities. You may be booked to appear at writers’ conferences, fan conventions, or bookfests. You’ll need to come up with some sort of presentation for all of these—sometimes you’re just on a panel and other times you might be the only one talking to a roomful of readers.

30) Obsess over your Amazon ranking and reviews. You know you shouldn’t, but it’s almost impossible to ignore them.

31) By the way, while all of the preceding is going on, you need to write your next book. Have fun with your new job!

12 thoughts on “What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Be Published

  1. Boyd, great list. I got tired just reading it, but it’s quite accurate…and a wonderful experience, even when it seems as though everyone wants a piece of you.

  2. This is a great checklist. I’d advise writers to begin their social networking now, before they are published. In some cases, editors will even look to see if they have a platform online before making an offer. At the best, it gives you a headstart so you don’t have to scramble so much when you get the Call.

  3. The thing that gets me is how all of these new deadlines–editor revisions, copy edits & galley review–all hit when you’ve got other deadlines for the next book. Plus you have to think about the lead time for promo necessities for your release AND if you’re a debut author, you usually are starting from scratch on setting up your website/blog & social media. Writing definitely is the easiest part of this process. It’s the only thing you can truly control.

    Great comprehensive list, Boyd.

  4. Oh, and while you’re at it:

    Do the laundry.
    Go to your kid’s ballet recital
    Walk the dog
    Roll over and say hi to the spouse
    Hit the gym
    Shovel the snow
    Do your taxes
    Go to at least one writer’s con
    Update your website
    Coach your son’s soccer game
    Find that thing that’s making the fridge stink
    Get a colonoscopy
    Visit your mom
    Pressure clean the deck
    Mail back the Netflix envelope
    Get your hair cut
    Fetch a Boston Market chicken
    Get up and do it all over again.

    Breathe in pink, breathe out blue…

  5. That about sums it up, although I’ve rarely been asked to the jacket and bcc, or to approve marketing materials (sometimes I don’t even see those!) And it does vary from publisher to publisher. I usually get a few weeks at most for edits, which is always a time crunch.

Comments are closed.