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!