Until after I sold my first book, I thought the hardest part of the publishing process was writing and selling the book. Little did I know about all the hard work that came after the sale — revisions, galleys, new proposals and the promotion and publicity necessary to establish and advance a career as a writer.
Many aspiring authors don’t understand the entire process and in all fairness neither did I when I sold my first book. But I soon found out just what was involved in not only taking a book from sale to publication, but what was needed afterward to try and make that book a success.
For starters, the book that you sell to a publisher is oftentimes a diamond in the rough. It will take the editor’s skills to polish it and make it as bright and shiny as it can be on the shelf. After the sale, the editor will read your manuscript and generally offer up a number of revisions for you to undertake. The one rule I always tell writers about this phase – Don’t be a diva. Editors are there to help you make your product more marketable so listen to the comments they have to offer and work with them. There are some authors who think of their creation as being untouchable. That their vision is one not to be tampered with but the bottom line is, if a book doesn’t sell your vision will reach no one.
Having a successful book will also take the involvement of the art, sales and marketing departments to produce that final product and try to make it sell. The art department will work with your editor, executive editors and maybe even the publisher to decide on the look for your book cover. The marketing department may also have some input into the cover as well as the title. Another rule to remember – don’t get married to your title. Titles will often be changed to make the book more marketable. Finally, the book, cover and title may be discussed with the sales department to see if they envision any problems. For example, there are certain titles and covers which will not fly with some retailers, such as Walmart. Changes might be made to make sure your book will be bought by all of the important retailers.
It will also be up to the sales department to sell your book to distributors and retailers. During the process of selling the book, there may also be discussion of “coop” money. “Coop” money is the money paid by the publisher and/or agreed to by retailers in order to give your book prime placement in a store. For example, all those books that you see on the tables, end caps or face out as well as “dumps”. “Dumps” are those free-standing cardboard display boxes you see in stores. Not all books will receive “coop” dollars to help get them in premiere locations in a bookstore.
During the process of selecting cover art, sales, etc., you will receive copyedits. The copyedits are additional changes being requested by your editor and/or a copyeditor. These changes may be just grammatical, but they could also involve revising plot issues, issues with the timing in the novel or even fact checking.
Once you review the copyedits and send them back, the book will move on in the next stage of production and you will eventually receive what is known as the “galley”. The galley is the proof copy of the book that will be printed. Your contract will provide that you are supposed to review the galley for any errors and return the pages with errors to your publisher.
Revisions, cover art, sales, galleys . . . So how long does that entire process take? In general, about a year from the time you first deliver your full manuscript to when your book will hit the shelves.
But I did leave out an important part of the process – promotion and publicity. Many many months before the book is released, you will need to decide what you will be doing to promote and publicize your book. In most cases, the bulk of the work will rest with the author since many publishers will not do promotion on behalf of an author. But before you embark on a promotion and publicity plan, make sure to coordinate with your publisher to see if they are doing anything and if so, what they are doing so that you do not duplicate efforts.
What are some things that you can do to promote? Ads in trade magazines, press releases, newsletters, contests, giveaways, conferences, sending out review copies, a website, blog, social media sites and video trailers are all ways in which you can promote and publicize your book. You should discuss all of these things with your agent (if you have one) and/or your publisher. You may also wish to engage the services of a private publicist to assist you with all of these items.
And while you’re doing all of the above, don’t forget one very important thing – always be preparing your next book and/or proposal. Publishers love writers who always have something ready because it’s important to have regular product on the shelves so that you can build a following and increase your book sales with each release. So, always be writing!
Thanks for having me visit and I wish you all the best of luck in your writing careers!