Why Isn’t the Book Published YET?

March 28, 2013
About Editorial Notes
February 7, 2013
Light at the End of the Editing Tunnel
April 30, 2013

I thought you'd be published by now!" This is a comment I get all the time from well-meaning friends. On bad days, it makes me grit my teeth because Things are Really Moving Very Quickly. My sale to HarperCollins Canada was in November 2012 and the planned Canadian ship date for my novel is sometime this Fall 2013. That’s pretty fast for the publishing industry.

But before I began this journey, I had no idea of timelines either.

It’s a steep learning curve into the world of book publishing. While some things move pretty slowly, other things have been moving with an intensity comparable to the corporate world when deadlines loom. 

Here's where The Husband likes to point out that I’m the one putting pressure on myself. True, but I want my book to be on the shelves in time for Christmas and if it means working 7 days/week to do it, then that’s what has to happen.

 
 

Contracts: If you’re used to the corporate world, you know that nothing happens until the contract is signed. But in the book world, yup, that letter of offer is all they need between publisher and agent. Agent Jill says she’s never known of publishers backing out. She’s seen books go into final revisions without a contract. It’s all done (still) on a (virtual) handshake. Kind of nice to know that some "gentleman’s agreements" still hold, don’t you think?

My husband said “Don’t do any revisions until the contract is signed”. That’s a perfectly logical response from a corporate guy but I said, “If I don’t work on revisions starting NOW, I won’t make the deadlines.” Here is where working with a reputable agency and publisher allays fears. The contract will show up and so will the advance.

Revisions: Absolutely and on both sides of that handshake. You’ll be grateful that your editor(s) take their time to really read through your manuscript, think things over, and provide thoughtful feedback. Then it’s your turn. Don’t rush it. Yes, there are deadlines, but you know, there’s always another production window. Believe me, your editor prefers a work of quality published next year to a sub-standard product this year.

Editor Iris: “You have one opportunity to publish your first novel. Let’s do a good job.” 

Now if that doesn’t put the fear of God and good editing into a debut novelist, I don’t know what will. Editor Iris had editorial notes to the manuscript back to me early January. I worked on that sucker almost every night. Just to make sure I was on the right track, I sent Iris the first third to read while I charged on to the middle third. Then I sent her the middle third while I worked on the final third. Went back to re-work the middle third after she sent in some more feedback. Everything submitted now, Editor Iris very happy. All done, right?

HAH.

“We will start the line edit this week, too. Once it is done, you’ll have a chance to review, make any changes and then we’ll send the cleaned-up draft to our copy-editor. Our senior managing editor will take over from that point and arrange a schedule with you that gives you time to review the copy-edit and proofread the pages once the novel is set.”

And then there's marketing. It takes time to put together a marketing plan. Sure, the manuscript could be perfect by this time next month but if it goes to print next month, it goes unsupported by marketing. As a product marketing manager (OK, for software, but the principles are the same), I know that would be sheer folly. 

This excellent post by Rachelle Gardner explains what publishers do to market their author’s books

And here is some of what lies ahead:

  • The Catalogue. This is used by the publisher’s sales staff, sent to bookstores and book distributors, to promote the titles coming out the next season. So yes, before you can go to print, you need to be in the catalogue. And you don’t go in the catalogue until the publisher is sure that your book will make the production window. And you can’t go in the catalogue until your book has …
  • Cover Art: My agent and I drooled over the cover art options that HarperCollins Canada provided. All gorgeous. Agonizing decisions. But it looks like we have a winner. Maybe. Can’t decide 100%.
  • ARCs: Advance Reader Copies are promotional copies sent out months in advance to critics, book bloggers, authors, pretty much anyone that you, your agent, or publisher feels can be helpful for generating buzz about the novel before and when it comes out.
  • Marketing meeting: Have I mentioned I’m flying to Toronto in May to meet “my” marketing team? So excited.  From now on, whenever I do anything in the literary community – give readings, write an article, teach a workshop – I need to let my publicist know. There could be something HarperCollins could do to get more out of the event. I’ve been thoroughly disciplined to this by the PR agent from my corporate days, and know better than to put up a fight.  
  • More social media: Having a publisher who assigns a publicist to you does not absolve you of the responsibility of keeping up your social media outreach. But now, you’re not alone. When you tweet and post, you’ll get re-tweeted and shared by "your" marketing team.

Like I said, a lot to learn about the process of getting a book onto retail store shelves and online outlets. For those of you who like tech analogies, it’s a product launch. You need to build in lead time for QA, packaging, marketing, production, and deployment.

Actually, I don’t really grit my teeth because I know what my friends mean is that they’re happy and excited for me, and want to see Three Souls on bookshelves really soon.

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