Stage Three of Publishing a Book: Hooray–You Have a Book Deal! And How to Write a Book the Sane Way

behind the scenes at publishers
behind the scenes at publishers

This month I’m running a series on how the publishing process works and how to successfully navigate each stage of the journey, with zero bewilderment and maximum fun.

You can catch up here if you want to learn more:

How to publish a book

If you’ve been following along, you’ve already learned what The One Thing you should focus on is, and you’ve also figured out how to find a Literary Agent who can help you write a knock-your-socks-off book proposal.

Now your proposal is with editors, and the waiting game begins. But the truth is, if you have a spectacular author platform and a unique yet commercial book concept, this part of the process will be more fun than terrifying. Really—I promise! Any agent will tell you that the very best part of agenting is having a project that everyone wants. We live for these moments of having editors gush to us about how much they love an author (we’re like proud parents!). And if an editor is also able to convince the rest of his/her team that this is a must-have project, then one day you will receive The Call.

On that lucky, hard-won day,  your agent will say the words we most love to say: “You have an offer on your book.” Cue the happy dancing, fist pumping, and champagne showers. Even your cat will be slightly impressed.

Once you’ve decided to accept the offer and signed the contract (your agent should spearhead the negotiations, and this process is too complex to get into here), you’ll officially be through the doors! That’s when the next adventure begins: actually writing and producing your book.

The 4 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer at This Stage:

  • What are the deliverables the publisher expects from you (manuscript, photos, illustrations, recipes, projects, charts, sidebars, etc.)? How much time will you have to develop and deliver them? (I recommend authors always give themselves at least 6 months to work on their manuscripts, and longer if it’s a lengthier book or if they will be handling photos.) If you plan to include photos or illustrations, who will be creating and covering the cost of those?
  • How much already-published content will you be able to repurpose for the book, and how much should be original to the book? (This ratio varies widely from publisher to publisher, but most will allow for at least 10% repurposed content.)
  • How will you actually handle execution of the manuscript and any ancillary materials? Pro Tip: If you’ve gotten to this point you probably have a community of readers already, and therefore can’t disappear for 6 months as you work on the book. I usually recommend that authors outsource as much of the drudge work—social media scheduling, photo editing, prep work, etc.—so that they can free up time for the book without driving themselves, their family, and the cat who suddenly wants all their attention absolutely crazy.
  • How will you be bringing readers along for the ride? Will you share behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of your work, or start a new content series about it, or ask them for input along the way? Remember, your book is meant to be an additional service to your readers, so don’t hide away the fact that you’re working on it!

At the end of this stage, you will have delivered a final and complete manuscript, your readers will be buzzing about the fabulous book you’re working on, and you will have a couple of trusted assistants or interns on hand to help you manage your workload and keep you sane.

Now the ball is in the publisher’s court, and this is usually where a flurry of activity begins for editors. Your editor will sit down and edit the manuscript, usually returning it to you for revisions, then it will go through multiple rounds of copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, layout, design, etc. You’ll also be working with your editor and the design team to settle on a book cover, interior design, and cover copy that everyone loves. At a certain point, the final files will be sent to the printer for printing, binding, and shipping to bookstores, retailers, and specialty stores. Congratulations–you’re now the proud parent of a book!

But the next and final stage in the process is where things really get interesting. If you want to follow along with the last post in this series, you can sign up to have the final installment sent directly to your inbox: just enter your email address in the box at right, and we’ll zip it right along to you.

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