About a week ago I finished writing the third book of my 3-book contract. The first book was The Preacher’s Bride (2010). The second book The Doctor’s Lady releases in three months (Sept. 1). And the third untitled book (the one I just finished) will release next year in 2012.
You may wonder why my third book has to wait so long for publication—possibly a year or more. And you may wonder what steps the book will go through now that I’m done writing it. And I'll bet you’re wondering (*wink!*) what I’ll be up to next now that I’m done with my contract.
Why does a book have to wait so long for publication? And what steps will a book go through once it’s turned in to a publisher?
The turn-around time from when an author finishes a book until when it hits shelves varies from publisher to publisher and project to project. However, it’s usually a lengthy process, often taking about a year.
When I finish self-editing Book 3 (including getting input from my critique partner), I’ll send it to my editors at Bethany House. I happen to have two—an acquisitions editor and a line-editor. They work together on all my books.
My editors will do an initial read-through of my manuscript. They’ll also ask several other in-house editors to read it, forming an initial reading team. This incredibly talented group of editors will take about a month to read my book. They’ll make individual notes and then compile their feedback. They’ll discuss big changes I’ll need to make (including character arc changes, plot development problems, and any other issues).
One of my editors will call me, and we’ll have a phone meeting to discuss all the things that I’ll need to “rewrite.” This call is always painful for me. It’s never easy to hear your story isn’t perfect and may need overhauls. But I have learned to trust my publisher’s advice. They have their pulse on what readers love. They know what sells. And they’re only trying to help me shape my book into something readers will enjoy.
Once I have my rewrites (aka substantive/macro edits), I’ll spend six to eight weeks working through the changes. Obviously, the amount of time this takes varies depending on how much is “wrong.” I’ve found this stage to be one of the most critical but also one of the hardest.
After I finish my rewrites, my editors will reread the entire manuscript, and possibly involve another team of readers (as they did on The Doctor’s Lady). They may give me more rewrites, although not quite as intensive. And once I go through the manuscript again, I’ll be finished with the hard work on my part. By this point a couple more months have elapsed.
Finally, my line-editor will begin going through the manuscript. She’ll spend approximately a month checking for accuracy of historical details, smoothing out awkward sentences, looking for repetition, and all the little things that need fixing. About this time, the cover is developed, the sales team begins selling the book to distributors, and marketing puts together the marketing plan.
Next the book heads to copy-editing with a completely different editor who looks for typos, grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc. I read the Galleys which is my last time to make changes. Then finally, another editor makes a last run through the manuscript.
Whew. Eventually, after all that, the book is ready for its first print run.
Did I mention the entire process is lengthy?
What happens after an author finishes his or her contract?
After an author finishes a contract, there are never any guarantees the publisher will automatically dole out another. Obviously, they’ll take into consideration how well books have sold. They hope to see an earn-out on advances and preferably a steady increase in sales with each book.
Since I’m off to a good start with sales and have proven myself to be a hardworking author, hopefully my publisher will want to continue our partnership. I’ll spend some time brainstorming future book ideas, dialog with my agent, and figure out where we both see my writing career heading. Then we can put together a proposal to give my publisher for another contract (hopefully for 3 more books).
But what if my publisher decides not to offer me another contract? Will we consider other publishers? What if we want to look for a better offer elsewhere?
These are all questions I’ll be dealing with over the next couple of months. As with anything in the writing industry, nothing is ever certain. And nothing is ever easy. But we keep going anyway because of the pure and simple love of writing.
So what do you think? Does anything about the length of the publication process surprise you? And now that I’ve shared my uncertainties, I’d love to hear yours. What uncertainties are you facing with your writing future?
*Photo Credit: flickr jayneandd