What Happens After an Author Finishes a Book Contract?

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


  1. Thank you for the informative post. New writers such as myself often think it's smooth sailing once you send the book to the editors, and it's nice to to be
    reminded the work never stops.

    Good luck on getting a second contract. You've developed such a following, along with writing great books, so I'm confident you'll have no problem. Keep us posted!

  2. This sounds very familiar. My editor just explained the whole process to me. I should be receiving content or macro edits soon.

    So excited to see what's next for you, Jody. :)

  3. Onward ever! I look forward to reading your next two books and hearing about further success.

  4. I was just wondering about this very topic the other day. Thanks so much for explaining, and best of luck in the future!

  5. From the perspective of someone who hasn't entered the publication pipeline (yet!), this is great information. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes; thank you for so clearly spelling that out for us.

    As far as uncertainties go, for me it's pretty straightforward - getting a contact. Gosh, isn't being on submission grand? ;)

  6. I love reading about your writing journey, Jody. You are such an inspiration for all writers.

    I'm not sure how lengthy the publishing process is will ever stop amazing me. So hard in this "I want instant gratification" world.

  7. The process of books becoming published continues to amaze me. :)

    Praying things fall into place as you face what comes next. I'm looking forward to September!!

  8. Jody, I'm pretty much at the same stage you are, maybe a little ahead. My last contracted book is completed, edited, and awaiting publication, and I'm working on another (as yet uncontracted) one.

    You make an excellent point: just because you've had books published (no matter how many), more contracts with that publisher aren't automatic. If writers think uncertainty stops with the signing of the first contract, I'm sure you'll disabuse them of the idea before this series is over.

    Looking forward to reading more.

  9. I'm expecting to hear back from my editor soon. She began reading the ms last week, so I figure it'll be another couple of weeks before I hear back on the first round of edits.

    At the moment my biggest concern is settling on a final title. I'm really eager to let people know what it'll be called.

    I don't know if it's jumping the gun, but I've already started work on a follow-up to my first novel.

  10. This is really interesting! It's nice to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Watching you go through this process up close and personal has been fascinating. It's helped me know what to expect when my book enters the editing process.

    And not to worry, Jody. More chapters of book three will be on their way to you soon. =)

  12. I hope that medieval book of yours will be considered! I love this period.

  13. I'm dying to know the book ideas for your next three! Exciting times!

  14. 1. I love the lengthy process!! It makes me feel better that they don't expect results from the writer in a 2 week time period! :) YEAH!

    2. You WILL get another contract. BEcuase if BHP doesnt, I'll PAY you to write another book just for me. Although the pay may be limited to Starbucks gift cards. :/

  15. Interesting to hear the process, Jody. I can't wait to see where this journey takes you next! :)

  16. Hi Jody,
    I'd love to know if you want to do another series or if you've considered stand alone novels next. I'm behind you, just pubbed the first revising the second and writing the third and hoping there is more to come. I'm trying to think about what I'd like to see come next and keeping my ideas in a file for further exploration.
    Congrats on your many accomplishments with these novels, it's not easy.

  17. Thank you for sharing. It is so interesting to hear an insider perspective. Having just started my first novel it's overwhelming, but hopeful and exciting to hear about your experiences. Congrats on finishing this last one!

  18. Hello everyone!! Thank you for your sweet words today! These times of transition are always slightly unnerving, but my motto is just to keep writing and enjoying the journey! :-)

  19. All is uncertain for me, even down to the genre I'm writing in. Will there be room for genres other than romance in the Christian market?

  20. My final contracted book is due July 1, and you hit the nail on the head with this post. There is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of excitement to move on to something new. Praying for all the big decisions in store for you.

  21. The time frame doesn't surprise me, but then, I've been reading about it over the past several years. I appreciate this info, Jody, from someone who's been there. :)

    Congrats on books two and three! Saw The Doctor's Lady over the weekend in the new CBD catalog. I was squealing happily on the inside for you!


  22. How interesting. It was good to read the process your books go through. I wish you all the luck in the world for the future.

  23. I did not know that the publishing process took that long. Thank you for sharing the detailed procedure. Great site.

  24. It's good to see the process laid down like that. It must be hard stepping into a new uncertain era after all that hard work and trying to think of new ideas for more books that are just as soklid as the ones you've written. Good luck with it all and keep us informed.

  25. Jill asked: Will there be room for genres other than romance in the Christian market?

    My Answer: Jill, I think there already is room. Of course, romance sells the best. But I see a wide range of other fiction too within the CBA market.

    I personally like my genre--historical romance. It's what I enjoy reading and obviously then what I enjoy writing. So I'm not planning to switch genres. However, if my publisher is unable/unwilling to work with me on any particular books I have (like the medieval book I've written that Caroline mentioned), I would have to consider other publishers.

  26. Haha, my biggest uncertainty is whether I'll be able to write a good enough followup to SLIDE.

    *hides in closet*

  27. Oh boy! Great post, but now I'm terrified! I'm on the last week of self edits on my first novella and just spent four months, give or take a months, cutting it down to word count by more than half. Talk about painful! Now the reality macro edits is sinking in...

  28. Great post, Jody! I am also done with my contract and *hoping* for another but not sure I'm going to get one... it's a frustrating place to be!!

  29. Waiting on the first round of edits from my editor. I've done this before--but for a non-fiction book. So it'll be interesting to see what it's like on the Dark Side.
    I always enjoy reading your posts, Jody--even a day late!

  30. LOL! Ummm... if a publisher even WILL pick up my MS. I'm just at the little baby beginning steps on submission.

    But this very cool info to know, and thanks for sharing it. I wasn't sure exactly how it went for books, but this all makes perfect sense. And it's very cool that you had a team of editors. I think that makes a big difference.

    thanks, Jody--best of luck!

  31. Thanks for that informative post, Jody. I'm in the first edits phase of my book. Because it's a small publisher, they say it will be out around June 6. After reading your post, that's whirlwind timing!

  32. From the time I was offered my first contract to the time of my first release it will be 15 months, and 16 months for my second release. (Jan, and May 2012). It's painfully slow and I'm asked frequently, "When is your book coming out? Why so long?" It's almost like when you announce that you're pregnant and hear, "Isn't that baby here yet?" So in the interum I'm finding plenty to do to prepare for the future. A time of preparation or "nesting", if you will.

  33. The publishing industry is pretty much a long waiting game between tasks that need to be accomplished and the time available to have them completed. It does allow for a lot of breathing room to accomplish other projects and flesh out other ideas though.

  34. It's great to read this. Thanks for sharing the journey, Jodi. I think our family and friends should read it too. It might help them to understand what authors have to go through to get a book on the shelves. It's damned hard work, yet so rewarding when it results in a great book. I'm sure you've got loads of ideas for the next step in your writing career. Good luck!


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