A new author has so much to learn. I confess that, despite reading, networking, and educating myself on the publishing process before I sold, most of the "behind the book" stuff on THE RAT PRINCE came as a complete surprise to me!
For example, I wasn't sure what to expect from copyedits...or how a book's cover and/or illustrations were created...or how many rounds of edits my manuscript might require...or how far in advance of release I might be hearing from the in-house publicist...and many more things.
On each and every one of those issues, I needed counsel directly from my editor, Margaret Ferguson, or my agent, Eric Myers.
At first, I couldn't help feeling kind of ashamed that I didn't know these things already. Why, after so much diligent study of the topic, was I so ignorant about it? I was embarrassed, in spite of my agent and editor's reassurances...until I finally realized something I want to share with you right now, to spare you the trouble of worrying:
You can never know all the ins and outs of your personal publishing journey beforehand, because the details of how a book gets from manuscript to finished product vary widely, not only between publishing houses, but between editors-- even at the same house.
Let's look at just a few concrete examples, so you can see what I mean. I gathered these from the collective experiences of my 2016 debut group, The Sweet Sixteens.
*Different publishing houses might refer to the same documents as "galleys" or as "first pass pages"; or they might refer to bound uncorrected proofs differently, as "ARCs" or as "Bound Galleys".
*Some editors use Word documents with "track changes" for revisions; others prefer to do it on paper, by hand, and will send you successive versions in package form.
*Some copyeditors use a light touch, correcting only grammar, alignment issues on the page, spelling, and factual details (such as your hero driving a car that wasn't manufactured until 10 years later than the setting of your book). Others take a broader editorial approach, and may return your manuscript with comments about theme or plot development!
*Some editors will ask for authors' input on cover art, and even incorporate some of the author's suggesions. But it's far more standard practice that authors are not involved in the cover design process.
*Some editors are involved in promotion and publicity, tweeting their authors' milestones and helping suggest and brainstorm marketing opportunities; but this is not part of their job description. It's a matter of personal style. So if your editor doesn't happen to do those things, it doesn't reflect a lack of commitment to, or enthusiasm for, your book!
This is just a smattering of the ways in which your book's creation can differ from anyone else's.
So it's worth repeating what these examples demonstrate: Each publishing house has its own internal culture. And within those separate cultures, each editor has her or his own way of getting things done.
Add to this the fact that like any business, publishing is subject to random change, and to the ebb, flow and crash of market forces. Editors move on to other presses. Publishing houses are acquired by larger conglomerates. The market for a certain genre could dry up overnight. So ultimately, no one at your publishing house can predict what will happen. Not your publicist, your editor, the head of your imprint...no one. (Not without a crystal ball, anyway.)
What, then, is a newly sold author to do? Give up before s/he gets started? (You know the answer is "no", don't you?)
I'm certainly not an expert, but here are two things that really worked for me:
**Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask in a professional way about things you don't understand. Just follow ordinary business protocols, be considerate of your agent and editor's time, and respect any working parameters that have been set between you.
**Network and find author friends. Many of the shifting grey areas in publishing can be explored by a group of caring, confidential connections. There are a variety of ways to build a network with other debut authors, but be sure to earn and verify two-way trust before you get to a deep level of sharing, particularly if you met these connections via social media. You'll want to be certain that you connect with folks you feel genuinely comfortable with... in terms of their core belief systems, as well as the things they write about, and how they write them. Proceed with caution in the beginning, and don't commit to supporting someone's work until you've read it. Once you've established a network you can feel sure of, make sure to be a contributor to, as well as a recipient of, support. Respect and reciprocity are the keys to any good networking relationship.
So, why does publishing seem somewhat mysterious to outsiders, and even to insiders? Because it is, in fact, somewhat mysterious.
Let's all embrace the mystery together.
Bridget Hodder was an archaeologist, then an autism specialist, before she became an author. She bakes triple layer cakes, makes vanilla pudding from scratch, and gives her home-made fudge and toffee as holiday gifts.
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