Well, since I lit up my social media posts with the news about Gods of IMAGO being picked up by Rogue Phoenix Press for publication in 2023, I have been literally thinking about book contracts and the state of the union for the book publishing industry. I thought it would be good to address what the actual process is for writers publishing, then explore briefly what the novice writer should expect.
The Process is pretty straight forward with certain basic stepping stones in place for all publishing. I am not going to dive into a specific stone in this blog post, but each step is fraught with complications for the young writer if she does not understand what to expect. The basic process once the novel is sent to the house (or agent sends it out) is as follows:
An Editor of the House reads your manuscript and decides she likes it. This leads to a committee meeting where the editors gather together (a weekly editor’s meeting) and decide which manuscripts to put forward to the publishing committee. The Publishing Committee meets (an editor swinging the bat for you) and the bean counters (accountants, marketing, etc…). This committee decides to publish your work. Congratulations! A contract is written up, and they send it to you.
The Contract. You receive the contract via email, and it states in main sections the standard agreements the publisher and the author have with each other. Again, there are many places to go (The Authors Guild has a great place where a talent lawyer discusses what each should be) to find what should or should not be in your contract. I have bee publishing my novels with smaller houses, so I am very hands on with my negotiations concerning each major point if it is not what benefits me. Sometimes you have luck in negotiating this. Sometimes no luck and you have to decide is this worth publication. There are bad apples out there who want your money. Know what each section should be, what is fair, what never to agree to. Again, I won’t go into much here, but several things to look for: 1) YOU SHOULD PAY FOR NOTHING! There should never be a reason a publisher (small or big) should ask you to pay for anything in this process. The first major warning sign (and you may not be willing to hear this at the time) is that you should never be asked to pay back or pay up front for anything (not for the cover, not for the publishing, not for the editing, not for the marketing… NOTHING). 2) Believe it or not, no matter the house (big house or small), you will have to do your marketing for yourself. Get on social media and start building your platform.
The final manuscript. The contract will state when the date of your final version will be due. Make sure you hit it.
An editor is assigned to your manuscript and then will start the process of editing the novel with you. This will take months, but it is always a wonderful time to develop the novel into the book both of you want it to be.
The book goes to copyediting/Cover design. This is where the jot and tittles are corrected, proofs are sent to you in galleys (actual pages formatted as your book) and where you will make final edits/corrections. Your cover is being designed (some houses let you have input). I have been lucky enough with the IMAGO novels to have the famous David Sladek (head concept designer at Blizzard Entertainment) draw up my covers. I work with David on the cover, and he and I come up with the final design by the publishers deadline. When the final galleys are complete, the book is ready to go into the next step
Advanced copies. These are copies (ebook or pdf or paperback) that you will send to other writers, reviewers (Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Review, etc…). This is usually six months before publication date. I will write about the importance of libraries to your publications and why to fight like hell for this in another post.
The book is finally published, released out into the major distribution avenues (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and others). Make sure your publisher (and they are if they are legit) is partnered with one or all of these.
And all this time you have been on Social Media promoting your book. And for the next year you are still promoting it, getting into festivals, author talks, blogs, podcasts, public readings. No matter who you are or what house you get published through… it’s all about you, baby!
Special note: There are several ways your book will be out: ebook, trade paper (shipped, distributed, returned) or Print on Demand (POD). Many, many, many medium to small publishers use POD. it makes sense. POD is simply, you order the book, they print a book and ship it to you. The other way (the traditional way) is really archaic and weighted more heavily in the digital age. When a publisher traditionally publishes your book, it goes through a process most writers don’t understand. Here it is briefly. The book is listed in a catalog that sales rep send to or bring to bookstores. The book stores order your book. The house ships those ordered books to the book stores who ordered 2-20 copies depending on who you are. AND HERE IS THE RUB! The bookstore has a two to three month window to sell your book with no strings attached. After that date, they must buy any copy they keep. Guess what they do? Yep. They box up all the unsold books they received and send them back to the house unsold. This is how authors get screwed all the time, how the numbers change in your royalty statement, and many books you thought where sold… actually were not. The house loses money on these books, so they resell them at a wholesale price to cheap outlets. Well, this has all changed in the last ten years! Everything is digital and this process is stupid, dates back from the early 1800’s when it was created. Ebooks, POD, this is more equitable for all involved and the way that all houses will eventually go. If your smaller house uses POD, negotiate for the best percentage you can and market the hell out of your book. In the end there is no difference from the POD model and the traditional. There is one…. the bookstores still only use the return model, but I have found that many will work with the POD house/author in various ways.
I hope that explains some of the process. As Gods of IMAGO is rolled out, I will highlight specific elements in the process and keep you up to speed on how it is going.
thanks for reading