One of my authors recently wrote:
“I think all new authors need a what to expect when your expecting course lol.”
That author was Christy Boulware, and she has graciously added to my words below. Hers are in BOLD.
So much is written about how to get an agent, how to write a proposal, how to create a solid marketing plan. But what about that in between time when you’ve signed your contract, then handed in your manuscript, while you wait for publishing nirvana?
I remember reading the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
It helped so much! BUT. When I birthed my first child, I had an overwhelming fear. What now? I hadn’t even changed very many diapers in my life. Why did the powers that be send our newborn daughter home with two people who clearly didn’t know what to do now that she was post-utero?
A lot of authors feel the same way. They work years toward finding an agent, then landing a contract. But after that, what?
Here’s what to expect when you’re expecting a book baby:
- First, sign a contract with your literary agent.
- Create the most amazing proposal and sample chapters so your agent has something to pitch.
- Before you sign your book contract, your agent will go through it to make sure it’s fully operational (like the Death Star) and best represents your interests.
- It usually takes 3-5 weeks between agreeing to terms and actually signing the contract.
- You sign the contract (usually via docusign, which relegates the “reveal” of your signing to you fake-signing a piece of paper for an insta shot).
- Typically the publisher sends you a fairly extensive questionnaire about your expectations, marketing ideas, book cover likes and dislikes. This can take a bit of time and care.
- Often you will meet with your acquisition’s editor to discuss the final direction of the book. This meeting is a good time to re-clarify word count, format, and scope of the book.
- If you’re creating a visual book, there’s often an in-person meeting with your editor or design team to map out the contents of the book.
- Then, yes, you have to WRITE the book. It’s best that you finish your first draft at least a month before the due date so you can let it sit for awhile before you self-edit it.
- Hand in that book ON TIME or early.
- The first edit you’ll walk through, typically a month or so after you hand in your book, is the substantive or big picture edit. This is the most extensive edit and deals with themes, holes, where there’s too much explanation, whether you need more stories or less, etc. Usually you have 1-3 weeks to turn the edits back in. From Christy: My editor gave me MAJOR feedback here. This is where I got my first set of edits. I didn’t realize how many rounds of editing there were and I think letting people know up front this happens is very helpful.
- During this time, there will typically be a marketing/positioning meeting with the marketing team. You can talk about cover, back cover copy, your own marketing ideas, etc. Either before or after this meeting, the publisher will give you a marketing plan document.
- The same goes for publicity. Sometimes these meetings are at the same time. From Christy: This might seem obvious but it wasn’t for me, publicity and marketing teams are NOT the same. Press kits are a big deal and I was clueless of what they were and why they were important.
- You will be needed to edit and approve all marketing copy.
- Next will be the collaborative cover process. Usually about 4 months after turning in the ms, the team at the publishing house will send you a mockup of your cover. Typically they have 2-3 ideas. You then either choose one, or, if none of them appeal to you, your agent helps navigate next steps. Often it’s better if you try to work with what they’ve already created, saying things like “I really like #1, but the font is not bold enough” or “The colors are not quite me, but I like #2s concept. Can we go with a bluer tone?” From Christy: I kept a pinterest board of book cover ideas along the way while I was writing to help me be ahead of the game for this meeting. That seemed helpful.
- The second edit is the copy edit (AKA the English teacher edit) where they go over the manuscript with grammar and usage. Typically the standard is the CMOS. You usually have about a week to turn around this edit. From Christy: I had to learn how to accept and reject edits in Microsoft Word here, LOL. So clueless.
- All during this year, it will be beneficial to you if you continue to build your following, particularly your email distribution list. Creating a freebie incentive based on the book will further help you down the road. One great way to build your list is to do a list share with another author. They share about you with their list, and you share about them with yours. This is a fun and collaborative way to build your list.
- Once the book cover is finalized, you can do a cover reveal for your followers. This image can be also used in pre-order campaigns. From Christy: I felt weird about doing this to my followers before my book launch team so I’m waiting on this part and a special incentive to my book launch team. Just a thought 😉
- Your bookselling page should be live about 5 months prior to launch. You can share this with your superfans so they can preorder. (By bookselling page, I mean the Amazon page, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book, etc.)
- The marketing team will create graphics for you to begin sharing. These graphics can also be shared on your launch team so they can disseminate the message.
- The last edit is known as the GALLEY edit. The book is pretty much typeset and ready to go, so you should not find many errors, and this is not the time to do major reworking. You usually have a week to turn this edit around.
- About 2 months prior to release date, you should already have a decided upon plan for a robust pre-order campaign. You may have pre-order bonuses or other incentives to buy early.
- In the same timeframe, you should be establishing your launch team either with outside paid help, volunteers, or running it yourself. Here is a podcast on launching your book.
- To prep for your time on media, create an easy incentive for listeners. For instance, I have this link: marydemuth.com/lpl that gives listeners a year full of fill in prayers for their adult kids. The link should be easy to say on the air.
- Also around this time, or perhaps a bit earlier, you should have a press kit with questions for media interviews. Whether the publisher has an in house publicist or they hire out, the publicist will start pitching you to podcasts, radio, print, and TV prior to the release. If you have relationships with podcasts (in particular), it tends to be more successful if you reach out directly. Be ready to do a lot of media the month prior, the month during, and up to six months after the book’s release. Be alert to the news cycle, particularly if your book fits in with a hot topic.
- Also, about two months prior your publicist will be pitching you to print/online media where your book excerpts or original articles will be pitched/accepted.
- A month prior, you’ll be messaging your followers about your anticipation of the book’s release. This can also include an unboxing of your actual book when you get your author copies! Woot!
- During the release of the book, your launch team will be helping you get the word out about the book.
- You may want to plan a book launch party (local) or online to celebrate all that hard work.
- This is the time to do giveaways and be on all those podcasts!
And that’s it! I’m sure I’m missing something, so if I am, please add them in the comments section. I hope this gave you a strong overview of what to expect when you’re expecting a book baby!
This is so helpful, Mary! I’ve just added all these items to my master to-do list for when that contract comes through!
I’m so glad it’s helpful, Jenna.