Lessons from "Proposal to Publication"

I really enjoyed my blogging break last week, and I’m glad I got a chance to re-run the “Proposal to Publication” series. I hope it helped de-mystify the process for you.

As I was reading through it, I noticed there are some lessons you could take away in terms of what you can be preparing yourself for, now, before you enter the process.

1. Many writers balk at the requirement to write a really strong book proposal. You may have noticed in Friday’s post that everyone in the publishing company, including the sales, marketing, and art departments, are given your book proposal and sample chapters. They might not have time to read your whole book, but they need to know enough to do their jobs. This should be enough of an incentive for you to write the best book proposal you possibly can! If your book is fiction, that 1-sentence hook and 1-page synopsis are all-important.

2. Editing: I’ve said this before, but you need to be ready for your work to be ripped apart with no apologies from your editor. You already know they like it because they bought it. Try not to be too sensitive here; they just want to help you be the best you can be.

3. Editors typically work in MS Word, and often the editing process consists of sending your manuscript back and forth via email, using Track Changes and Comments. You need to be VERY comfortable with this process. If you’re not, get a buddy, and practice passing a document back and forth to each other making edits using Track Changes and Comments.

4. Since you MAY be asked for lists of contacts to create Influencer lists and Endorser lists, you’ll want to be networking in the writing community and making friends long before you’re published. Writers conferences and online groups are a terrific way to do this.

5. Since your title and cover design will be up to the publisher, don’t get your heart TOO set on something in particular. If you believe this is a dealbreaker issue for you, then you must get it written into the contract (good luck with that).

6. With all the revisions, editing, and marketing… be ready for your life to be busier once you get a contract. Can you handle it?

Was there anything that surprised you about the process I described last week? Did it encourage you – or the opposite?


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. D.I. Telbat on August 5, 2009 at 12:19 AM

    >Thank you, Rachelle for the very helpful information from this series. It's good to know what's ahead.

    Thanks for your great blog!


  2. Dee S. on July 31, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    >Thanks, Rachelle for being so transparent and sharing what we need to hear. I found an editor to clean me up this year thanks to words from your blog. I feel more confident that my novels will find an agent that loves it thanks to you. Blessings to you. 🙂

  3. Purplebears on July 28, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    >It encouraged me to know what the process would be when I'm ready for it. However, it also made me want to go running pell mell in the other direction right now.

  4. Lafreya on July 28, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    >I just signed a contract and all the post were right on time. I feel more relieved now that I know more about the whole process.

  5. Rick on July 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM


    I am grateful to you for your lifting the veil of what goes on after the last period is placed on the page. It is exciting and frightful at the same time.


    PS: Thanks for the #pubtips on Twitter!


  6. Reesha on July 28, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    >It was a great help! I was surprised by how many people are actually involved and how little control the author has in some areas. Not saying that's a bad thing. I'm actually looking forward to having so many people as dedicated to working with my writing as I am.
    Though I do anticipate that when I get to the editing stage I will still feel a little angst about letting go.

    Thanks for the great posts. I don't think I would've found them in the archives if you hadn't reposted them.

  7. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on July 28, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    >Hi Rachelle!

    What surprised me the most (as a yet-to-be-published arthor) was the number of people who would be involved in getting my book out of the manuscript stage and into the book stores. This new information helped me to see that, especially for a non-fiction book, it is necessary for me to inspire publishing house readers with my vision so that they care about my book, too. That puts a whole new light on the necessity of a book proposal…

    Be blessed!


  8. Roxane B. Salonen on July 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    >I think it's good you mentioned that authors need to be open to the final product/process. When my first book sold, I understood that my "baby" was now going to be molded by others, and that in some sense, it wasn't just my baby anymore. I understood that the editor and others involved in bringing the work to completion had insight I didn't. Thankfully, my editors have been great to work with and they did allow me some input towards the end, but at some point, you as the author need to let go and realize that while you got the process rolling through your story, it takes on new life once you sign the contract, and that's okay and is as it should be.

    Enjoyed your series and going through the process step by step. A good "big picture" refresher.

  9. Crystal on July 28, 2009 at 10:17 AM

    >Thanks for posting this series again, Rachelle! It was very insightful and informative. I'm not familiar with Track Changes & will definitely start learning that–thanks for the heads up!

    Love your blog!

  10. Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way on July 28, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    >It definitely helped to have the process broken down and explained. I've always wondered what actually went in to making a book!

    This whole process can be really overwhelming. But, if we take your advice from yesterday and just live in the moment, it can be done. I know for me, whenever I look beyond the "here and now" at the things I don't know, can't predict, and have no control over is when I get the most anxious. But when I say, "Okay, God. I trust you for now and will trust you when the next moment comes too" that I'm more filled with peace.

  11. Eric on July 28, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    >These tips are incredibly helpful, and the series was awesome. It was inspiring, because the more I know about the process, the more confident I feel that I will be able to wade through the waters successfully. Thank you for this.

  12. Weronika on July 28, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    >Oh, Rachelle, these are all phenomenal tips. Thank you very much for your insight into this part of the publishing business, and though I cringe at the thought of writing a proposal, I am also excited at its potential.

    Thank you again! Cheers!

  13. T. Anne on July 28, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    >I felt gratefully encouraged and I look forward to the challenges that may lie ahead.

  14. katieleigh on July 28, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    >I so appreciated the series – even if the process seems overwhelming at times. Perhaps the most important reminder for me was how hard I'll have to work before I even get a contract! Thanks for re-running the series for us.

  15. Katie Ganshert on July 28, 2009 at 9:07 AM

    >Thanks for the tips, Rachelle. It's great to know what we can do right now, in the moment, to prepare for what may happen in the future. 🙂 Really appreciate it!

  16. CKHB on July 28, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    >Ah, finally my background as an attorney pays off. I have "track changes" mastered!

  17. Lisa Jordan on July 28, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    >I really enjoyed your blog series last week. Writers are discouraged about giving up their day jobs when their first books sell, yet their lives become busier. I realize sacrifices are necessary, but I'd love to hear from published writers how they handle a day job and their writing, in addition to family, church, and life obligations.

  18. Rachel on July 28, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    >I had read the series before, but I found it more encouraging upon second reading. I am reminded that this season of writing in obscurity is a sweet one. I'm glad to have the time to improve, to marinate in ideas, and to give myself a good education. Having the pressure of publishing seems like it would be thrilling someday, but I am enjoying the stage I'm currently in.

  19. David A. Todd on July 28, 2009 at 8:13 AM


    I've studied the publishing process enough by now that nothing in last week's series was a surprise. However, re-reading about the hoops to jump through in order to have a book published is always a discouragement. The dream dies a little more each day, never expands.


  20. Jeanette Levellie on July 28, 2009 at 7:39 AM

    >Rachelle: Would it sound crazy if I said knowing the length of the process encouraged me?

    Because our society is addicted to immediacy, we like to think our book proposal will be accepted and published within 5-7 working days.
    Being aware of the tedious process helps me. I can give myself permission to take my time to perfect my craft and build my platform.

    I now see writing as a life, not a series of quick projects.
    So, thanks.

  21. Teri D. Smith on July 28, 2009 at 7:36 AM

    >No surprises, but lots of great information. Today's post is helpful too. Thanks for helping to understand the process.

  22. Chatty Kelly on July 28, 2009 at 7:23 AM

    >Just seeing how many different people really have to like you idea seemed overwhelming at first glance…but if you take that concept to the bookstore – HOW MANY PEOPLE have to like you idea for it to sell?!?!?

    I thought it was a great series.

  23. Matt on July 28, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    >Thank you for this great series of posts. I felt giddy reading the part about receiving the first copy of your book.

    If your publisher asks you for a list of influencers or endorsers and you don't have any, how is that handled?

  24. Jessica on July 28, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    >I don't think it was surprising since I think I read it the first time it came out, but it was a good reminder. Sometimes I forget stuff so I liked having this tangible list to look at. Thanks!

  25. Sarah Reinhard on July 28, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    >The demystification was very helpful. Oh, there are books I'm sure we could read, but getting a bit every day, and in your straightforward, no nonsense style…well, I appreciated it, Rachelle. Thanks for re-running it and pulling back the curtain for us!

  26. Krista Phillips on July 28, 2009 at 6:43 AM

    >No surprises really, but YES it did encourage me. It's great to read and be reminded of the process, so when it starts rolling one can be ready for the ride.

  27. Sharon A. Lavy on July 28, 2009 at 6:32 AM

    >I appreciated last weeks posts for the detail. I can see those posts being helpful in the future as well.

    Thank you.

  28. BookWhirl.com on July 28, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    >Great article you have! Your article can certainly help authors who are new to the book publishing industry. It prepares authors for the long yet fun work ahead to jump start their career on publishing and book marketing. It will be a long and challenging journey. But surely, any author will be able to pull it off with the help of fellow authors, and with these kind of beneficial sites. Press on and continue in providing enlightenment.


    You have the book…We have the Marketing Resources.

  29. Jill on July 28, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    >I don't think I was surprised by anything. Just reminded that if I'm working hard now, I'll be working much harder after I get a contract.

  30. Jinx on July 28, 2009 at 3:11 AM

    >Ha! I knew Track Changes would come in handy! Now to convince one of my writer friends of that because she hates using that feature.

    Great advice, Rachelle. As much as I hate writing the synopsis, I keep practicing at it. I also know how important a title can be and though I usually come up with some good ones, I expect that they'll be changed. I just hope I can have some say in it, at least.

    Thanks for such a great post!

    NL Gervasio
    (@Jinxie_G on Twitter)

    I'll RT this. =)

  31. Julie Isaac on July 28, 2009 at 2:53 AM

    >Thank you, Rachelle, for this peek behind the curtain of life after getting a book contract.

    Writers put so much energy into getting a contract that they sometimes forget to pay attention to what comes next.

    I love your practical advice, especially getting a practice buddy so you can send a document back and forth, and get comfortable with tracking changes and comments.

    What a great idea. And while you're doing it, visualize and feel what it would be like to do this with your editor. Set the Law of Attraction into action and bring your book deal one step closer.

    Julie Isaac
    (@WritingSpirit on twitter)