Prepare Yourself for Success
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re dreaming of getting that first book deal. But what are you doing to prepare for the reality of being a contracted author?
When you sign with a publisher, you’ll have new demands on your time. The publisher will act like they own you and every minute of your day. They’ll assume you have nothing else to do except respond to their
demands requests. Are you prepared for this?
Every publisher is different, but here are some things you might expect: If you sold the book based on a proposal, obviously you have to start writing your book. And now you have a deadline. Either way, you’ll go through an editorial process. You will get your manuscript back with editorial notes and you’ll have a limited time to rewrite, edit and get it back to them. On deadline. You may be asked to fill out multi-page questionnaires about your book to help the sales/marketing folks figure out how to design the cover and create marketing copy. You may be asked to submit alternate titles. You may be asked to provide sample images that you feel capture your book. At some point, either your agent or your editor will be hounding you about your NEXT book. Once your book is published, you’ll be spending significant time on marketing and promotional activities. Through all of this, there will be countless emails to and from your publisher.
There might be more, but the point is, you’ll be expected to keep up with the pace! Once you have multiple books out, you’ll constantly be in various stages of various books. You might be marketing the one that just came out, while simultaneously trying to finish the manuscript of the next one, and brainstorming ideas for the one after that.
So, how can you prepare for this?
Think about your schedule. Will you be working a day job? Plan on spending many nights and weekends working on whatever your publisher needs. Are you the primary caregiver for your children? Expect that you’ll need childcare help sometimes. Do you participate in several church or social activities (Bible study, weekly golf date, book club, whatever)? Understand you may need to curtail them for a season… or permanently.
Make sure you’re well-organized. Do you have a workable file system? Do you have a good calendar and the ability to keep track of important dates? Do you have a desk or other area that is “just yours” and allows you to work comfortably? Do you have reliable high-speed Internet and up-to-date software? Do you have a good backup system for your computer – preferably two separate backups? (I use both an external hard drive and an online remote backup.)
Consider household help. Decide whether you’ll be able to keep up with your usual housecleaning, meal preparation, or lawn mowing responsibilities for your family if you suddenly become busier. Look into local housecleaning or gardening services; investigate Schwann’s and other meal-prep options. You can do this far in advance of even getting a contract, just to be prepared. Plan how you’ll handle crunch times, i.e. the week before a deadline.
Time your vacations right. Sometimes it’s hard to do this, especially when publishing schedules change. But as much as you’re able, pay attention to the release date of your book as well as any deadlines, and don’t plan a long vacation around that time. If you’re still in the “hoping for a contract” stage, you obviously can’t do anything about this yet, but be aware of it for the future.
Educate your family. You’re going to need their cooperation in this new venture. At the least, they’ll need to understand that you won’t always be available at their beck and call; but more than that, you’ll probably need them to step up to the plate and handle some extra household responsibilities. Letting them know about this long before it actually happens can smooth the road.
Most of all, be mentally prepared for a big change in your life once you get that contract. Signing on the dotted line is only the beginning!
Q4U: What have you done to prepare yourself for success?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.