Proposal to Publication – Part 2 of 5

The Contract Stage

4 So, you’ve heard that your book has been accepted for publication. Yipee!

4 Your biggest question will probably be: How much MONEY do I get? You’ll be offered an advance which might be lower than your lifelong dream, but more than you have in your checking account right now (if you’re lucky). The publisher will pay your advance either in halves or in thirds. Half upon signing the contract, the other half on acceptance of the manuscript. OR, a third on signing, a third on acceptance, and a third on publication.

4 What does acceptance mean? It means your book has gone through the in-house editorial process and is officially deemed acceptable, meaning you delivered what you promised in your proposal, and according to any terms defined in the contract. The book must be acceptable both in form and content.

4 Other terms will be discussed including: the royalty rate, manuscript due date, release date, manuscript length, and whether or not the publisher is going to ask for significant revisions from what you wrote in the proposal. There are other issues such as author copies, buy-back discount, sub-rights, foreign rights, additional books (if it’s a series), acceptance standards, cover approvals (whether or not you get them) and other issues that your agent will discuss with you and negotiate for you. There are clauses defining what happens if either party fails to meet their obligations. If you don’t have an agent, make sure you understand all this stuff.

4 This whole process of negotiating and agreeing on terms could be quick, or it could take a couple of weeks. Once terms are agreed upon, publisher will generate a contract. Some publishers are notoriously slow at this, others work faster. Either way, expect to wait anywhere from a week to two months for the contract to arrive at your front door in hardcopy.

4 It’s your responsibility to make sure you read and understand all terms of the contract. Ask your agent about anything that’s confusing to you.

4 Sign and send the contract back to the publisher. They’ll sign it, and send you your own executed copy. It’s officially a “done deal.”

4 Go out to dinner! But try not to spend your whole advance. At least not until you get a check, which should be in about a month.

Tomorrow: The Writing and Editing Stage.

I’m taking a blogging break this week, so I’m featuring a series I originally posted in January of 2008. Hope you find it helpful!

Rachelle Gardner, Colorado Literary Agent

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. interest calculator interest only on April 4, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    An important element of these processes is the capacity of management to calibrate an appropriate internal target level of capital and to take actions consistent with the maintenance of the internal target over time.

  2. Tyson F. Gautreaux on March 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I simply want to say I am all new to weblog and certainly savored you’re blog site. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You surely have really good article content. Thanks for revealing your blog site.

  3. Trickaduu on August 20, 2009 at 1:10 PM


    Great blog, really helpful! I was wondering if you could recommend any pitfalls to avoid at this stage, that might not be obvious to an untrained eye?! I have managed to secure a book deal, without an agent, but want to make sure not to under-sell myself or the book. The whole area of what a first timer writer should ask for, advance wise, is hard to figure out!

  4. Jenni Saake (a.k.a. InfertilityMom) on July 21, 2009 at 11:21 PM

    >Loving this step-by-step explanation of the process. Thanks again! :)Jenni Saake

  5. Sharon A. Lavy on July 21, 2009 at 3:01 PM

    >Sounds wonderful to me. =)

  6. The Rejection Queen on July 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    >Wow, I’m actually going through this process right now.

  7. Rose McCauley on July 21, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    >Thanks for re-posting this info. It’s just what I need to spur me on!

  8. Amber Argyle-Smith on July 21, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    >I know some of the editors at the different houses with my MS have been discussing it. I guess that's a good sign. Still, no offers yet and it's been 10 months. It's absolutely maddening. Is this normal?

  9. SM Blooding on July 21, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    >That's funny, Lisa. I usually have the same conversation with my friends. They all wonder why I'm still in construction if I'm a writer. I try to tell them that it takes awhile to build up your readership and advances and royalties and…

    All they hear is "Wah-wah-waaaaah."

    Thanks, Rachelle! For someone new to your blog, I appreciate the information! This is wonderful.

  10. Lisa Jordan on July 21, 2009 at 9:04 AM

    >Great stuff, Rachelle! Thanks for reposting.

    My non-writing friends ask if I'll be a millionaire when I sell my book. Ha! I tell them it's not like Hollywood's portrayal of authors.

  11. Eric on July 21, 2009 at 8:07 AM

    >This is great info, and I for one am glad you're sharing it with us. The only bad part is reading through this stuff gets me too excited and anxious to be at this point already πŸ™‚ Thanks for walking us through this process anyway.

  12. Katie Ganshert on July 21, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >Wow, what an exciting moment! I bet it's so cool to make those calls to your clients. What a rush to help somebody's dream come true!

  13. Richard Mabry on July 21, 2009 at 7:15 AM

    >Glad you're re-publishing this great info. One of the things I found to be most difficult was refraining from shouting the news from the rooftops after I got "the call" telling me that the publisher had made an offer. Instead, you advised me to wait until the contract was actually signed before letting people know. I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot about the negotiations that were necessary before that piece of paper appeared in my mailbox. Thanks for calling it to everyone's attention.

  14. Krista Phillips on July 21, 2009 at 6:55 AM

    >Great info! I guess I thought this stage came with a *final* okay from the publisher, but it sounds like if you get there, you'll definately be offered some kind of contract?

  15. Karen Amanda Hooper on July 21, 2009 at 6:37 AM

    >Thanks for the informative play by play. It helps with visualizing the dream. πŸ™‚

  16. Jessica on July 21, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    >So exciting!
    I was wondering what contract committee was, now I know. LOL Thanks. πŸ™‚
    Cute pic of you and your hubby!

  17. Jill on July 21, 2009 at 5:14 AM

    >I really appreciate your blog and the way you demystify the agenting and publication process. The series this week is definitely worth the rerun.