What You Don’t Know
I was talking with one of my clients who is currently in the midst of a two-book contract with a major CBA house. This is her first book deal and although she’d spent many years networking with authors and publishing types, she’s been shocked by how much she didn’t know about publishing before she signed her contract. I asked her, what were the things she didn’t know? She said:
→ I didn’t know what ARCs were. (Advance Reader Copies, distributed to media prior to publication to try and get reviews in time for pub.)
→ I didn’t know I was supposed to be my own publicist… without stepping on the toes of my publisher’s publicist. (This is a common issue with my writer friends.)
→ I didn’t know that thing about the manuscript being officially “accepted” and what a magical word that is. (Acceptance is a publisher’s term that means the manuscript is complete and has survived the editorial process—and the publisher has deemed it publishable. It’s magical because it means the author gets the next installment of their advance.)
→ I didn’t know about preemptive offers—even multi-published writers had never heard of that. (A preemptive offer is when a publisher makes an offer that’s good for a limited time, say 24 hours, that must be declined or accepted without considering any other offers during that time. It can’t be used to start an auction or drive up the price for the book. It’s a take-it or leave-it offer. If accepted, no other publisher offers will be entertained.)
→ It never occurred to me how weird it would be to get a two-book deal. There is the feeling of cheating, since I poured blood sweat and oh-so-many-tears into getting my first book published, and then poof—in one sentence I have a second book. Crazy. (Of course, my agent had something to do with that.)
→ I didn’t know the different levels of a publishing company and all the hoops that my proposal had to go through. (Editorial, sales, marketing… it’s a lot of people!)
→ I didn’t know how much power sales reps had. (Seems like they pretty much rule the roost these days.)
→ I didn’t know how many words I could go over or under on my final manuscript. (Turned out the publisher expected the word count to be within about 5% of the agreed-upon number.)
→ I still don’t know how much or how little control I will have over the final book. (Different with each house and each author.)
→ I don’t know how much is kosher for me to ask for from my publisher as far as marketing, and who do I ask—my editor or the marketing dept itself? (Usually you’ll work with someone in marketing, and your conversations will indicate how much you might be able to “ask” for. But it will always need to be matched by what you’re doing.)
What about you? Once you got that first publishing contract, what were some things that surprised you?
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.