My First Book Deal, Part III: After Submission
You might want to read Part I: Before Submission and Part II: During Submission before reading this post.
You’ve made it through the submission process and accepted your very first book deal—or maybe several. Woohoo! Congrats! Perhaps you’re wondering what happens in the immediate aftermath of verbally accepting an offer of publication. The short answer is: you get to work right away! What follows are a few odds and ends you can expect.
A quick note on the evolution of my debut’s title: I originally called it THROUGH HER TEETH. As I worked with my thesis advisor on the project during grad school, she advised me to change it, so I came up with MOTHER MAY I. This is the title I queried agents with. When I signed with my agent, she once again advised me to change it. Her team came up with THE RECOVERY OF ROSE GOLD. My UK team liked that title and ended up keeping it, but the US team wanted to tinker a bit more.
Five days after I’d verbally agreed to the book deals, my US editor reached out to ask for the list of alternative titles I’d mentioned having, which included DARLING and MY DARLING ROSE GOLD. This is how we ended up with the US/Canadian title DARLING ROSE GOLD, although from memory it took a couple weeks for us to choose which direction to go. I’ll do another post in the future about potential titles and why some were rejected.
We began talking about the cover at the same time as the title. My experiences with the US vs. UK teams differed. The US team asked me to share a collection of book covers I liked. I sent thirteen. I’ll share these in a separate post some time. I’m not sure whether my cover picks factored into the designers’ work but I was glad to share them! Meanwhile, the UK team came up with their designs, which was more of an independent process. I was surprised how quickly title and cover discussions started in both countries—weeks before we began talking about manuscript revisions! I now know that you can’t begin marketing efforts until you have these two factors finalized, so it makes sense that these conversations begin so quickly.
At the end of March, about three weeks after I’d verbally accepted the offers, I received revision letters from my US and UK editors. Revisions took us six weeks. We expedited the process so they could start printing ARCs (advance reader copies) in order to get the word out about the book.
In early April, about a month after I’d verbally accepted offers, the US and UK publishers sent formal book contracts my way. These are 20-page documents of legalese, so you may be tempted to skim. You already know what I’m going to say: DON’T! These incredibly important docs include advance amounts and schedule for payment (1 vs. 2 vs. 4 vs. 8 installments), delivery dates (aka your deadline for book two if it’s a two-book deal), royalty percentages and when they’re paid, subsidiary rights, and a bunch of other stuff. In my experience, foreign rights contracts take much longer to finalize than US/UK contracts do. This is also true of receiving advances.
I did end up requesting a change in one of the contracts, which was to ask for the removal of a clause that stipulated the author couldn’t accept future offers from any other publisher with terms equal to or less favorable than the current publisher. I love my publishers and hope to work with them for a very long time, but this clause felt restrictive. The contracts agent at my agency asked that it be removed, and it was without any pushback. Don’t be afraid to make requests!
A note on that. Something I’m still working on is treating my publishers like my partners (which they are!), not my employers (which they aren’t!). As writers, we know how unlikely it is that we’ll find success, so when we do, it’s tempting to be as amenable as possible so the publisher will like you and want to keep working with you. I have to keep reminding myself this is a mutually beneficial relationship. They’re giving me the platform—distribution, marketing, etc.—but I’m giving them the manuscripts, the ideas, the words. I only have one year of experience working with my publishers, but I’ve found them to be both generous and reasonable. The longer you spend adjusting to your new reality, the more comfortable you get asking questions.
That’s my biggest piece of advice for writers who have recently accepted book deals: ask a million questions! I am constantly asking my agent and editors what an industry acronym stands for, what sales expectations are, why this or that marketing strategy is so important, etc. Know your working style. I’m someone who wants every piece of information I can get. If numbers are bad or an effort fails, I’d rather know it than stick my head in the sand. I’ve been fortunate to work with patient people who are happy (or act like they are, anyway!) to answer all of my questions. You’re going to feel, at points, that you have no idea what’s going on, like you’re a total rookie. That’s because you are! I don’t know what I was expecting when I accepted my book deals—a “welcome to being a published author” packet? kind of?! I assure you no such packet exists, at least not that I’m aware of. It’s up to you to educate yourself. Don’t worry about annoying people. As long as you’re professional and polite, they’ll want to help. You are now self-employed, the owner of a small business. Make sure you have a firm grip of the reins.