Saturday, March 12, 2005

What happens after your novel gets accepted by a publisher?

While I was waiting to hear whether or not The Amber Wizard was accepted anywhere, I was working on the sequel, The Words of Making. I had written a two or three page synopsis for each of the remaining three books in the series -- The Words of Making, The Commanding Stone, and The Fell King -- but as I've said before, I found I need a very detailed outline completed before I sit down to begin writing. I can make all of the hard plot and character decisions and change things around much more easily in a 30 page outline than after I'd completed 300 manuscript pages. So I spent a couple of months hammering out all of the plot details of book two until I had a 37-page, single-spaced outline done, breaking the story down chapter by chapter.

After HarperCollins offered me the contract, I got a call from my editor, Diana Gill. We talked for a while and she filled me in on the next few steps in the process. Here's what I remember from the call. I didn't take notes, I just listened, and some of this may very well be wrong. But here's the publication process as I understand it at the moment.

  • Once I sign the contract, I get paid the first installment of my advance (no, I won't say what it is; more than ten bucks and less than a million). HarperCollins actually pays my agent, who deducts his 15% and other miscellaneous fees, then remits the rest to me.
  • I will receive an editorial letter from Diana. This is her list of things she wants changed in the book. I've had people ask me, "What if she wants you to throw most of it out and start over?" I'm not worried about that at all, because the book industry is so competitive that if a novel isn't about 95% ready to go as is, you won't get an offer in the first place. Of course now that I've said this, her list of changes will be huge and I'll gnash my teeth and come back here and bitch and moan about the unfairness of it all, but I really don't think that will happen (he said with his fingers crossed).
  • Once I make the changes and return the manuscript, I get paid a second installment of the advance. This is called "delivery and acceptance."
  • The manuscript is then typset and gone over by a copy editor, who checks for things like spelling and grammar mistakes, etc., and marks up the manuscript accordingly.
  • The copyedited manuscript is then set as a proof. Someone (I'm not sure who) meticulously compares the copyedited manuscript to the proof copy to make sure that all the changes in the copyedited version were actually carried through to the proof.
  • Once that is verified, a proofreader a HarperCollins and I receive copies of the proof, which we read in detail (which I'm dreading -- I'm a lousy proofreader), make any changes that might be needed, send it back for corrections, etc. I don't know how many iterations of this process occur. I hope not many!
  • Once the proof is approved, it...well, hell, I kind of forget. I guess it goes to a final typeset stage at this point, but I'm really not sure. And somewhere in here the art department has to find a cover artist, send him or her the manuscript (or selected parts of it), receive sketches, decide on which one to use, etc. From what I understand I have zero input on what the cover art will be. So if it sucks ass (and no offense, but I think a great deal of fantasy cover art blows big chunks of steaming monkey vomit), don't blame me!
  • The book goes into HarperCollins publication schedule, a print run is decided upon, whatever marketing is to be done is worked out, and a lot more stuff that I presently have no idea about.
That, in a nutshell (or a couple of bullet points), is the general outline of the publication process as I now understand it. As I go through each stage I'll write about it here in detail, so be sure to check back!

Next post(s): Getting into the groove of writing the sequel, why even outlining in detail can't always save you from some big changes once the writing starts, and moving to writing full-time during the day. (And yes, I will give an update on what's going on with Foreverness soon, I promise.)


David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist said...

Hi, David,

I am happy I happened upon your blog, and so soon after you started it, no less!

Although a reader with no pretensions of being (or becoming) a writer, the initial three posts auger positively for your future thoughts -- what is the work behind the magic?

I am especially interested in how you will balance the very solitary life the writer leads (it is, after all, just you and your word processor behind locked doors) with the 'public' life a person who is (happily) married, with children must concurrently lead. In addition, there is the frustration you soon will encounter when you discover (as if you already do not know) that publishers perceive their end-market as book-sellers, not book-buyers and readers. People such as me. So in addition to writer and proof-reader, you also must assume the role of Chief Marketer and Publicist for David Forbes, Inc. Of course, if you are related to those other Forbes, well then no problem!

Even though SF and Fantasy titles comprise only a small portion of my reading, I look forward to making this journey to and after publication with you. In fact, I added your blog to my own blog's site roll. (I hope you do not mind...)

Best wishes for all success,
David M Gordon

Simon Haynes said...


I'm bookmarking your blog and am looking forward to following your progress. The reason is, I just spent the past few months editing the first of my three novels for a publisher. So much of what you just outlined strikes chords with me, but from the opposite end of the process ;-) My three book contract turned up in the mail yesterday so I'm still combing through it with a fine-tooth nail gun. (My books are SF/Humour, not fantasy novels. Still genre, though.)

Anyway, now I can sit and watch someone else going through the same fun and games I did. Sweet ;-)

Simon Haynes said...
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