Blogger: Mary Keeley
Not too long ago, your manuscript could only take one path to becoming a book: print production. eBooks have revolutionized publishing, not to mention apps as a new way to deliver your message. But certain things in the production process remain constant.
Manuscript Due Date
Your contract will state a manuscript due date. Talk this over with your agent before signing the contract. She may need to negotiate a new due date. Because you don’t want to miss it. If this is your first book, it’s best to have your manuscript (especially a novel) complete when the proposal is submitted. The publisher, whether for print or ebook, will remember if an author missed a manuscript due date, and it will be harder to obtain a contract for your next book.
A product manager will determine a schedule for each element in the production process: editorial, design, typesetting (or formatting an ebook), and finally the printer date. It’s more involved for print books because the print buyer has to order the right paper in quantity for other books as well yours, to get the best price. The mere mention of paper cost brings to mind the angst over the current royalty percentage for ebooks, but that’s a topic for another day. Hopefully, there will be good news to report by then.
For several reasons the publisher may decide to change the publication date. This recently happened to a client even before the contract was signed. You deserve a full explanation for this. Inform your agent as soon as you are told, and don’t hesitate to get her involved in the discussion. Publishers are protecting their own interests; you need to have someone in the discussion protecting yours. A change in the release date could be disastrous for an author who has another book releasing from another publisher. Or the new release date might not be in the optimum season for your book. For instance, you wouldn’t want your devotional for moms to be bumped from an April release to a July release—after Mother’s Day. In the case of the client I mentioned, the release date was moved out an entire year to coincide with a particular holiday. But her contract stated that that book would be her next published book. I had to do some quick negotiation with the contract manager to change that wording so my client could earn money as we wait for her book to release. The point is, always inform your agent when dates change.
Meet all your due dates when reviewing galleys and first pages. This is true for print books or ebooks. Because ebooks are on a fast track, the turnaround time usually is shorter. This is the time to build a positive working relationship with your editor. Cooperate with his edits as much as possible and don’t take things personally. Remind yourself he wants your book to be the best it can be, just as you do. If you have a strong objection, bring in your agent to try to resolve the dispute before the schedule is affected. Go over the galleys and page proofs carefully. Catching a mistake late in the process that should have been caught early on can be expensive and also can cause a ripple affect on the schedule.
What if the editor or sales department decides the title needs to change? Bring in your agent right away. This is another instance when you deserve a full explanation. In most cases their reasoning is sound, but not always.
The designer began work on the cover and interior layout of your book as soon as your manuscript was received. He was given an overview of your book’s subject and genre in initial meetings with acquisitions and the editor, The designer will translate all the input into design proofs. He’ll present these in the next meeting with acquisitions, editorial, the marketing manager and a sales person until they narrow down to one or two choices. They might send you their final choice. We agents negotiate in the contract that you’ll be consulted on the final cover design. Covers sell books, and it’s important that you at least have the opportunity to consult, if not approve, it. A bad cover can doom your book.
This is a simple overview. There are too many details to include in one blog. You probably have lots of questions, so ask away. It’s really an interesting, intricate process, and it’s beneficial to you to be able to show an editor you have a working knowledge of the process.