Getting your book published is a big deal, regardless of the advance or the publisher.

Why? Look at the hoops you’ve jumped through! You finished the book, you found an agent, you interested an editor at a publishing house. That editor then shared your manuscript with colleagues, who also gave it a read. After that, he took your manuscript to a meeting where others on staff debated its merits and marketability. The meeting was full of other editors fighting for their own manuscripts, and when a writer tells you his manuscript had a close call it means it survived until this part of the process.

Yours made it! Congratulations!

So what happens next? In all likelihood, the editor who chose your manuscript will call you to say hello and to discuss any changes he imagines the manuscript will need.

About a month later, your editor will send you more detailed thoughts for revision, perhaps a several page letter talking about any of the bigger changes he’d like to see—for example, he may have ideas for making the book clearer, faster-paced, or more marketable. If no big changes are needed, you’ll simply get line-edits, meaning the editor’s ideas of how to correct, tighten or clarify specific sentences.

Once the final edits are in, things get very, very busy—emails will be flying with potential book cover designs, style sheets (sample pages of the font they’ll use inside the book), the infamous author questionnaire (a loooong form which is vital for those who will be helping to sell your book), and requests for a dedication (who you’re dedicating your book to), acknowledgments (a chance to thank all of the people who helped make the book happen), and blurbs (those happy little comments from well-known authors that are listed on the front and back cover). The publisher will print up uncorrected proofs of your book known as “galleys” (see the photo below) and send them to reviewers, book bloggers, and anyone who might blurb the book. You’ll be assigned a publicist, and you may receive an invitation to attend a marketing meeting, where everyone brainstorms about the best ways to get the word out about your book.

As all this is happening, you’ll get two more chances to make corrections to your book, which is now with the copy editor. First-pass is your chance to read the manuscript with its new, pretty font in order to catch any errors. If you have a patient editor, you might even be able to slip in a few more compulsive changes that go beyond actual errors. Second-pass is your very final chance to catch typos. The next time you see your words, you’ll be holding the real book!

So this was my experience of the editing process, and if yours is different or if you have questions, feel free to jump in. Soon, I’ll talk more specifically about blurbs, marketing, reviews, and book tours….

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SUSAN HENDERSON is the author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins, 2010) and founder of the blog, LitPark, a literary playground for writers.

5 responses to “LitPark’s Guide to What Happens After Your Book Has Sold”

  1. Jessica Blau says:

    This is great–you should make a little pamphlet that editors can hand out to happily stunned first-time authors!

    I’m thrilled that I got to read a beautifully bound galley of Up From the Blue–it is an A+, Five Star, fantastic book!

  2. dwoz says:

    How much of all this is still a paper process for book publishers?

    • Susan Henderson says:

      If you mean how much of the edits were handwritten on paper, all of mine were–both from my agent and my editor–but I don’t know if that’s the norm. It’s funny, though, how much is done over email, and how many writers never actually meet their editors face-to-face.

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