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How to Get Published Step 4 – It’s Going to Happen!


So, you’ve got a book deal. Now comes the heavy lifting. This is for real. You won’t get a second chance, and you need to hit the ball out of the park.

Your publication date is set for September 19, 2017. Yes, you read that right, 2017, two years from now. ‘BUT THE BOOK’S DONE?!?’ you say. Well, sure, sort of, but first it’ll go through a battery of editing. Developmental editing to improve the story structure, perhaps trimming a character or two, or adding in a romance angle. Then comes line editing which will sharpen the pacing and voice of your work. Copy editing takes care of most of those grammatical mistakes, sets house style, and further tightens the prose. Finally proof readers will catch the last typos and formatters will typeset the book for print and ebook. The cover art will be completed and a full marketing plan developed. You can’t just send your book into the ether without a marketing plan! Professional reviewers need ARCs or Advance Review Copies at a minimum three months before you publish, and if you’re lucky, you’ll need to coordinate with several different countries.

Let’s work backwards so we all understand the timeline. You’ve got a publication date of Sept, 2017. Your contract was signed Sept 2015, your book first went on submission to publishers six months before that, in March 2015, your agent signed you six months before that, in Sept 2014, but you started querying agents nine months earlier until you found the right one, and it took a year to get your book written for an idea you got in September 2012—Five years before publication.

September 2012—Book Idea

January 2013—Start book

January 2014—It’s done!

September 2014—I have an agent!

March 2015—It’s on submission.

Sept 2015—I’m gonna get published!

Sept 2017—Okay, now I’m gonna get published.

Can you see why it’s so important to keep writing? By the time you hit 2017 you should have another five books ready to go.

Now in case you think writing is still a get rich quick scheme ... let’s look at the moula.

September 2012—No money

January 2013—No money

January 2014—No money

September 2014—No money

March 2015—No money

Sept 2015—Money!!

Sept 2017—Money!!

Post Sept 2017—Maybe more money ...

You won’t see any cheques from anyone until you sign the contract with your publisher, but a typical contract will divide what’s called your ‘Advance’ into three stages. An Advance is an advance payment against the prospect of future royalties. Let’s assume your advance is $10,000. Not bad right? Well, you get a third to half of that upon signing the contract. Let’s say a third: $3,333. Of which your agent takes her well-deserved 15% or $500. You will receive the second payment of $2,833 once your editor has a manuscript they like, and the third payment will be due when the book is signed off as done.

If you sell enough books, then you can earn more money still. But first you have to pay back the value of the advance in the form of book sales. If your contractual royalty is say 10% of the net value received for your paperbacks (often not this high) and 25% on ebook, then you’re going to have to sell some 10,000 copies before you see more money. Many books never earn out. You really want yours to. Why? Because you want to publish more books, right?

You as the author are also a sales person. Actually, you’re the most important sales person. So if you’re so important, why use a publisher? Well, lots of reasons. Many authors don’t have the wherewithal to do all that editing, cover art, marketing, etc. No authors have the store distribution and access to the library market. They don’t have catalogues. They’re not established brands.

Even more important though is that sales of your actual books are only (or less than) half of the potential of the book. There are audio rights, foreign sales, and movie rights to be sold as well, and these can be substantial. Books can be staged, starting with a hardcover edition to maximize buzz and sales of the book. And publishers have access to many more outlets for professional reviews and awards than your typical self publisher. 

So more money, more distribution, a huge support group of professionals who have hung their hats on your book’s success. Why do people self publish then? There are some good reasons for that too.

Let’s talk about that next week!

Before I go though, I want to mention one thing. You are only a debut author once. Debut authors published traditionally get a lot of attention. There are special awards for them, and they are noticed by reviewers searching for the next big thing. Debut authors who self publish receive the opposite of. They established self published authors receive absolutely no attention. So, don’t throw away your debut lightly. It only happens once.

Michael Stewart is OPL’s  first official writer in residence for teens and tweens. Michael likes to experiment by combining social media with storytelling. He's both traditionally published and indie published. He writes middle grade through to adult novels, graphic novels and new media projects across many genres.

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