5 things I didn’t understand before I got my publishing deal
In this third of a series of guest articles, Sunday Times bestselling author GILLIAN McALLISTER reflects on life between her first book deal and publication.
To be honest, until I got a book deal, I really couldn’t see beyond it. It was like a portal to another world, or such a sharp bend in the road that I couldn’t imagine driving down.
I wanted this book deal so badly, I never considered what my life might be like if I got it. But, of course, life does go on, much as before, but I’ve learnt some things (some practical, some more ethereal) along the way.
I still had problems
I remember chatting to an author, before I got my deal, who mentioned worrying about sales. And I vividly remember thinking to myself “you definitely have NO problems! You’re a published author!”
This is a mind set which I think is pretty common – both amongst those who wish very much to be published, and those who observe it from afar. Just try mentioning you’re finding writing Book Two under contract quite difficult – the words aren’t flowing and the plot feels all wrong, like a dress that’s too tight around the chest – and see how people react. They invariably say, “oh, but you’re so lucky!” And we are. Of course we are; of course I am. But I do still have problems. I still have the same worries I used to have – about how limited my time can be, whether or not I left the hob on, if I’m about to get a massive cold right before a lovely weekend away. Normal life stuff. Small things. Sometimes bigger, horrible things. The only difference is, I no longer worry that I will never be published. That’s a privilege, of course, but these worries have instead been swapped. I worry, now, that I won’t be able to write another good book. And, now my book has appeared on Amazon, I worry about worry about sales, too. (Excuse the plug).
Finances? No idea
I had no idea at all about this stuff before I got my deal. The basic details are that the publisher pays the author an advance, which they then have to earn out before they get royalties. Earning out is the publisher earning (from book sales) the same amount as they paid to the author.
What are editors / publishers / copy editors?
When your agent sells a book, they submit it to a commissioning editor who can buy books on behalf of the publisher. They then often have to get the approval of a sales and marketing board, to be sure the book will sell well and make money. So then, when you’re taken on by a publisher, your commissioning editor will usually be your editor who edits the book with you. An editorial report will follow the signing of the contract, and the author then edits the book in line with that. Then, the author is also assigned a copy editor (who provides copy edits, which are notes, or a tracked manuscript, on the finer details, like repetition of words or inconsistencies, continuity errors, etc), and a proof reader (who proofreads the novel and sends page proofs to the author to check, too).
What are the timescales like?
I got my deal at the end of February 2016 and I think I had a pretty seamless and typical process. So, I signed the contract in March, and I got my first editorial report towards the end of March. During March, April, May and June I did two rounds of edits, the first more structural in nature and the second adding more depth and backstory to some of the characters. In September I got my copy edits (pushed back because I took a two-week holiday…) and was soon to get page proofs. My novel was released on the 9th March 2017; almost exactly a year to the day after I got my deal.
Life stays much the same
It was almost as though I thought the curtains might go down on my life as I knew it and the words “happy ever after” would be written across them when I got my book deal. I wanted it so badly. But, not to repeat point one too much, life was much the same. Work. Writing. Stacking the dishwasher inadequately. The occasional French double taxation form, quite a lot more writing an editing than before and, of course, the bit we all wait for: holding my book in my hands.
Gillian McAllister is a former lawyer and Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling author of Everything But The Truth, Anything You Do Say, No Further Questions, The Evidence Against You, How to Disappear and That Night.