One thing I didn't really know much about before I sold my book was the actual timeline TRANSPARENT would follow post-book deal. And I think not understanding that process can make it way more stressful than it needs to be, so today I wanted to share a little bit about what it's like to go through the Publishing Pipeline, as I now affectionately call it.
(Extra disclaimer: Every publishing house is different. Like, for reals. I give some information here that may not be the same for every author—they are examples from my own experience at HarperTeen.)
1. Get In Line
When you first sell, there's usually a big GAP of time wherein you're just...waiting. Yup, the waiting never goes away. This isn't because your publisher/editor doesn't care about your book—they just have a queue, essentially. That queue is based on the season in which a book comes out, so the new sales get put in line.
For example, TRANSPARENT was slotted as a Summer 2013 novel, but it sold in May of 2011. That means there were like five seasons of books before mine debuted (now we're down to two, ack), and all those other books have to come before mine.
I say this because it's easy, while in the process, to feel like you are being neglected or that maybe you aren't important when that is absolutely not true. If you are on a regular publishing schedule (18 months to 2 years out from sale), there is just a little bit of lag time is all. It's completely normal. It gives you and your editor plenty of time to edit and prepare for debut.
2. Understanding The Order Of Work
Publishers don't just start designing your cover the second you sell. There is an order to things. And guess what it starts with? Yup, edits. Depending on your debut season, your edits could come within a few weeks or a few months (mine was about 3 months from sale). The first Editorial Letter will likely be a lot of substantial changes. You might be rewriting scenes, cutting, adding new stuff, changing characters/plots, etc. The next edit is what they call a Line Edit, which is more on a sentence level, making sure the prose is tight and everything makes sense. Then there is Copy Edit, which is focused on grammar and punctuation. It's also your last real chance to make bigger changes.
Once you finish Copy Edits, the book is "approved" for layout. This is when it usually goes to design as well (sometimes sooner depending on how you're meeting your deadlines). Only after all that editing do you start to see the exciting stuff like cover comps (early mockups).
3. Knowing Your Seasons
Every publisher has their own seasons. For HarperCollins, they work in three seasons: Winter (mid-December to mid-April), Summer (mid-April to mid-August), and Fall (mid-August to mid-December). Pretty much everything revolves around this schedule—when you get edits, when you see a cover comp, when you ask for blurbs, when you can reveal your cover, when you get galleys, etc.
So if you're a Summer 2013 like me, it's really silly to get jealous over Fall 2012 cover reveals, for example. They all go in cycles, and if you pay attention, you'll notice that a large group of authors always reveal stuff at the same time because they are all in the same season. (This is good to know if you are sensitive to news online, because certain things always happen around the same time of year.)
4. The Catalogue
Much revolves around The Catalogue. I don't know a ton about The Catalogue yet, except that is where a publisher showcases all their novels for a season. I believe it goes out to book buyers and is majorly important because of that. The Catalogue comes out in, you guessed it, seasons! One catalogue for each. The Catalogue also goes out about two seasons in advance—so the Summer 2013 catalogue will be out this Fall 2012. The Winter 2013 catalogue just came out this Summer 2012.
The Catalogue marks all the fun, shiny marketing type things in a book's life. Just before The Catalogue comes out is usually when authors are allowed to reveal covers (usually a week before), for example. It's also when ARCs start being sent out (just after The Catalogue goes out). It's often when blurbs are acquired. This is also when reviews start coming in, and authors might get nervous and panicky and hide in holes from the online world. Also, contests start, and bigger promotion pushes begin in general.
5. Other Random, Useful Info
• Authors get ARCs first. People tend to think when authors get their ARCs that the publisher is sending ARCs everywhere, but that isn't the case. There is some lag time usually, an order that they send them out (which likely differs a little for each publisher).
• Blurbing attempts happen at two separate times—pre-ARC in attempts to get blurbs for the ARC, and also post-ARC in hopes to get more for the novel. So if you don't get any pre-ARC isn't not over.
• Publishers often release more ARCs closer to a novel's release date because if reviews and buzz are too far out, people often forget about the book by release date. So if you see early ARCs they usually come from trade shows or a very small, early mailing.
• Release dates are tentative for a long time. Authors aren't trying to be cryptic—they just really don't have official information for a long time. Usually not until The Catalogue and sometimes after that.
• Authors only get a set amount of ARCs or published copies of their novel. They cannot request as many as they want, and the amount varies based on publisher. I've seen anywhere from one copy to fifteen.
That's about all I can think of now, but if any other published authors want to offer up extra info in comments, feel free! Now that I'm more comfortable with the Publishing Pipeline, it's taken a lot of the stress out of the process. And it's helped me stay calmer online when the deluge of announcements happens each season. It's easier to keep myself from comparing when I remember that every author has to wait for their season, and it's not everyone else "beating me to it."