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marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus


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marthawells

Publishing Questions

I've been fighting off a cold all last week, and this weekend it won. Though I'm still not sure if it's an actual cold or sinus issues, since we've been having a lot of fast fronts coming through, and my sinuses can detect a change in the weather as far as two states away.


stina_leicht had asked me several questions in a previous post, so I'm going to answer them here, at least the ones that I had answers for. :)


what is the typical acquisition process? is it different for every publisher? (i imagine it is but am equally sure there's a pattern.)

I don't think it's that different from publisher to publisher. I'll describe it based on my experience.

Since you have an agent, it should be pretty simple on your end. The editor will make an offer, an advance against royalties, to your agent. The agent will bring you the offer, talk to you about whether it's a good one, and you'll decide whether to accept it. Sometimes the editor and agent will negotiate back and forth about the money. (According to Tobias' survey, The median first novel advance is $5000 for Fantasy (average is $6494), so keep your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.)

Once you accept the offer, the publisher will start working on the contract, and send it to your agent. Your agent will go over it, ask for changes if necessary, maybe negotiate different points in some of the clauses, or over issues like you keeping the foreign rights so they can be sold separately. Unless you're unlucky and the publisher is trying to push the envelope and make big changes to standard clauses, this part shouldn't be that bad. Eventually they'll come up with a version both publisher and agent agree on, it gets sent to you, you read it over and sign it and send it back.

At some time after this point, depending on how fast the publisher's accounting department is, you should get your first check. The agreement was probably for half the advance on signing the contract, half on acceptance of the final manuscript. Alternately, it might be for half the advance on signing the contract, half on publication. Which can be a pain, since it may take at least another year before the book is actually published, depending on how crowded the publisher's schedule is.

Then your editor will go over your manuscript again and send you an editorial letter/email, asking for whatever changes she thinks are necessary. This will be things like asking you to clarify any bits that are confusing or haven't been explained enough, pointing out any plot holes, maybe asking you to ramp up tension in a certain spot, or to tighten up a section that ran too long, or to give more attention to a character's motivation, etc. It's exactly the kind of comments you would get from a good writers workshop or good beta readers. If there's something you don't understand, or really don't agree with, you can talk to the editor and work it out. It's really very rare to be in a situation where you can't work it out. In nine books, it's never happened to me, and this part of the process is usually pretty smooth.

(At this point it's probably a good time to make suggestions for the cover, like if there's a particular scene you think would make a good cover image. They may listen to you. They may ignore you completely. You really have no idea at this point. All you can do is make suggestions and hope.

Also, if you're lucky, you might get to see the blurb/description that will go on the cover, and you can suggest changes for that.)

Some editors will do line edits at this point, which is when they go through the book line-by-line and point out places where your style was awkward, sentences that need to be rewritten, bad word choices, etc. I never got much line editing, so if the editor did any, it was usually included on the copyedit of the manuscript.

The copyedit is done by a separate copyeditor, who will go through the manuscript and specifically check grammar, punctuation, continuity, and write in the instructions to the typesetter. They'll also note places that might need more editing, facts that they think are wrong, and so on. (You will occasionally run across a rogue copyeditor who thinks she is the editor and will delete sections of the book, take out characters, order massive rewrites because she doesn't like the weather in your book, take out correct punctuation and grammar and add in incorrect punctuation and grammar, and basically go crazy all over your manuscript. You should tell your editor about this immediately, and stet the crazy changes. (This hardly ever happens, except it happened to me twice because I have crappy luck. The publisher and your real editor do not want you to do major rewrites in the copyedit stage, that's not what the copyedit stage is for. Only crazy rogue copyeditors want this. And there really aren't that many rogue copyeditors out there; there's only one that I know of for certain, and I suspect it may be the same one other people I know have run into.)

If the copyedit is normal, you'll go over it, making sure that you like the copyeditor's corrections, and steting them or reworking them if you don't, and making your last changes. You might add in or delete sentences or paragraphs, but you usually want to try to keep it to a minimum. If you realize you do need to do more, you should talk to your editor about it.

Usually at some point in here, the publisher will need you to submit a disk or email someone the word processor file of your book. This way they can just type in the changes from the copyedit, and not have to retype your whole manuscript.

After you send the copyedit back, the publisher will make the galleys. These are the typeset pages that look exactly like the actual book pages. You need to read these over carefully, since this is the last chance to check for mistakes and make little changes. You're mainly looking for typos at this point, correcting any last mistakes like missing words, and making sure the changes you made to the copyedit are there and the changes you stetted are not.

Then you send the galleys back and hope for the best, because the next time you see it it will be a printed book.




what was your experience when you sold your first novel?

My experience was pretty much what I've outlined above, except there was a dispute between my agency and the publisher over some of the contract clauses, and it took a few months to settle, so it took about two years from the time the offer was made for the book to actually be published.


is there anything you feel someone in my shoes should be aware of and prepare for?

A book doesn't necessarily have to earn out (sell enough copies to pay back the advance and start earning royalties) to make the publisher happy. It just has to meet the publisher's expectations, though you probably aren't going to be able to find out what those expectations are. And books now have a much shorter time to meet expectations, sometimes as short as two weeks, which is why preorders are so important. Though I'm pretty sure this is an area that's going to vary widely between different publishers. And the thing to remember is that a lot of things in publishing are changing right now, so YMMV.


i know a number of YA novelists and their first novels sold for more than what i've been told is average for first novels. is this just the YA market? (which now, as we know, is no longer the gold rush it once was.)

I'm really not sure; I've heard vaguely that the advances are bigger. Maybe any YA authors out there could answer this?


how is the sci-fi/fantasy publishing industry different from other markets? (like YA or general fiction or even romance.)

This I don't know much about. I've always heard that category romance is a much rougher playing field and books by new authors have a brutally short shelf life in bookstores, but again, that's just my vague impression from what people have said over the years. Hopefully someone else will stop by who can refute that or contribute a little more about other genres.


what's the average air speed of a european swallow?

42!

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In paragraph 12, you have an open set of parenthesis. You open a set, then a sentence over open another set which you close, but you did not close the original set of parenthesis.


PLease delete several of the characters, eliminate the subplot, and take out one of the F's in Jefferson ;)

Nonfiction books follow the same general procedure that Martha outlined. In my case, my editor provided me a set of Word macros for text formatting, along with a six-page style guide on text, illustrations, and wording. This was needed as the art department and typesetters used automated tools to turn my chapters into book layout, so it was critical to use the right settings.

I was surprised to read about copy editor style sheets as my style sheets were all completed up front by the editor. Makes a lot of sense for genre fiction as each novel will have its own usage and quirks. (Hoping Deanna isn't one of your "rogue copyeditors"; she doesn't sound like one.)


No, Deana is awesome. :) My (one) rogue copyeditor didn't do stylesheets, that I remember, though every other copyeditor I had did.

cool! thanks so much, martha. strangely, that helps settle my nerves. :)

It sounds like morfin is the crazy rogue copyeditor!!!!! RUN AWAY!!!

what's the average air speed of a european swallow?

42!

The meaning of Life, The Universe, and Everything? Cool!

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