In part one of this three-part series, Tasneem Abdur-Rashid, author of Finding Mr Perfectly Fine, shared the process of finding an agent. In part two, she explained what happens after you’re taken on at a literary agency. In the conclusion to the series, Tasneem talks about what happens after your book is bought by a publisher.
As a debut novelist who had achieved her dream of being offered a publishing deal, I was eager (and often anxious) to know what happened between signing a contract and publication day. Google helped me out somewhat, but every author and book will experience a different journey. In this article, I’ll share my own experience – but please note that yours may be different!
- After the contract has been signed
Check with your editor before announcing your good news from the rooftops (or on social media, as is the norm in 2022). They will most likely want to announce it first by sending out a press release and putting up a piece on their website. Once that’s done, if you’re in the UK, The Bookseller will most likely include your news on their website and send it out in their daily emails to their subscribers.
As part of the press release, you may be asked to include a quote. As someone who has written hundreds of press releases in her life so far, this came naturally to me. I knew what message I wanted to get across. I wanted my quote to be energetic, positive and include a message of representation. If the quote is something you need help with, speak to your agent and they will happily help you.
- Structural edits
This is one of the hardest rounds of edits you will do. My wonderful editor, Sarah, went through the book and helped tighten the pacing and structure through suggesting ways to shuffle the order of events and bring out characters that had faded to the background during the middle of the book. Sarah did this by sending me a detailed editorial letter with her suggestions; there wasn’t anything marked on the word document itself. The letter was really positive and also highlighted what she liked about the book, and it was something I referred to often whenever I felt down or unsure of my talent and ability.
An example of her notes on the characters and structure (spoiler alert):
“We lose Adam a little bit in later chapters, and I’d love to see him to a bit more present (more on this in the structure section). Given what he told Zara about his aunt, I think it would be good if he could somehow tell Zara about his aunt’s passing himself, and there be a moment of comfort offered from Zara to Adam; it would also show the way they’re still in each other’s life, and the conflicting feelings they have for each other.”
I found the structural edits difficult to do. There was a lot of chopping, rearranging, writing new pages to make it flow correctly, but it was manageable. We did two rounds before we were happy to move onto the next stage.
- Line edits
This process isn’t about developing characters, plot or restructuring – all that has been done – praise the Lord! Now it’s about finessing the book, and going through the entire manuscript, line by line, to make sure you’re happy with your vocabulary, tone and making sure it flows smoothly. By all means, if you see a paragraph you want to take out or move elsewhere, you can. But by this stage, you should be happy with the structure and now working on the language and finer details.
By the copyediting stage, you will be well and truly sick of your book, your characters and possibly yourself.
When you get to the copyedits – the end is really close. The copyeditor would have gone through your book with a fine-tooth comb and made comments and changes directly on the document using tracked changes. They check things like spellings, factual accuracy, permissions, grammar, language, vocabulary. For example, is it Haringey or Harringay (North Londoners will know what I mean). Was it okay to use a quote from a song? All this is checked by the copyeditor.
It’s important to know that the editor’s suggestions are exactly that – a suggestion. If there is something that doesn’t make sense to you, or feels wrong, you don’t have to accept it! I made comments on the document and explained my reasoning for some of the changes I didn’t accept.
- Cover design
This is SUCH an exciting part of the process! As a debut, I had very little understanding of how covers are designed, the choices made due to genre and marketing, the level of input an author had.
The team had some ideas on how the cover could potentially look which was shared with me. At that point, I had no idea what I wanted. Everything felt abstract and I couldn’t envision it. I agreed with the team’s ideas and sat back and waited to see the initial mock ups, while I got on with the editing.
When the designs arrived, I wasn’t keen and I couldn’t imagine any of them as the cover of my beloved book. However, there was an element that I loved about them, which was the little cartoon depiction of Zara and a man. I gave some ideas on how I wanted the cover to be, incorporating the cartoon, but adding a London skyline and having the characters standing on the title.
I was lucky because Sarah was supportive, attentive and she took all my feedback on board. She knew that I needed to love the cover as much as I loved the book, and be proud to call it my own. Having spoken to lots of other writers, they don’t all have the same experience. One writer hated her cover so much that she used to turn the book the other way so she didn’t have to look at it!
If the cover is something you would feel really strongly about, it might be an idea to include having a final say on the design in your contract.
- Dedications and acknowledgements
At some point between copyediting and printing, I was asked to write a dedication and acknowledgement. There’s no definite guide to how it should be done. I know, because I Googled it. Trust your gut and write what comes from the heart. Read other people’s ones to get some ideas. At the very least, it will help you decide what you like or don’t like.
- Proof copies
By this point, your publishers would have created proof copies of your book, either physical or digital, to send out to bloggers, reviewers and fellow writers. This is to drum up excitement, generate reviews, and hopefully gather some quotes that can be used on the cover when it goes to print.
- Final proofread
Congratulations if you’ve got to this stage of your publication journey and my article! The feeling you get when you see your book laid out as an actual book is incredible. I was asked my opinion on the various fonts used in the book to convey text messages, emails and so on, and seeing it all come together on the page was wonderful.
I did the final proofread directly on the pdf, highlighting typos and comments. But despite so many people proofreading it, a couple of typos have snuck into the book. I’m trying not to get stressed by it – many books have them. We’re all human at the end of the day!
- PR and marketing
As launch day approaches, you might find yourself in meetings and email chains about PR activities: events, interviews, panels, signings, blog tours. ENJOY IT ALL! For me, this part of the process was such an exciting and fun experience. The highlight was definitely my pre-launch party at the Muslim Mamas Ladies’ Night event, where I gave a speech to over 300 women, signed a hundred copies of my book, and met loads of inspirational fellow Muslim mums.
Being a writer can be solitary, but being an author isn’t. While not authors enjoy being in the public eye, it helps to put yourself out there to spread the word of you and your writing.
- The launch
Your publishers may or may not host a book launch party for you. If, for whatever reason (budget most likely) they don’t – my advice would be – ORGANISE ONE YOURSELF! My publishers helped me with mine in terms of budget and venue, but I organised the rest of it, and I had the most fantastic evening celebrating my achievement with my friends and family. There was cake that looked like my book, lots of food, speeches from my publishers and myself, and a reading from my book. It was a nourishing night full of love.
If there is one piece of advice I’d like to conclude this publishing series with – it’s PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP. The road to publication is long, challenging and full of obstacles, but all it takes for you to achieve your dream of becoming a published author is one person believing in you and your story. It’s not all about talent – but hard work, perseverance, timing and lots of duas. Good luck x
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