The first thing you need to know about the traditional publishing process is it takes forever. It’s a schlep.
Think about it. First, you write your book. This takes months, likely years, from first drafts to final edits, to complete.
You query agents and publishers and wait for their replies, and this can take months (sometimes close to a year) depending on the recipient and whether you’re in a teetering slush pile.
You land an agent! Now the agent spends time (hopefully weeks, not months) pitching publishers. Reality check: getting an agent doesn’t automatically mean you’re getting a book contract (trust me on that).
You get an offer, like I did, and sign a contract in June of 2013! And your publication date is (drumroll) November 4, 2014–almost a year and a half away. (This has more to do with the seasonal element of my book. It’s got a Christmas theme and it makes sense to release it prior to the 2014 holiday season. Had it not been themed as such, perhaps the pub date would’ve been earlier. But as Roger Clemens’ disgraced former trainer would say: it is what it is.)
As of this writing, I’m seven months from my pub date, and it’s a slog. I still won’t believe I’m a published author until I’m holding the final printed product in my hot little hands.
So, you might be thinking, why are you complaining? I’m not. My point is to prepare yourself for a schlep and not a sprint. (I’m still schlepping.) And make it a productive schlep. Unless you’re with one of the Big Six publishers (or is it Big 5 these days?) you’re not going to have a large marketing budget and will have to seek blurbs, publicity, etc., by yourself. Get on that as early as possible, I’m talking the day after you sign your contract. Don’t sit around and wait for your publisher to send you galleys. If you don’t have a website (I didn’t) find a designer who specializes in sites for authors. You’ll spend at least $1,000 for a basic, professional-looking website (unless you want to build one yourself; and unless you really know what you’re doing, I wouldn’t attempt it). You’ll likely have to register your domain names, purchase Email Me and Newsletter contact forms (if that’s what you want), among other necessities. That’ll be an extra few hundred bucks, depending on where you buy them and for how many years. You want a Kirkus review? Unless your publisher buys one, it’s going to cost you around $500 (I’m still up in the air as to whether I’m going to do that).
Consider starting a blog. This is my first. Depending on your personality, you’ll either want to communicate with your readers, or be a shut-in. Start Twitter (follow Writer’s Digest and Chuck Sambuchino) and Facebook accounts, join Goodreads, what have you. Social media is an important outlet. Tap into it.
Some of you, like me, might be going through–or soon will–the traditional publishing schlep and want to know what it’s like, and how best to whittle away the tediousness. That’s what I’m hoping to convey with these posts. By no means am I claiming these are the steps you should be taking (I’m not that presumptuous), only the ones you might want to consider.
The other thing to do, unless you’re a one-and-done author, is keep writing. Since signing my deal in June 2013, I completed a second book for my publisher, and likely will start, and perhaps finish, a third by the time my debut releases in November 2014.
Getting lost in writing moves the schlep at a somewhat more tolerable pace.