Of course, every author's experience is going to vary depending on your publisher, imprint, type of book you've sold, and individual circumstances. However, in general, this is what you can expect to happen once you've gotten the offer for your commercial fiction book:
1. Your agent and editor will negotiate your contract, including how much you will be paid and when, what rights (foreign/film) you'll keep or transfer to the publisher, when your deadlines will be, etc.
2. The publishing house prepares the contract, your agent reviews it/makes changes and sends it back for the publishing house’s approval. Your agent then sends it to you. You’ll discuss any concerns with your agent, then finally sign, make copies, and return.
3. Usually you’ll receive your first advance payment upon signing of the contract (although you’ll actually have to wait some time for the check to be issued). Additional payments are usually due upon delivery and acceptance of the contracted, revised final manuscript and the release date of the book. Be aware that the deadlines in your contract (to turn in revisions, etc) are often dependent on your editor's schedule/publisher's needs and are often fluid on their part.
4. Your editor will call you to discuss the book and a game plan for revisions, title, etc. You may discuss whether you should use a pen name, when you should have your author photo taken, and what kind of marketing the publishing house wants you to do (including making sure your website reflects your brand and new story).
5. As you wait for revisions from your editor, write the next book contracted, or your next proposal. Develop a marketing plan and collect names of authors who’ll read your book and provide cover quotes. Your publishing house may assign you a publicist once the release date nears, but prepare now so you’ll have ideas to share.
6. You’ll most likely get a revision letter from your editor indicating what she finds confusing or wants changed in your manuscript. Discuss any concerns or questions.
7. You’ll make revisions and submit the revised manuscript to your editor, who may have additional feedback for you.
8. The publishing house might have you fill out paperwork regarding the placement/marketing of your book/anticipated cover blurbs/cover preferences, etc
9. Before copy edits, your publisher might provide manuscripts (or later depending on the release date) to authors for quotes. You may receive a draft of cover copy for the back of your book. Discuss any questions, concerns, or requested changes with your editor--keep in mind the cover copy is usually as brief and simple as possible. Make sure you've gotten your editor your author photo and bio for the back of your book (if you choose to include these).
10. After a copy editor has looked for consistency, grammar, accuracy, etc, you will receive the copy edits of your manuscript You will review these edits, noting whether you accept or reject the copy editor's comments. You may need to discuss with your editor.
11. You’ll get typeset/galley edits of your manuscript. These pages will mimic what your book will look like in printed form. The pages should be handled with care as you are only checking for typos and small mistakes. Pages must be kept in order with comments by copy editor unchanged.
12. You’ll begin getting samples of cover art. You might be able to ask for changes, but your influence over the cover may not be significant. Talk to your agent and editor if you have concerns, but keep in mind you want a cover that's going to sell your book.
13. Get in touch with your publicist and brainstorm the best ways to promote you, your brand, and your story.
14. You may receive Advanced Reader Copies of your book, which can be provided to reviewers. Ask your editor or publicist whether she will provide/mail ARCs to reviewers or whether you need to. With ARCS, your manuscript is bounded but some revisions may still be made at the final printing.
15. You should receive “cover flats” for a mass market paperback or trade paperback. Hardcover book jackets might be handled differently.
16. Keep working on your next project and soon you’ll get real copies of your book (the number of copies you receive for free, as well as your ability to buy future copies at a discount, should have been negotiated for in your contract).
17. Finalize plans for your book signing/launch party and have fun!
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