From Acceptance to Print Date: the Top Ten Things You’ll Need to Know

When you finally get The Call and sell your first novel, there are still many things you’ll need to know. Here are the top ten from my list.

1. You’re now a tiny hatchling in a great big teeming sea. You only thought you knew what you were doing. Now is the time to educate yourself about those pesky business details. Richard Curtis’s book, How to Be Your Own Literary Agent, is a terrific place to start, whether or not you already have an agent.

2. They didn’t buy your book because they thought it was perfect. (Or you’d better love your story, because you get to work on it through edits. And maybe second round edits. And page proofs, otherwise known as galleys.) When you get your edits, throw your tantrum if you have to, then get to work on them. One page at a time.

3. The very suggestion that your publisher should invest in author tours and advertising for your first novel will be met with expressions of disbelief and possibly with gales of laughter. Set an advertising budget. Do all the free things that you can.

4. Deadlines are important, even if the folks who pay you are somewhat relaxed about their own. Miss a few and you’ll be finished faster than you can say One Book Wonder.

5. Individual rejections are almost meaningless. Read in groups, they’re often contradictory. Don’t take each one personally.

6. The second sale won’t necessarily be easy, especially if you change too dramatically. Try to build up a reputation in one genre before making a switch.

7. Unsold prior manuscripts aren’t necessarily bad. Many authors turn them into second and third books.

8. It’s often more fun to talk about writing, daydream about your success, and plan your acceptance speeches for awards than to get on with your work. Keep writing, or there won’t be a next time.

9. There’s always somebody doing better than you. You won’t appear on Lifestyles of the Rich and Literary, Oprah won’t be beating down your door, and publishers only get into bidding wars over celebrity books these days. Today’s truth is they give you a chance; you give them a bargain. Get over it. Lots of folks would kill for that chance.

10. It’s not really about the publication. It’s about the writing after all, so don’t forget that most essential ingredient of all . . . the joy that you bring to the process.

This article was adapted from a  talk by Colleen to the members of The Woodlands Writers Guild. 

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