Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!
Most first time authors seem to focus on the fundamentals: What is a query letter? How can I improve my book proposal? Or, is my manuscript well-written? When your goal is to get published, all of these are important and timely questions to ask. Both new and advanced authors need to hone their skills and produce exceptional content.
But that is just the start.
Once you’ve signed your book contract you enter the next stage of the book publishing process—working with your publisher and the editors they assign to you. Since you will be working with these men and women for the next few months or years, it’s a good idea to know the essential of building a good working relationship with them. Here are six key ideas:
1. Learn what your publisher prefers. I’ve worked with a variety of CBA publishers, and I’ve discovered that the process of getting an original manuscript to a printed (or digital) book can vary from publisher to publisher. Certainly, the basic steps may be similar (acquire the manuscript, sign the contract, edit the book, print the book, and coordinate with sales, marketing and publicity to get the book to market) but how they like to work, their preferences and management style, can vary greatly—from the publishers preferred house style to the number of revisions you get to review and more. That’s why it’s important to ask questions and learn the process and preferences for your publisher.
2. Learn about your developmental editor. Depending upon the publisher, either your acquisitions editor will edit your manuscript or you will be assigned a developmental editor. He or she may be an in-house employee or a contracted freelance editor who works off-site. Either way, you will most likely work with this person by phone, email, text, Skype or some combination of communications. Ask about his or her background. Ask what type of contact your editor prefers and how often. Knowing this ahead of time can save confusion and angst later on.
3. Communicate clearly. From the start of your working relationship with the publisher it is essential to know and agree on expectations—at least, as much as possible, since the process can be fluid. Be sure you know when your book will be published, when your final manuscript is due, how they will handle marketing and publicity, and the like. Most of this information should be covered in your contract (which you have read and signed). If not, be sure you have the information you need up front and articulate your questions and needs in a professional manner.
4. Meet your deadlines. This is vitally important if you want to be an author that publishers want to work with again and again. When I turned in the final manuscript for my second book, the developmental editor was surprised that I turned it in on the due date. I said, “That’s what I thought I was supposed to do.” To which she gratefully replied, “Yes, thank you! It’s just that so many of our authors are late with their manuscripts.” Bottom line: Get your initial manuscript in on time. Review the edits your editor sends you promptly. If you can’t meet your deadline, alert your editor as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute.
5. Meet your word count (or at least be in the ballpark). If your contract says the publisher wants 55,000 words, don’t give them 80,000 works. Your final word count does not need to be exact, but in an approximate range (such as 55,000 to 60,000). Meeting deadlines and word count are important. Remember, you want to be an author that your publisher wants to work with again and again, if possible. Show them you are a professional who can deliver.
6. Finish strong. When you get the the end of writing your manuscript (and editing), make sure the content is as strong as the beginning. You may be tired, but aim to deliver excellent writing throughout the entire manuscript.
In the end, any good working relationship is about mutual respect. When you respect your editor’s time and talent, and they respect yours, amazing things can happen in the book publishing arena.