If your knowledge of the publishing process comes from television shows or reading about book publicity tours, you know something about how publishers work with authors who sell a lot of books. Not everyone gets those services, though publishers always want an author to succeed.
What are some things a new author can expect? Publisher's wear a lot of hats. I divide them into acquisition, production, and marketing.
THE PUBLISHER'S ACQUISITION ROLE
- Read a draft your agent submits.
- Let the agent know they are interested.
- Present the contract for your agent and you to review.
- Negotiate to get to a contract that the author and publisher agree on in terms of – royalties, submission deadlines, author input to final product and cover, publisher contribution to marketing, number of (free) copies to the author, foreign rights negotiation, and more.
- Let the literary world know you are under contract and when your book will appear.
PUBLISHER AS PRODUCTION MANAGER
If you think your work is done when a publisher accepts your book, think again. Among the things to expect are requests for:
- Revision, usually with detailed information on what the publisher believes will improve quality and marketability.
- Information needed to fact-check your book. Or, the publisher could ask you to submit this material. (More for nonfiction)
- Contact information if others need to sign a release saying it is okay to quote them or refer to them in any way.
- Consultation on cover design.
- Review of galleys – edited copy the publisher has prepared.
Publishers spend a lot of money to get your book to readers, and they want it to be perfect. It may seem that some requests detailed, even picky, but authors need to remember that they are one of many.PUBLISHER’S ROLE IN MARKETING
A contract specifies what the publisher will do to promote a book.
Ultimately, authors do much promotion. A publisher will do more when the book is released, and an author wants readers to be continually aware of their books.
Try to get the publisher to agree to at least do the following:
- Send press releases to trade publications or local media, with follow-up calls from the publisher’s representative.
- Give you well designed bookmarks and/or other marketing tools, preferably well before a book is out.
- Provide you with author’s copies that you can use for marketing. Ask for fifty and be prepared to receive fewer.
- Send copies to book review publications or websites, including review writers in local media.
- Maintain an active social media campaign through at least Twitter, Instagram, BookTok,and Facebook posts.
- Create a short video and load it to You Tube.
- Talk to you a few times a year about how well the book is selling and if there is more promotion they want you to do.
Your role in marketing is key. Suggest local media to notify, visit local bookstores, and encourage local libraries to purchase your books. If you stress your willingness to work hard to keep the book in front of potential readers, it could help you secure a publisher.
THE ONLY REAL DON’T
Don’t be a pain in the tailbone to work with. You want to be firm when needed, but mostly you want to be a joy to work with. Whiners don’t get a second contract.
It may sound corny, but the fictional author Jessica Fletcher (played by Angela Landsbury) in Murder She Wrote, is a good example of a no-nonsense author who is pleasantly businesslike.
For every author selected there are thousands who would love to work with a publisher – whether one of the big five, a university press, or a niche publisher. If you are a royal pain but your book sells well, you may get a second contract. You’ll also get a reputation for being difficult.
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