1) Accept the offer and CELEBRATE
Okay, so you pick an editor and terms are agreed and you’re SO excited that you can hardly stand it because YOU’RE GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!
At this point it’s okay to tell your close friends and family, but resist the urge to shout it at every stranger who passes you by. And don’t say anything on social media yet. Stuff sometimes falls through, and publishers and agents have their own guidelines for announcing sales. Talk with your agent about this.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate! I met another writer for drinks after I got an offer but hadn’t yet signed a contract, so I didn’t tell her that the deal had closed (I probably could have, but I was being extra cautious), and she said how in the entire process of writing and getting published, she was never really sure when the “pop the cork” moment was, and I see what she means now. Your agent, editor, etc. are never going to tell you – Okay, this is when you freak out and dance and skip and squeal. You will expect to feel this moment when you’re sure, and it will never come, and it will take so long between getting an offer and actually announcing it that the rush will have faded. So YOU have to be the one to decide when to celebrate. For me, I celebrated when I got my agent, when I agreed to the book deal, and when I signed my contract, and I’m sure there will be many more celebrations along the way. I say celebrate as much as you can, in whatever way feels great for you, because this is not an easy process and not everyone can do it.
And then hold on to those celebratory feelings, because now they’re going to put together the contract, and it will be at the very least weeks but in all likelihood MONTHS before you see it.
2) Back and forth with the contract
When you get your contract, again have your agent explain anything you don’t understand. This is more extensive than just how much you’re getting paid for what. It has to do with some serious legal stuff that you should understand, like what happens if you don’t end up wanting to publish the finished product, what they are and are not allowed to change without your consent, what happens if (God forbid) your book doesn’t sell, and whether or not they have First Look rights for your next project.
Contracts are pretty standard and as a debut author you don’t have much negotiating power, but discuss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable with your agent. Your agent or the agency lawyer know the language of Legalese extremely well, and if they might pick up on some stuff that you don’t. In that case, they’ll probably go back and forth with the publishing house’s lawyer. This is normal but time consuming.
The pub date is not part of the contract. For some people this is known before you sign the contract but I didn’t know until much later.
While you wait for the contract, you’ll also be asked to do some boring tax stuff and provide biographical information about yourself. Ask your agent and their team for help on things you don’t understand, as they’re quite familiar with all this.
3) Sign the contract, more partying like it’s 1999.
Again, I’m a huge advocate of celebrating at every step in this process that moves you closer to that book being out on the shelf. There’s always going to be something else that you’re waiting for, and it’s never going to feel quite real, so just celebrate everything. This is not something that everyone in the world can and will experience, so be grateful for it!
4) Wait some more
Even though you’ve signed your contract, still wait for the okay from your agent/editor to announce it to the world (social media). You’ve already told the people closest to you, because even people who have never done this before suspect that if your agent hasn’t sold your book like eight months after you’ve signed with her, it’s probably not going to sell, and you don’t want them to think you’re a loser. Expand your circle a little bit but don’t do a whole social media blitz about it until you’re given the okay. Normally you’ll be waiting on the actual publication date so you can include all the facts, and they will want to time it so it appears in Publisher’s Marketplace around the same time.
At this point you’ll probably be waiting a bit for a formalized editorial letter for changes you will have to make (again, not copyediting, that comes after). Refer back to the last post, where I sermonize about the importance of working on your next book during this period of waiting. It’s literally the only thing that will keep you sane.
Finally you get the okay – tell everyone you know and everyone you meet and everyone that scoffed when you told them you wanted to be a published author that you’re going to be published!!! Congrats to you!