The following is an encore from 2009, presented here in the hopes that the info will be helpful for aspiring authors. I’ve authored or coauthored five books since, and self-published another four, and most of this still applies. So enjoy. Hope it helps!
There is a lot of stuff they don’t tell you about getting a book published. You hear about the process of writing, and crafting cover letters, and how to approach agents and publishers, and on and on and on, but what about all the stuff the happens after you secure a deal? No one tells you about that. By this point I had done a pretty good job of educating myself on The Process. Thanks to loads of reading — books, articles, and blogs — I knew what to expect at almost every step of the way.
But I had no idea what would come after we had gotten a contract.
Well, here’s what happens: You still have a whole helluva lot of work to do.
In the case of A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks with the Master of Suspense (Scarecrow Press 2009), we still had to secure photos for the book. You may not have to do this for your book — chances are you won’t — but we did. Our book has forty photos plus a cover photograph. Jim and I used the services of Photofest in New York City. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see their credit all the time for film-related works. We spent a few hours in their offices combing through thousands of photos of Hitchcock and his films. Thousands. It cost us more money than we’d like — as a pair of unknowns, the publisher did not foot the bill for these photos — but Ron Mandelbaum of Photofest was a great help.
As we waited to get the manuscript back from Stephen Ryan, our editor at Scarecrow Press, we tackled little adjustments, amendments and suggestions he sent our way. All quite minor and very easy to handle, but it also meant we had to be ready to plunge our heads back into the work at any given moment. We might be asked to clarify something we wrote or tackle suggestions by Stephen on how to present the wealth of information we compiled.
Oh, and we also had to compile a full cast and crew listing, as well as a full listing of DVD releases with relevant release details on each. All things you don’t consider when you first start writing.
Finally, some months later — I want to say it was about six months after we submitted the final manuscript, but I can’t be arsed to check — we received a fully edited copy in Word format. This copy was marked up and down and all around with copy editing, corrections, and questions asking us to clarify portions of the text or suggesting items to rewrite. Our task was to read the entire bloody thing again . Make corrections. Clarify questions. Tweak stuff. And generally whip it all into shape.
So there we were, sitting up at night, laptops propped up, going through the text and making sure everything was juuust right.
Couple months after that, we got a PDF document of the entire book all laid out and looking spiffy, just as it will on the printed page. It wasn’t for us to ogle how nice it looked, though (and it did look nice). No, it was time to put together the index.
Yeah, you know at the back of a nonfiction book, that big list of names and places and terms and words, with page numbers telling you were you can find them inside the book? That. We had to do that.
Some 500 terms, names, titles, and so on. Over 400 pages of text to go through. Even with a search function, it was a painfully tedious task. If you write a nonfiction book and don’t have a publisher who will be providing the index, you will hate this part, and you will hate it.
This was also our last chance to make corrections. No major changes were possible — the text was already laid out — just minor corrections. So yes indeed, one last round of reading and revising.
While this was going on, Jim and I also brainstormed on promotional ideas. You’re not going to see us on a book tour, you see, so most of the promotional efforts would be driven by us. That meant recording podcasts (coming in April), creating a Facebook page, discussing the book on Twitter, and a slew of other endeavors. Just getting ourselves out there, touching base with Hitchcock fandom, and making people aware that this book would soon exist.
We did this despite knowing that we’ll see very, very little sales boost from it. But this is part of the process. It’s part of our job to ensure people are at least aware that this book will be out there. Every sale, every last one, is a victory. Even when the book is finally released (as of this writing, it has officially gone to print), our work with it won’t be finished. We’ll still have work to do on it, even as we begin the follow-up. Even now I am drafting letters to libraries and local bookstores, hoping to garner at least some local interest.
Yeah, it’s a lot.
I hope a picture is being painted here, a picture that makes clear your obligation to your book does not begin and end with writing it. You are involved almost every step of the way. You are its caretaker. You are its custodian.
No, folks, the work does not end with the writing. Once you’ve finished that first draft, your work has only just begun.
One last installment, then I’m calling this (exhausting) series of blog posts finished.
Read part 1 (Introduction), part 2 (Ideas & Execution), part 3 (The Query), part 4 (The Waiting Game), part 5 (Revising & Rewriting), and part 6 (All That Other Stuff), and take a look at the resulting book. Learn more about Eric here, and find out more about his independent editorial services here.