I am not a contract expert. My knowledge of the law stems from The Good Wife and Suits. But after visiting various author forums, I learned that my publisher’s contract was fairly standard. For me, five conditions were pivotal.
- Understanding when rights would revert back to the author. In my case, after three years, unless the publisher and I mutually agree to extend the contract.
- Royalties paid are comparable to accepted standards. See How Much Should an Author’s Ebook Royalty Be? for a discussion of fair author royalties.
- Aside from typographical and grammatical errors, no editorial changes would be made without author input.
- A contract buyout existed if the author chose to terminate the contract early.
- In the event the publisher went out of business or declared bankruptcy, rights would return to the author.
Shortly after signing the contract September 2011, I received a welcome letter and author handbook. I also received a projected release date of September 2012 and was told my assigned editor would contact me three months before that time.
So I waited. June came; the editor’s email did not. What if they forgot about me? What if they came to their senses? What if another book about an influenza pandemic surfaced? What if I got influenza and died?
1) Main Edit
Finally, July 7th, I heard from my editor.
Talk about hesitation to open an email. Ever had your gut clench, suggesting a potty’s in need?
What if he changes everything? What if he recommends chopping a pivotal scene? What if he suggests a character cut? What if he says, “Well, this here is crap, so I used it to wipe my arse?”
Luckily, none of the above occurred (well, I’m not sure about that last one). In fact, most of his suggestions were minor—simple rephrasing of sentences, clarification of passages. The biggest change involved a one-page rewrite.
2) Line Edits
Satisfied with my changes, on July 26th the editor requested my line edits (or check edits). Line edits consist of reading through the manuscript line by line and copying and pasting any typographical, grammatical, or punctuation errors onto a separate document—not in the manuscript itself—and rewriting the correct sentence below. For example:
The brown dof jumped over the fence.
The brown dog jumped over the fence.
The author only includes a few words—no page numbers or chapter listings—just enough text so the editor can locate the error in the actual manuscript.
No rest for the weary. On August 10th, the senior editor requested my errata for the book galley, which is the manuscript in its copyedited and typeset form. Similar to line edits, one looks for typos and improper punctuation—no other changes allowed. Knowing it was my final go-through instilled anxiety. Luckily, the senior editor made only one grammatical change, and the fact that I noticed illustrates just how many times I’ve been through the freaking manuscript.
After finding a few other tiny mistakes (a forgotten period, a misplaced apostrophe), as well as a chunk of text mistakenly converted to italics during the editor’s formatting, I submitted my short errata. And hoped between the three of us, we weeded out the debris.
Now I wait for the release date. Oh, and try to learn about marketing, which, for an introvert, is pretty much akin to torture.
Please remember I signed with a small e-book and POD publisher, so my experience may be very different from those who sign with a more traditional publisher.
Have any of you gone through this process? What about your beta reads? Any major cuts you had to make? Was it painful? Did you sneeze on your beta reader?
All images from Microsoft Clip Art