Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Paperwork behind Publishing

One of the many things that came as a bit of a shock to me during the run-up to publication is the sheer amount of paperwork involved. I'm not just talking about the edits here. Those, at least, I expected, even if not the intensity and volume of them. So what else can you expect after signing the contract?

1. Basic information. This probably won't come as a surprise. Most places want your name, address, date of birth etc. I use a pseudonym (not for anonymity but simply because my surname is pretty common, and no one uses my real first name because it's such a mouthful!) so I needed to list that and my legal name. How you would like to be paid (and 'frequently' or 'lots' are not acceptable, no matter how much you might be tempted). Contact details such as e-mail. My publisher has recently made it a requisite to have a website and a reasonable internet presence as part of the submission process. Since I'd already read up beforehand that most authors are expected to have at least a basic platform, preferably before signing a contract, that came as no surprise. I already had a blog that I posted to regularly. With the increasing responsibility on authors to promote themselves and their work, and the growth of the digital market, most publishers will probably come to demand such things.

2. Story-lines. Who your main protagonists and antagonists are. Their appearance, quirks, aims and the obstacles preventing them. The resolution for each.

3.Blurbs and tag-lines. Often you'll be asked for a few lines or a blurb of some kind (think 'back of book' cover) in your query letter. If not, it'll definitely be asked for later. A tag-line for your book is a memorable phrase that summarizes your book. Classic examples are 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away' from Star Wars or 'In space, no one can hear you scream' for Alien. I already had both a blurb and tag-line in mind, since I spent my time between submissions researching self-publishing and writing a back of book cover. The tag-line came from creating a Facebook advert to promote my book page on there. 'Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption?' If you're stuck on a blurb, try looking at a few examples on other books you like or that follow a similar theme to your own. Pick a few key words. My blurb for Keir has been tweaked several times, but the final version was actually done by a blurb group at my publisher's--yet another thing I'd never heard of! Also, if you've planned a series, you will need a separate tag-line for it, and I was asked to provide the titles of the other books. I don't actually have a title for the last, but since they're contracting on a book by book basis, that wasn't a huge problem at this stage. I haven't even got book two to them yet!

4. Cover art. Again, this may vary from publisher to publisher. Mine asked for a general description of the main characters, the overall theme of the book, main conflicts and resolution, and any ideas I had about what I'd like on the cover. Bear in mind your publisher's resources. Most small press publishers (like mine) have to rely on stock images and image manipulation software. I have to confess that one of the deciding factors in choosing Lyrical Press to submit to was the stunning covers, but with my main MC being blue-skinned and heavily tattooed, it seemed a tall order. It may come as a shock to many to learn that often authors have little or no input or say on their covers. I have to admit mine was not what I had in mind--a good thing, perhaps, judging by the favourable comments it has drawn--but I love it, and consider myself incredibly fortunate.

5. About the Author, Dedications, Acknowledgements, References and Foreword. You may already have a bio on your website, and/or one you've submitted for the publisher's website/information. This is the one piece of information you MUST submit, but you'll have to write a new one to go into the book, something more specific to the story. This is the hardest thing I've had to do so far. The other pieces such as dedications are up to you. I already had several 'thank yous' I wanted to include in the acknowledgements, although the final dedication was not the original one I'd thought of.

6. Excerpts. These will generally be asked for once the final edits are done and you've agreed to the MS being the official version for publication. This may vary from publisher to publisher. In my case I needed to provide a one line summary of the book, a short excerpt and a longer one. All excerpts must be a set, small percentage of your overall word count (you don't want to give too much away for free, or break any copyright restrictions). In my case I've got a fair bit of leeway with 100K words to choose from. You should also not post snippets or excerpts BEFORE the final version is approved (if you've posted snippets as part of a blog ring or anywhere on the internet, be sure to remove ALL of them prior to submission) or make it clear that the snippet is from an unedited version. The key here is to choose something reflective of the book as a whole that you hope will hook and intrigue a potential reader without giving key elements of the plot away. Sound hard? It is. The one line summary wasn't too difficult, and I had two potential short snippets that I felt would work. The long version was the hardest, and I then had to scrub it and look for another after learning that my publisher makes the first chapter of all it's books available for free download. Guess where I'd taken the snippet from? One of the short excerpts also came from the first chapter, but since I preferred my second choice anyway (and got the same feedback from a couple of friends) that was the one I went with.

7. Galley errors. After pre-, copy and line edits, your MS goes to galley. This is a draft version of the final copy. You'll get a form to note any errors in it which will (hopefully) be the last. Once done, your MS goes off for its final conversion before release. This will be your FINAL chance to make any changes, so use it wisely. You will not be popular if you suddenly decide someone's hair color is wrong, or you want to rename a character once the galley version has gone back to the publisher.

8. Formatting errors. This will be a final, formatted version of your ebook that will be uploaded to vendors. So things like missing italics, missing chapters etc.

This is just a general summary of the kind of additional paperwork you can expect as part of the publication process, and one of the reasons it takes so long from signing the contract to release day. It may vary, and I haven't listed every single one I've had. But I hope it's helpful to those of you just starting the process. :)


  1. An interesting post, thanks, Pippa. It's all a bit mysterious what waits on the other side. Best of luck with the book!

  2. Great recap, Pippa. Thanks for the rundown on all the detail work behind the scenes. Wow! So much goes into it.

  3. Thanks, Kylie and Laurie. It's amazing the amount of stuff that goes on underneath what you expect to have to do. No wonder it takes so long to get a book from contract to release.

  4. OOh so familar - and they say writing the novel is the hard part!

  5. Thanks Pippa - it is certainly an eye opened!

    1. It's never-ending. But I'd still do it all again(and will). :-)


Thank you for chiming in! We love to see your comments. (All comments are moderated so spam can be terminated!)