(publishing) timeline

my attempt to pinpoint when stuff will happen in your publication process

Is this timeline bound to vary widely?

Why yes, yes it is. But here’s my best shot:


Month 0: You accept a deal to publish your debut novel. Much celebrating.

Month 2-3: You sign your contract. Your first installment of your advance is on the way.

Month 6: You receive your edit letter.

12 months before publication: You see your cover art. Book goes up on Amazon for pre-order.

6-9 months before publication: ARCs go out. Cover art might start to appear online.

6 months before publication: You book a venue for your book’s launch party. You sign up for blog tours if your publisher isn’t arranging that.

0-3 months before publication: Trade reviews of your book start to go up online.

1 month before publication: The brunt of your book’s promo begins. You send out postcards, if you want to.

0-3 months after publication: More promo. You might do some bookstore/library/school visits.

3 months+ after publication: The spotlight shifts to the next season of novels. You are are too busy writing your next book to care.

6-9 months after publication: You receive your first royalty statement.




improvements you make to your manuscript under your editor’s guidance

What steps make up the revision process?

  1. Edit letter. Your editor will send you a list of big-picture changes s/he thinks you should make to your ms.
  2. Revisions. You turn in a revised draft, get more feedback from your editor, and repeat until your ms is good and strong.
  3. Line edits. Your editor will mark up your manuscript, focusing on line-level writing. You’ll make the necessary changes and return the draft.
  4. Copy edits. A copy editor will mark up your ms, focusing on typos, grammatical errors, unnecessary repetition, inconsistencies, etc. You’ll make the necessary changes and return the draft.
  5. First pass pages. A proof reader will go over a mock-up of your book’s pages, checking for any more typos or layout errors. You’ll also review the pages and point out necessary changes. Sometimes you’ll need to do second pass pages as well.
  6. ARCs. Your manuscript will be made into a paperback Advance Review Copy.


When will I start the process?

You will probably receive your edit letter about six months or so after signing your contract. This varies so, so widely.

How long will the process take?

Several months, once it gets started, depending on how quickly you and your editor both work. Often, revisions take longer than expected, either because you miss a deadline or because your editor is swamped with other work and can’t move the process along as planned. Very often, publication dates get pushed back. So don’t get too attached to your publication date!

What if I don’t like the revisions my editor suggests?

The revision process requires a lot of back and forth. Your editor needs to know when his/her suggestions are not in line with your vision, and you need to seek to understand why your editor is suggesting the changes s/he is suggesting. If you absolutely don’t agree with a suggestion, you don’t have to follow it. But as often as you can, try out the suggestions before you reject them. If things get really dicey, get your agent involved to smooth things over. This also goes for when you think your editor isn’t suggesting enough revisions, which can be disappointing when you feel there is more work to be done and you need more direction than you’re getting.

First pass pages

first pass pages

a mock up of your book’s pages that you will look over for any mistakes

When will I get my first pass pages?

After you finish copy edits. You’ll be given a few to several days to look them over and note any typos or small mistakes. At this point, it is too late to make large changes to your manuscript that will affect the layout of your book. If your editor does not ask for you input on the first pass pages beyond telling you which mistakes the proof reader found, offer up your input anyway. You will almost certainly find mistakes that no one else finds and you don’t want those going to print.

See also Revisions.

Lead title

lead title

a book that receives a ton of promotional support from its publisher, more so than the publisher’s other titles

Is my book a lead title?

Probably not. Unless your editor told you it is, and you’re hearing about lots of promo plans that involve tons of money from your publisher–tours, paid ads, conference panels, pre-order incentives, etc.

But when my editor offered on my book, she said it would be a lead title and that I’d get lots of promo.

That means nothing if it’s not in your contract and you’re not seeing follow-up. Publishers’ plans change. Ugh, sorry.

My book is definitely a lead title! What should I expect?

Er, lots of promo. That’s all I know. Maybe someone will comment with more helpful info.

Cover reveal

cover reveal

when you first reveal your cover on a blog/website to build excitement for your book

When I should I do a cover reveal?

You might want to reveal your cover before it starts appearing on retail sites (which will usually happen about about nine months before your book goes on sale). But you should consult with your editor first. Some publishers don’t like to do reveals for debut novels; they might worry that readers will get burnt out on the image of your book by the time the book’s publication date comes around. Also, sometimes publishers want to time your cover reveal with other announcements, such as sales of movie rights, to build more buzz all at once.

How do I set up a cover reveal?

Some publishers have sites they prefer to use for reveals, so check with your editor. Otherwise, you will need to set up the reveal yourself (if you want to do one at all, which is optional). Check with blogs who have done cover reveals before–they are usually happy to hear from authors about hosting cover reveals. But know that many blogs like to plan their posts months in advance, so it’s better to reach out to bloggers far in advance of when you’d like your reveal to happen. Also, consider whether you want to build excitement by doing a giveaway along with your reveal; you could give away swag, like bookmarks, or promise an ARC of your book.

My cover appeared somewhere online before my reveal! How do I properly despair?

No despair necessary. I bet no one even noticed your cover is up somewhere online. Carry on with your reveal as planned, or see if you can move it up to a sooner date. Everyone will still be very excited for you.

Copy edits

copy edits

revisions to improve your manuscript at the sentence level

When will I do copy edits?

Some time after you finish revising your manuscript with your editor (focusing on plot, character, etc.), a copy editor will mark up your manuscript for corrections (focusing on grammar, mechanics, etc.). This might come in an email with your manuscript marked up using “track changes” or it might come in the mail with a hard copy of your manuscript marked up with copyeditor/proofreader marks. You will need to either accept or “stet” each proposed change. If you don’t like a proposed change you can write/type “stet” which means “let it stand.” It’s nice to provide a reason for stetting if you can.

How long will I have to go through the copy edits and return the manuscript to my editor?

Probably about a week. Sometimes more or less.

What if I don’t like the proposed changes?

You can “stet” them. Stet as many as you want–it’s your manuscript. But try to understand why the copyeditor has proposed the changes. Ask for clarification if needed. There’s nothing worse than seeing a mistake in your finished, published book and realizing that you should have changed it earlier.

See also Revisions.

Audio book

audio book

your book read aloud by a talented stranger

Will my novel be available as an audio book?

Only if you’ve sold audio rights. Your publisher might hold these rights (in which case they will try to sell them and split the proceeds with you), or you might have retained them (in which case your agent will try to sell them on your behalf); check your contract. With any luck, a company like Blackstone or Recorded Books will pay for the right to make your book into an audio book. At that point, you will get money from the sale of rights (probably in the realm of four digits), although it’ll take a while for that money to come to you, and your agent will get 15% of your share. The company will hire voice talent to record your book. They might send you some samples so that you can help pick the talent, or they might not.

When will I know whether my book will be available as an audio book?

Audio rights can sell at any time. Before your book comes out, or after. Many debut novels are never made into audio books.

Will my audio book be sold on Audible (Amazon’s audio book app)? In bookstores?

If you have an audio book, it will probably be sold on Audible. It will probably not be available in bookstores; listeners will need to order it online or through a bookstore.

Will I get free copies of my audio book?

Probably. Ask your editor. You might get one or even a few (CD) copies in the mail after publication.

Will libraries stock my audio book?

Hard to say. Libraries don’t stock as many audio books as paper books. Audio books are more expensive for them to stock. Libraries are probably more likely to stock audio book versions of well-known books.