What to Expect After You Sign Your First Book Contract
Most first time authors don't really know what to expect after they've signed their first book contract, after all it is their first. These days with the way the publishing industry has opened up with all the POD publishers, and vanity presses in addition to small e-book publishers and other forms of traditional publishing, just about anything is possible when it comes to a book contract.
One of the first things I always tell first time authors is to actually read the contract. That's right, read it; word for word. Not all first time authors do, they get so excited about the fact that someone wants to publish their book that they forget that not all publishers are equal. Not all contracts are created equally and since a publisher's main thing is to make money selling your book, you want to read the contract and be sure that you're going to get your piece of that action so to speak.
Okay, so you've read the contract, you like the terms and you've signed and returned the contract, now what? Well in most cases the answer to that is that your publisher will assign your manuscript to a professional editor on their staff who will read it and suggest changes to make it better. In most cases the editor will use the Reviewing Toolbar in Microsoft Word to make comments about changes he or she would like you to make. The nice thing about the Reviewing Toolbar is that it is easy to use and allows you the opportunity to both accept and reject changes.
Something to keep in mind is that a good editor will accept if you do not agree with his or her changes. So far my experience has been with the good editor variety, however I have heard horror stories of the bad editor variety. A bad editor will make changes to your manuscript without your permission or will be difficult when you refuse to make a change that is clearly going to either change the vein of your book or in some other fashion not be for the purposes of improving the book. This is another reason to read the contract, to make sure there isn't anything there suggesting that the publisher's editors can make those kind of sweeping changes.
You can also expect your publisher to provide you with a cover for your book. In some cases you will have a say in what the cover looks like, this tends to be more true of the smaller e-pubs, and in others such as with the larger New York Publishers, it just depends. The important thing is you will get a cover, and with luck it will be a nice one!
One thing that you should not expect from your publisher is help marketing your book. For the last twenty years or so, publishers have been doing less and less marketing for their authors, and it is now with a few exceptions almost totally the author's responsibility to market their book. Even the big New York publishers do little to help promote their authors these days.
So, that is what you can expect once you sign your first book contract. Understanding these things about the business of publishing beforehand will make any author's life easier. You'll still have to work on marketing your book, but at least you will know that is your responsibility and you won't be caught off guard.