09/09/2013 03:02 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

When Publishers Put A Ring On It: What Next?

Imagine this: Someone asks you to marry them, and because you are so eager (desperate?) to wed, you say yes -- even though you don't know them, don't know what they expect, and don't know what they'll bring to the table besides the (gender-free) shiny ring they push up on your finger.

That's kind of what it's like the first time you enter a contract with a publisher. Perhaps some of you were a whole lot smarter and you knew what was coming, but more likely you resembled me: naïve, starry-eyed, gasping with disbelief and playing the Sally Field card: You like me, you really like me, twirling in a circle of happiness, kissing your agent through the phone, and having no idea what came next.

So what should you expect? What's going to happen first, second, and third? It drove me crazy not to know (when I published my first novel.) I'm an excessively need-to-know-everything person, which led to me driving my editor and agent crazy, which led to co-authoring a guidebook, What To Do Before Your Book Launch , with M.J. Rose. Because along with our mutual need-to-know, is a need-to-share. This overview of the basic steps your publisher will likely take after your contract is signed comes from that guide.

Every publisher's timeline is different; within your publishing house, every editor is different, and every client at that house will get different treatment. With that as given, here's what you can expect from your publisher after you get that first check:

1. A launch date will be set. It can be a year to 18 months (or a little more or a little less) ahead depending on the book and the house.

2. Your editor will provide editorial comments to guide you in your first revision. This process could take anywhere from one step to many iterations, as you and your editor go back and forth.

3. Your editor will accept the final manuscript and send it to a copy editor.

4. You'll get your second check.

5. About 6-7 months pre-launch your editor will be presenting the book internally at a launch meeting to various departments, such as: Sales, Special Sales, Design, Marketing, Publicity, Audio and Subrights.)

6. Cover design will begin. (And later you'll get to approve a final.) This will also happen 6-7 months before publication -- usually after that internal launch meeting.

7. You'll receive a copy-edited manuscript -- with a deadline. In time you'll get second pass pages and sometimes third. With each subsequent set of pages, you will be 'allowed' to make less changes, so be thorough.

8. About 5-6 months pre-publication you will be assigned a publicist and a marketing person. This is usually 6-7 months pre-launch.

9. Discussions between you and your editor about who to get blurbs from will be initiated. Never be afraid to ask your editor and agent to help here if you don't feel comfortable asking other authors yourself.

10. Galleys (advance reader copies aka ARCs) will be sent out for reviews and blurbs. This is usually 4-6 months prepublication. (You will get you own ARCs -- best used for those who will help spread word of the book.)

11. At the 4-5 month pre-publication point your editor will present your book at a sales conference to all the sales reps. You should get a copy of the sales catalog including your book.

12. Once sales conference is over, marketing and PR plans will be finalized and your editor will be keeping you up to date about what the house is going to do for your book.

13. About 3-5 months pre-publication, early reviews from the trade will start to come in.

14. About 2-3 months pre-publication, you should be working with marketing and publicity to set up plans.

15. About 6-8 weeks pre-publication your editor will send you the first finished book.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Okay, start running.