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For those who are lucky enough to sign a publishing contract for their novel, there are plenty of surprises in store – some of them good and some of them very inconvenient. Much of what goes on within a publishing house is dependent on the size of the company as well as their general policies, so it’s impossible to know for sure what your experience will be like. But there are some things which will be true for most publishers and I wanted to share three little facts which you might not have expected.

You Don’t Get to Choose your Cover Art

Unless your word carries a lot of weight with the publishers – which, as a debut author, it probably won’t – you do not get very much say in what the cover of your book will look like. You could give your opinion if you’re polite about it, but chances are, the publisher will end up doing their own thing regardless.

There are a few reasons behind this disappointing fact and one of the most important in the publisher’s eyes is cost. If a new author requests a holographic, embossed, scratch-and-sniff cover, that’s a big investment for a book whose sales are as-yet unknown. Books are a business as well as an art, so the published wants to make sure they aren’t taking unnecessary risks.

The second reason is also business related; the people at the publishing house are much more experienced than you when it comes to cover design. They know how to use the book’s appearance to boost sales, while the author is probably thinking of it only from an artistic point of view.

People in Publishing Change Jobs Often

Don’t ask me why this is the case, but people in publishing seem to be very fidgety, and their roles within the company will often change. For this reason, it can really work to your favour if you make sure you are networking with all the relevant people and keeping on their good sides. You never know who will end up with influence on your book.

These shifting roles are also a good argument for working through an agent. Your editor may change and if you are working independently, you will have less say in who your manuscript gets passed to. Working with an agent will give you a permanent ally so you don’t have to keep building business relationships from scratch if your editor quits.

It Can Take a Year or More for a Novel to be Published

You are passionate about your work, so once the contract is signed, you are obviously going to want to see your publishers push on with the process as quickly as they can. But the unfortunate truth is that, unless your manuscript is extremely timely, it can take over year before you will see it on the shelves.

Image by Aldaron

Image by Aldaron

As you’ve probably guessed, your editor is working on several projects at once and this is one of the big reasons why the process is going to take so long. They have more urgent manuscripts, more acclaimed authors and less time than they can handle already, so your work as a debut author isn’t going to top their to-do list.

And once your editor does find the time to work with your novel, there’s a huge number of tasks to take care of. Not only the fun things like cover art and publicity, but piles and piles of paperwork, line editing, type-setting and countless other little jobs. So the best course of action for you at this point is to get cracking on your next manuscript – you have plenty of time.

I hope this article hasn’t burst your bubble too much, but hopefully you will now be a little more prepared for the strange little quirks of the publishing industry. If you enjoyed this article, please click like and follow, and join me again next week when I will be talking about how to write an evil protagonist.