Life After the Book Deal: Part One

Jan 12, 2017 Main blog 10 comments

Happy New Year!

It’s 2017, which means… MY BOOK COMES OUT THIS YEAR!!! It’s feeling more and more real every day, so naturally, the terror is building as well. But it’s good terror, I think?

As much as I dreamed all my life of having a book out in the world, it is also what scares me the most. The certainty that some folks out there will hate my book strikes fear into my heart, as does the fact that some trade reviewers are notorious for being extremely harsh. (If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that one of my recent nightmares reflected this!)

But I also have high hopes that others will love FOTL as much as I do, and I am incredibly grateful for the enthusiasm that has followed in the wake of my announcement. Here are just a few of the places FOTL has been mentioned:


– My book was recommended as one of Bustle’s 16 Young Adult Novels to Read in 2017!

– YALSA’s blog, The Hub, included FOTL in their Diverse Debuts of 2017 post!

– Ashley, who runs the YouTube channel Tomorrow Is Another Read, mentioned FOTL in her Most Anticipated 2017 Releases vlog!

– Asian YA Tumblr listed FOTL as one of 2017’s Awesomely Asian Books!

– Book blogger Ceillie kindly included FOTL in her Top Ten 2017 Debuts post!

– The YA Wednesdays blog mentioned FOTL in its 2017 Crystal Ball list of upcoming diverse reads!


So if you have tweeted, blogged, vlogged, or otherwise shared or spread the word about FOTL, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I hope I get the chance to meet you guys in person someday and express my appreciation for making an author newbie feel so welcome and so loved!

Speaking of being an author newbie, these past six or seven months (yes, I’ve had this deal for that long already!) have been . . . quite the learning experience. Some things I expected and some things I didn’t, but it has been endlessly interesting being on the other side of the fence, so to speak, and see how a manuscript slowly transforms into a finished product.

I will say again, for those of you who are querying, that your agent is the #1 most important person in your writing life. This is the individual who will listen to what you want (for your book and your career), be there for you when you need them, and go to bat for you when necessary, and it should be your topmost priority to find somebody with whom you can work well. DO NOT rush into things, DO NOT sell yourself short. Wait for the best agent possible. I can’t even begin to describe what Tamar has been to me these past several months. She is my rock and someone I trust wholeheartedly to be on my side, and in the tumultuous Sea of Flailing, Uncertainty, and Extreme Anxiety that a debut author’s ship often ends up in, that is what you need.


I had a poll going on Twitter last week to find out what sort of blog post people would like to read best. An overwhelming majority wanted a breakdown of what happens after the deal, so since this is still ongoing for me (obviously!), I will give you a quick look at the earlier stages you and your book may go through after acquisition. Here’s a disclaimer: this is written from my experience only, and as we all know, the publishing road can be very different from person to person. So don’t take everything below as gospel, because when it’s your turn, your process might look nothing like this.


Stage One: The Book Deal

A publisher agrees to buy your book! If you had other offers, you weigh the pros and cons and make your choice. The deciding factor for me was 1,000% Brian, my awesome editor, who I liked and connected with immediately.

The terms and acceptance may be first laid out in an email before the contract comes, which can take several months (it was about four for me). You read over the contract yourself with a fine-toothed comb, jot down questions, and get your agent to explain everything you don’t understand. Sometimes you’ll be asked to keep the deal secret for an extended period of time, for a variety of reasons. But that makes it even more fun when you finally get to announce it to the world (and friends yell at you for not telling them while you were staring at them across the dinner table)!


Stage Two: Edits, Edits, Edits!

To quote my mom, every time she hears that a new round of edits has come in: “You have to fix your book again??????

Yes, you have to fix your book again.

But if you’re like me, you’ll feel grateful for every single round of edits, because with every stage you are getting closer and closer to that time when you can NO LONGER make changes. I’ve already had nightmares in which I’m holding a finished copy of my book and I’ve mixed up something stupid like they’retheir, and there – not that anything like that would slip past my eagle-eyed editor and copyeditor! – but mistakes happen, so take advantage of these revisions.

Brian and I spent a lot of time via phone and email hashing and rehashing plot points, characterization, and world-building, and I can safely say that this latest version of FOTL is truly in the best shape it can be. I had two rounds of big-picture edits (in which larger, overarching changes are made, though mine weren’t too intense or extensive) and one round of line edits (with smaller, frame-by-frame type changes). It’s a lot like working with your CPs or with your agent, so just remember it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

Then it’s on to copyedits, which is when a copyeditor goes through your manuscript and checks for grammar, spelling, and smaller details you may have missed. For example, you may mention there were three candles on the character’s nightstand at the beginning of the scene, but then you say there were only two at the end of the scene, and the copyeditor will point this out. Sometimes there is more than one round of copyedits, which will be true in my case, as I’ll have my second one soon. This is also the point in the game where you get to write your book dedication and acknowledgements!

I also made sure to hire sensitivity readers during the editing phase. I am so grateful to each and every person who helped me out and they are of course all going in the book acknowledgements!


Stage Three: Foreign & Subsidiary Rights

This isn’t exactly a stage in and of itself, because it can be ongoing while you do all the editing. But your foreign rights team will submit your manuscript to publishers overseas, and Brian explained that the process is similar to being on submission to publishers here in the U.S. There’s a lot of waiting!

Your film agents will also be submitting the manuscript to producers and studios in Hollywood, which seems to me quite a lot like the typical submission process as well. You may be sent a list of potential folks, and you may have heart palpitations from seeing some names you’ve only ever seen in movie trailers. If there is interest, your film agents will keep you and your literary agent posted, but otherwise it too requires a lot of waiting. And I believe foreign sales help in this area, so if you’re waiting on those, you’ll definitely be waiting on this.

For audio rights, I found out we had sold FOTL to Random House’s Listening Library before Thanksgiving! I can’t believe someone will be reading my entire book aloud! Sometimes an author will get to choose the narrator, and sometimes they don’t – it really depends on your publisher so make sure you ask.


Stage Four: The Cover

I think this must be very different for everyone, but sometimes your editor will ask you for some examples of covers that you like and don’t like, and what specific things you prefer or don’t want on each. (I recommend making a Pinterest board and captioning each image with your thoughts.) Then you’ll get to see an early mockup and discuss it with your agent and editor, and if necessary, your editor will bring your notes and suggestions to the art and design folks so they can come up with a revised cover. There may also be further discussion about your book title if your publisher thinks a different name would suit better.

If you know what you want, and you know what’s important to you, then it makes the process easier because you and your agent can verbalize this clearly. I knew I wanted a very striking, clearly Asian cover, so I made sure Tamar and Brian both knew this.

As for cover reveal dates, I think they vary greatly from book to book, which is why some ARCs have the final art and others just have the title or a placeholder image. You may discuss potential outlets for your cover reveal. I believe we’ll have my cover for the ARCs, but everything is still in the works so I can’t promise anything just yet.

(For those who may not know, ARC stands for “advanced reader copy.” It’s an early printing of your book that is used for promotion prior to the official publication, and it is given out for free to booksellers, librarians, bloggers, etc.)


Stage Five: Blurbs

At some point, your editor might ask you for a list of folks to potentially blurb your book. When you buy a book, sometimes there is a quote by a more established author across the top of the cover, on the back of the cover, or inside the book (something like “FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS is the best book I have ever read in my entire life.” – J.K. Rowling . . . I WISH). I’ve read differing opinions on whether a blurb can help sell a book or not, but regardless, it’s pretty cool and may be a good way to introduce your story to someone else’s existing fanbase.

I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think it’s common practice for an author to reach out to other authors for blurbs themselves (and may be frowned upon?) unless they are close friends. You’ll want to make a list of likelier folks and then pie-in-the-sky folks, and they will typically have books that are close in genre and theme to yours. Your publisher will have some ideas, too, and then your editor will reach out to people for you.



While all of this is going on, you may be writing subsequent books. Before you get a deal, you can write whatever you want, whenever you want. But once you’re under contract, you will have to learn how to juggle two books at once (or maybe even more, for some people!) in addition to a full-time job, family, and/or other responsibilities. I’ve had to remind myself to breathe sometimes and talk to real people every now and then!

I’ve been drafting FOTL Book 2 continuously over the past few months, but have had to keep putting it aside whenever Book 1 comes back and requires my attention. It’s nice in a way, because it keeps things fresh, but I do admit it’s hard to switch gears at times when I’m focused on one project. I’m still learning!

Anyway, I hope this gives you a basic idea of what may go on after you get a traditional book deal. And I plan to share what I’ll learn in the coming months as my publication date (still not solid yet, but definitely Fall 2017) draws nearer and nearer!


10 Responses to “Life After the Book Deal: Part One”

  1. Tiana Smith says:

    I think the thing I’m most NOT looking forward to will be trying to draft a new book while editing/promoting a different one. I already have so little time! But hey, that’s a good problem to have, amiright? 😉

  2. kathleen says:

    Awww, thank you so so much for this informative post, Julie. I am so so excited to see your cover. I cannot wait for that. <3 It's so kind of you to share your experience, and I appreciate the effort you made to learn to get things culturally correct. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  3. Danielle says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s very helpful to hear how the traditional publishing route runs. It makes the finishing steps of a book less other worldly and more practical. Thank you!

  4. Erin says:

    Eep!!! Love this post, Julie!!! It’s always so much fun to hear about what goes on during this process!!!! I’m so happy for you and your amazing book!! ! <3

  5. Thank you for sharing the process and your journey with everyone. I’m super excited to see how the cover turns out! I’m dying of impatience over here >o<
    Also if you ever need a sensitivity reader for book 2 or future books I offer sensitivity reading services. ;D

    • Julie C. Dao says:

      Awww thanks so much, Shenwei! I really hope you will like this book and I appreciate the offer for Book 2! <3

Julie C. Dao