There’s a ton of information out there about life pre-contract—how to query an agent, how to revise with critique partners, etc, etc. But life post-contract can be a little harder to research. Recently, we got an email from a reader with a few questions about scheduling after you’ve sold a book.
The short answer is: It really varies. Let’s break it down by question!
How long do you get to write the first draft and do any pre-editorial revisions?
The most important thing here is: How did you sell the book? If you’re a debut, you most likely finished the whole book and did all pre-editorial revisions before it even went out. But I’m guessing the real question is: if you sold on proposal, how long do you get?
Of course, there’s a lot of variability in terms of proposals, too. I’ve heard of people turning in a detailed, chapter-by-chapter synopsis and nearly half the book. I’ve also heard of turning in a synopsis and the first 100 pages. On the other hand, I’ve also heard of turning in a brief synopsis and only the first 3 chapters or so. It all depends on what your editor and publishing house wants—and what you’re comfortable with, of course.
After polling a bit within the Pub Crawl family, we discovered that we’ve had anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to turn in a first draft (that we’d already revised on our own) for a contracted book.
How long do you have to wait for your editorial letter?
The answers to this question vary even more! Us Pub Crawlers have waited as short as 1 week, to as long as nearly a year. (Some other answers I’ve heard from people are: 2 weeks, 1-2 months, 4-6 months, etc)
Editors are busy, busy people working on several books at once!
How long do you have to do the suggested edits on your letter?
This one actually seems to have a pretty standard response: about a month or two for the first (usually heaviest) round, then generally less than that for subsequent rounds, if there are any.
How long do you have to do line edits? Copyedits?
For line edits, it seems we generally get about a week or two—but sometimes as little as 4 days. We’re generally given about a week or less for copyedits, as well. Some of us have had line-edits combined with an earlier round of revisions, though (where we’re both doing line edits and slightly larger edits), so in those cases, we got a little more time to account for the larger revisions being made.
Writing on contract can be a daunting prospect after a long time writing on only your own schedule. Suddenly, there are people waiting for your words, and nothing can stress a writer out like having a plot suddenly fall apart or get stuck while your deadline looms overhead.
But keep calm! For as long as there has been publishing, there has been writers scrambling to make deadline ;) Most likely, you’ll have everything come together just in the nick of time. And if things truly aren’t working out, editors are usually very understanding, and can negotiate an extension with you.
Hope this post helps you out, and please let us know in the comments if you have any more questions about writing under contract!