My RWA local chapter, Chesapeake Romance Writers, held our July meeting yesterday and had a wonderful set of speakers from another RWA chapter come in and talk to us about what happens after we sign a book contract.
Many authors, myself included, often only look at the prize—the contract in the mail or email. But what happens afterwards is a long march toward publication and beyond. Mary Behre and Tracey Livesay took us step by step through the sometimes grueling process of getting your book into readers hands.
They were concerned that not all of our members would find the information useful. We have members in all stages of seeking publication, from people who have just begun writing to those who are multi-published, both indie and traditional. So I found myself asking questions: Do I really need an agent? What kinds of things are worth fighting for in a contract? How do you juggle writing with time for family and social media?
There were many other questions from my group, but I’ll give you a smattering of what I learned: You only need an agent if your contract is negotiable. And even then, you may not need them. If your contract is pretty standard, then you don’t need an agent to negotiate. Ask other authors and even RWA personnel questions about the contract. RWA will help you understand what you are signing if you don’t have an agent. If you want to go traditional publishing with the “Big Five” you might need an agent, however, there are even ways around that.
Money is obviously one of the big things to negotiate in a contract. Some authors change publishers because the money is better elsewhere (both advances and royalties). Titles are not something that you can get guaranteed in a contract. Neither are covers, although you can always ask if a certain cover artist will be considered for your books. I asked this because I want to have the same cover artist do all my House of Pleasure books, but I didn’t know if I could write it into my contract. (The bottom line on that is ask. All they can say is “no.”)
And how do you juggle your writing life with every other life you have. Some people farm things out to others: their presence on social media may be run by a manager or a street team. Some hire a publicist. Some try to do it all and burn out. Some only write—the best publicity is your next book, remember? Because you can publicize the crap out of a single book, but once your readers have read it they’re going to ask, “Where’s the next one?” So you need books 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. And that means you have to write.
I’m trying to take that last advice to heart. I just released three books in June and already I’m thinking, “I need to keep my name out there. I need time to write.” It can be done, if you have organization and perseverance.
This was a fantastic presentation and if you ever get a chance to hear Mary Behre or Tracey Livesay speak, run, don’t walk, to that venue. Great presentation!