It isn't your book anymore, is it?
After you sign the contract, hand over the rights, don't they just do what they want with it? Don't you give up the control of your book? It isn't your book anymore, is it?
Well, no - it isn't, but yes - it is.
I've only worked with two publishing houses and, I have to say, during my experience with both I haven't felt like I've been shut out or not in control of my manuscript. In fact, just the opposite.
Once the contracts have been signed, the work begins, and it's a collaboration.
Changes are made, chapters deleted, chapters added, lots and lots of edits, but the story is still there, the characters are still there. Throughout the editing process suggestions are made, some I accept, some I don't.
The process the publishers put a manuscript through is rigorous. There are several edits and each one picks up different things. For example, in the second edit of Harper, someone noticed that in one paragraph Harper was wearing pyjamas and in the next her school uniform. A small but important detail that I had missed and needed to be corrected. However at another point a question was asked about the behaviour of a character: this wouldn't happen. And I responded - yes it would. It wasn't changed.
For me it becomes a give and take situation but that's what collaboration is - everyone working, from different perspectives, with different roles but with the same goal - to make it the best it can be.
There are somethings, however, that I have no control over.
Publishing schedules, release dates... these are internal processes of the publishing house. Who does what and when, that's up to them. I'm given some information - an approximate date, if all goes to plan, (and nothing unexpected happens - say like a pandemic), an outline of the marketing and so on, but this is the stuff that I know little about - that's the business side of the process. I'm more than happy to let them take control of that.
Now - the big one - the cover.
My second book, Everything We Keep, is set to be released in April 2021. It has an illustrated cover done by the fabulous Elly Whiley. My first book had an image.
Two books, two different covers.
During both there was consultation. With Unpacking Harper Holt I was shown several different images with titles and I was asked about my preferences. For Everything We Keep, I discussed with the editor about it being an illustration and the inclusion of the orange suitcase.
However - remember, publishing is a business. They have to put on the cover they think is going to attract attention, that is going to appeal to the target market, that will stand out in a catalogue or look good in a window display.
And I am perfectly okay with not having to make those decisions.
I do wonder if this is why I hesitate about jumping into the world of self publishing. There are so many decisions to be made and maybe that's just not my thing. I enjoy the writing part, the editing part, knowing that with each rewrite my manuscript is improving.
I'm not an illustrator, or a graphic designer. I don't know anything about marketing and luckily for me, there are lots of talented people in the publishing business who do.
So I may not have control over the timeline the publisher has, or how it is going to be marketed and distributed and that's perfectly okay. Because right now, what I do have control over is the draft of my next manuscript and that's exactly how I want it to be.