I just got a publishing contract from a small press. I'm super excited because this is the first time I've had a novel accepted after querying agents and publishers for over five years and with three different books. I've signed the contract and sent it back and they've sent me a fully executed one so it's all real!
But what happens next? I know you have published with a small press, so I'm wondering if you can share the next steps with me? I hate not knowing what to expect.
Dear Almost There,
Congratulations! I know how amazing it feels to finally get a yes after years and years of no. And it will be even more amazing for you once you finally get to hold a copy in your hand! Assuming, of course, yours is not an e-book only publisher. But even that's pretty darn exciting!
In terms of next steps, the first one is waiting. Sorry, I know you've probably already done a ton of that, but there's more. I don't know how quickly your publisher turns things around, but mine is fairly quick and generally I get a first round of edits from the editor assigned to me within 6-8 weeks of having a book accepted. Once I've turned those around, a second round of edits tends to happen fairly quickly afterward.
In terms of edits, don't worry too much about them. I've published with two small presses now, and neither of them have asked for anything substantial in terms of edits; it's mainly been just fitting things to their style guide. I've never had to substantially change anything (other than a character's age once, which I rankled at a little).
Once you've turned around your edits, you will likely be told when the book is due to come out. And not long after that, you should get cover art to look at and approve. My current publisher is really responsive to feedback on covers and has completely re-done two of mine because I really wasn't happy with the first attempt. I'm lucky in that sense. I don't believe all publishers are that collaborative, but if you hate what they send, let them know. Don't just accept it.
My publisher tends to publish e-book first, followed by print a few weeks later. So not long after you approve your cover art, you should get e-book files and, if your publisher creates them, some marketing materials. Once you have these things, you can kickstart your promotional campaign. Most small presses don't do a whole lot of promo for you, so the bulk of marketing and publicity will fall to you.
It's good to make sure you have a decent amount of lead time available once you have your cover art and e-book files because this is the really time consuming part. You will want to contact reviewers and book bloggers and anyone else who can help you get the word out about your book before it releases. I've even asked my publisher to hold back the release date in the past, just because I know I need at least 6-8 weeks to get this work done - even with a really good database of people who have reviewed my stuff before.
And then... You're book is out. And hopefully reviews start coming in. And readers respond to it in the way you want them to.
Best of luck! And do write back and let us know when the book is available.