Writing for Two Publishers

By Charlotte Carter

For a working author it’s often a good idea to write for two different publishers. In my case I write for Guideposts Books and Love Inspired Romance. That gives me an opportunity to write more books and earn more money per year than I might with one publisher, which is generally a good thing.

So you’ll know what I’m talking about, here’s some insight into the process for those of you who have not yet been through the rigors of the publishing cycle. Keep in mind each publisher seems to have a slightly different system for the editing sequence.

  • First comes a revision letter detailing the ‘holes’ the editor has found in the plot or characterization and may involve a substantial rewrite.
  • After the author returns the revised manuscript, there is a line edit. With any luck, changes here should be relatively minor.
  • Then the copy editor gets a hold of the manuscript, correcting spelling, grammar, and doing things like pointing out the character could not have driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours. (If this is a futuristic, the author may have to argue the point and should.) There may be some stylistic changes, but the copy editor should not be rewriting the author’s prose. (Although, to my dismay, this does happen.)
  • The last stage is the galleys. (Harlequin uses the term AAs.) This is the last chance for the author to catch typos and other, hopefully minor, errors.

Back to the two publishers that I love writing for…

And here comes the ‘but’ —

Apparently there is some universal rule that when you’re writing for two different publishers, the two editors (who probably don’t even know each other) conspire to request revisions the same week. That’s right. All at once you’ve got two revision letters and week to revise two books. Ack!

To compound the problem, the two editors are now on the same schedule to send you the line edits and the copy edited version of their respective manuscripts in a synchronized dance that keeps the author hopping.

An author of Nora Roberts’ popularity might ask for a change of schedule, although she is so prolific I doubt she’d need to. (And she probably doesn’t need much editing either.) Those of us working in the trenches are better off not to ask for an extension unless there’s been a real emergency like a husband who has had a heart attack.

Publishers have a very rigid production schedule that is planned months ahead. If the author is late on any of these multiple deadlines, it causes problems for the editor. You don’t want to do that or get the reputation of always being late.

By the time you finish that double process with two books for two different editors crossing in cyberspace (or the US mail), it’s a miracle if you haven’t accidently slipped Daniel, the hero from book A, into book B as the local pharmacist.

This phenomena closely resembles my husband’s frequent complaint that every time he starts to back the car out of the driveway, an entire parade of cars arrive to thwart his efforts.

I really enjoy writing cozy mystery continuities for Guideposts Books. (Watch for a new Secrets of Mary’s Bookshop series coming out in early 2012; I’m writing book #3, Reading the Clues.)

And writing for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Romance gives me a chance to tell my own stories, and that’s important to me. (Big Sky Family is a November 2011 release.)

Now, if I could just manage to keep the editors on alternate schedules, I’d be all set.

What is making you feel harried these days? Is it too many plots in the fire that take you away from your work in progress?

Happy writing!

Charlotte Carter writes
books that leave you smiling
Big Sky Reunion, Love Inspired, 11/2011
New Beginnings, Guideposts Books, 9/2011

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18 Responses to Writing for Two Publishers

  1. Lena Frank says:

    I’ve not yet been through the ordeals of getting a book published, but this post is definitely eye-opening as to what all is involved. And more importantly, what all is *expected* for a beginning author. Thanks for sharing this, it helps beginners like me get a feel for how things work in the trenches!

  2. Thank you SO much for this post. I signed a contract for my first book with an e-publisher and am in the queue for an editor and now that I’ve read your post at least I’ll be somewhat mentally prepared for what might happen to me. Kinda scary!
    Patti

  3. Barb Han says:

    Love the post. I have to admit, it sounds ilke a good problem to have. smile. I’m sure all these revisions come when you’re also trying to write new stories. How do you manage juggling it all? Especially with blogging, facebook, twitter, etc? Do you have a system down pat like facebook between 7 – 8 a.m., write between 8 – noon, etc, or do you wing it every day squeezing in time to write with promotion? How many books do you get out per year?

    • Barb,
      You’re right. There are certainly worse problems than having TWO publishers. And I’m really not complaining. You’re also right that in the midst of all the rewrites/line edits/etc. I’m always working on a new proposal.

      As for my ‘system’ for the world of social media, I don’t participate. (Sacrilege, right?) I have my own blog, but I simply don’t have the time or energy to Facebook or Tweet. Frankly, I’d rather spend my energy to write another good book.

      Char…

  4. Brinda says:

    Charlotte, I recently went through the line and copy edit stage with my editors and now I’m looking forward to the galleys. I’m so glad to know that the galleys give you that one last chance to catch something. This is my first book and I’m sweating bullets over the chance of finding some glaring mistake AFTER it’s too late. I’ve had excellent editors. Just call me paranoid. Also, I wish you had read this several months ago. This is good info for the newbie.

    • Brinda, congratulations on your first book!

      Don’t worry about the galleys; you may find a few typos and that will be all. Just think of how many people have read a book before it’s published and still errors sneak in. Now start looking forward to seeing your book on a shelf in a bookstore. Take a camera with you, stare at your baby, then take a photo.

      Enjoy! Char……

  5. Karen Duvall says:

    I just finished going through this process with my first LUNA book, and the last 2 stages were frantic as communication lines sort of broke down (my editor was between assistants). So having this happen at the same time another book with a different publisher comes tugging at the author seems overwhelming, but it obviously can be done. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. Ha! :) When my editor emailed me my AA, I was like “what is that?” I don’t even know what it stands for. Author Appreciation? Author Advisory? Author Adjustment? :shrugs: Great blog, Charlotte. Thanks!

    • Karen,
      I can’t remember what AA stands for either. LOL

      I just know I’m suppose to read and correct. Congrats on your LUNA! And may you have many more chances at line edits.

      Char….

  6. thepenmuse says:

    Thanks for sharing your article and your writing life. I find that too many plots and stories take me away from my current projects, not to mention having a blog as well.

    • Penmuse,
      Keeping all those wonderful ideas at bay while you’re working on your current project takes discipline. Write down the new idea and set it aside, then get back to your work in progress. I understand there are so many stories to tell and so little time. But you have to prioritize. Char……

  7. Terry Odell says:

    Actually, I write for 4 publishers, plus I have a couple of indie projects. Yes, it can get crazy, especially if you’re trying to make sure you’re working with the right characters. I’ve been lucky, I guess, in that my editors haven’t requested a lot of changes or — the dreaded revisions.
    Terry

  8. That must be tense. It’s like in college, when all your professors conspire against you–everything is due that last week before the finals. :-)

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