Now it’s down to the wire. With changes made to the galleys, its last trip is to the printers. (At this stage, we were four months from publication date.)
Originally, I was thrilled with the cover art (left) because it was my first published book and it looked okay to me. Not perfect, not something that particularly characterized the “Medieval Noir” concept I came up with, but it was okay. Turned out they ran out of time designing the cover and they had to go with the art that neither my editor nor anyone else seemed happy with. Yeah, that's right. "They ran out of time." Hey, no problem. It's just my FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK.
Prior to my getting a contract, I was fortunate enough to go to my first Bouchercon, the biggest mystery fan convention on the circuit, and I scored some blurbs from some great authors. I gave St.Martin's those to use in their publicity and in their catalog that goes out the bookstores and libraries. That catalog, by the way, is the main sales tool that publishers use. Not ads, not media blitzing (and certainly not on a little ole midlist author like me), but that catalog. Once it's in a catalog from a big publisher, it is the imprimatur to librarians and bookstore owners that it is worth their notice and their dollars. It helps to have good reviews from the main magazines they use to determine book buying, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus Review, and Publishers Weekly.
Speaking of bookstores, if your publisher has no plans to spend money on an endcap or table, you will only get the push in a bookstore when the book first comes out and ends up, cover out, on the "New Release Mystery" shelf, but that only lasts so long. And the window is small. You’ve got six weeks in a bookstore once it’s released. Six weeks to sell, sell, sell. After that six weeks or less, the bookstore may choose to send any of your books left on the shelves back to the publisher. And further, though my books were in Barnes and Noble (inexplicably, Borders chose not to carry books from the Minotaur imprint. Have no idea why, but now they're gone, so nya nya) they weren’t in every Barnes and Noble. Not even in every Barnes and Noble where I lived. So telling readers that you can slip on over to BN to get the books meant that, more often than not, they’d have to order it. There's always the internet.
Back to the story. A year later, we were offered my first two-book contract for Crispin numbers three and four, with a slight raise in my advance to $7500 for each book. Still not as high as the St. Martin’s Malice Award, but them’s the breaks. But remember, any advance you get you also share 15% with your agent. You get HALF the amount on signing the contract, and the other half OF THAT BOOK when the book is published, a year or more later. Not exactly a living you're making there. Any royalties you make your agent also gets his 15%.
When I signed to St. Martin’s in 2007, ebooks were included on the contracts but no one paid much attention to them. Now they're all paying attention. Besides e-sales, my agent has now made foreign sales of the books, meaning that he sells the books to foreign publishers. It has nothing to do with St. Martin's at all. This is all free money for me since the books are already written and the foreign publishers are responsible for the translations, new cover design, and distribution. He negotiated an audio book sales contract with an audio book producer (no, your publisher generally has nothing to do with that either. Audio books are very expensive to produce. You need an actor to narrate, a director, and generally new art for the covers unless they purchase them from the publisher [the publisher owns that art, not me]. And they sell for as much if not more than a hardcover. Sales are smaller but libraries like them.)
I hope this was helpful. If it scares you, good! Just know that you have your own homework to do. Be prepared. Ask questions. Be professional. Learn the industry. And Don't Give Up.