August 4, 2015
It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for the next post in BEYOND THE PAGE, a tell-all about the process of turning a manuscript into a published book series. The book series is The Dark Rituals by Catrina Burgess, a young adult thriller full of spirits from the beyond, possession, and some pretty, well, dark rituals!
This week, Full Fathom Five Digital Publishing Director Samantha Streger is here to tell you about the badass job of overseeing all of FFF Dig—including the process of publishing The Dark Rituals. Check out her bio HERE. (It needs to be updated, though. There’s so much candy in the office, she needs to rejoin the gym).
First of all, serious questions that must be asked:
What’s the last show you binge-watched? Friends—it’s a favorite of mine. I love rewatching old series for mindless entertainment after a long day of editing and using my brain!
Favorite book you’ve read this year? That’s a tough one! I really loved Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, which I believe was her first novel. Now she’s a bestseller! I picked it up because the main character’s name is Samantha. I love when little events become significant to a larger story, and it all came together at the end beautifully and blew me away!
If you could order any dessert, what would it be? I would always prefer more dinner over dessert. Although all the candy we have in the office has become a problem!
What’s an object sitting on or by your desk? A tiny easel that says “Keep Calm and Carry On”—a birthday present from my dad. And as of yesterday, the most beautiful thank-you card from Catrina Burgess!
Now down to business:
You want the manuscript—now what?
Last week, Jane wrote all about finding great manuscripts like Cat’s Dark Rituals series through websites like Wattpad and through direct submissions to our company (you can read more about that here). Jane and I spend a lot of time going through submissions, reaching out to authors, and arguing about which manuscripts we think have the most potential. One enormous piece of my job is making the final decision about the manuscripts we’re going to acquire. When Jane pointed me to The Dark Rituals stories on Wattpad and explained the plot and the hook, I knew we had a winner: the writing was strong and the plot had a great forward movement with awesome structure.
But some manuscripts aren’t an easy “yes” or “no.” Sometimes the writing is fantastic, but the plot falls flat. Sometimes the plot is amazing, but the writing needs so much work that we can’t be sure if the author will be able to revise it. When we’re really not sure, we ask for help. We’ll give the manuscript to our marketing coordinator, Caroline, who will tell us if she has a good idea to make the book or series sell. We’ll give a summary to our film team to see if they think the story could potentially work as a movie or TV show. It takes way more than one person to make the decision, but I get the pleasure of having the final say!
After Jane sent Cat an email and Cat decided to accept the offer with our company, the hard work—and the fun!—really began. I sent a draft of the FFFDig contract to Cat, and we worked back and forth to reach a final agreement. Always understand what you’re signing before you sign a contract! Cat asked us to clarify a few things and make a few tweaks, and we went back and forth until we were all comfortable with the agreement. Negotiating contracts is not my favorite part of the job because it’s not very creative, but it’s important because it sets the tone for my relationship with that author. It’s a great chance to get more comfortable with each other. I drafted the contract when I first joined the company with the help of a team of lawyers, who I call on when I want to make changes I’m not sure about. I’m not a lawyer myself!
Once we had a signed contract from Cat, we were ready to begin the scheduling and editing process. Kayla Overbey had just joined our team as the official Managing Editor, which is usually the title for the person who performs the scheduling and technical work—like making sure the book actually appears for sale on its scheduled sale date. Very important stuff! But because Full Fathom Five Digital is such a small publishing company, each person at the company does many different jobs. For instance, Jane will research stories and edit. Even though I’m negotiating contracts and overseeing every department, I’ll edit and write summaries, too. Kayla is also a great creative editor, and I assigned her The Dark Rituals series.
After I handed the manuscripts over to Kayla for editing, we had a team scheduling meeting to decide when to publish the books. We have this meeting every week to make sure all of our books are on track and all the pieces are moving forward, and also to schedule and introduce the team to our newly signed books. Usually, we plan to publish new books about five months after the contract is signed. That gives us three months to work on editing, copyediting, and cover design, and two months with a finished book that we can promote and buzz about. That might sound like a long time, but that’s actually really fast compared to other publishing companies.
Kayla read the first book in the Dark Rituals series, Awakening, before the scheduling meeting. This was important because she knew how much work would need to go into it before trying to determine a final date for publication. With The Dark Rituals, we knew we wanted to publish book one, Awakening, book two, Possession, and book three, Revenant, close together because the stories were already available to fans on Wattpad.
We decided to publish the first three books over three weeks in October—a good time for anything horror! And we scheduled book four, the never-before-seen, final book, for February. That will give new readers three months to catch up!
There’s much more than editing to consider when scheduling a book series. We need to think about writing descriptions for every book (which show up on retailer websites), designing covers (and writing design outlines to help direct the designer), coding ebook files for readers to download, and the different ways we can market the books before they’re published (this blog series is one way!).
Every day, there are different books in different stages of the process. One day I might see a cover draft to comment on, review a possible book to acquire, and assign myself a book to edit. The next day I might be writing a description for a book coming in a few months, but I’ll stop to draft a newsletter about the book coming out next week—and don’t forget that the book from the day before still needs editing. The day after that might be more contract negotiations, or more covers, new books to review, or publicity outreach and marketing planning…or working on that book from a couple days ago that I now really, really need to edit!
The great part about directing FFFDig is building something from the ground up. Our website is one of the first projects I started when I joined Full Fathom Five. The content packaging side of the business works directly with other publishers, so a website isn’t totally necessary. But FFFDig is trying to find new readers directly, so we needed a website to show everyone our books. Next, I added a blog—we needed a blog to share stories and posts, like this one.
Once the schedule is in place, I introduce the author to the editor—in the case of Dark Rituals, Cat and Kayla sent some emails back and forth, and then got down to business.
Stay tuned next week when Kayla takes over the BEYOND THE PAGE series to talk about the editing process.
What is BEYOND THE PAGE?
Ever wonder what happens after you sign with a publishing house? Catrina Burgess, author of The Dark Rituals series coming this October, has convinced us to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how a manuscript becomes a finished book. Tune in every Tuesday for a new installment, and check out the series on the author’s blog at catrinaburgess.com!
Catch up here: