Here’s a thought for nonfiction authors—particularly in service categories such as business and finance where your book was not acquired for your literary genius. While the pressure of finishing a manuscript against a deadline will always tap some level of emotional exhaustion, in our current publishing age, there is one major uncertainty you can remove from this process: whether you are delivering the manuscript your editor wants.
Many times books are acquired on the basis of a proposal and sample chapters. The publisher’s team will have “liked” some part of the book’s plan, and discussed changing particular sections. In other circumstances, the publisher may say very little about the manuscript.
After acquiring your book, most editors will want to see an early chapter; some will want to see more than one, or see chapters on a regular basis. Despite their good intentions and early engagement, some editors may postpone grappling with your early chapters, and based on a single, sample chapter will urge you to complete the book.
But here’s the catch: months or years later when you hand in your manuscript, that editor may have forgotten all about liking your detailed plan or even signing off on a particular direction. In fact, you may receive extensive edits and requests to restructure the text after submission—which is your editor’s right. To build more certainty into the review process, work closely with your editor immediately after acquisition to sign off on an early, detailed outline for the final manuscript. Here’s are a few tactics:
- Submit a full, detailed chapter outline and chapters (when they are ready) after your book deal is completed.
- Front load a few solid conversations with your editor about the outline and chapters and get comments in writing. By asking your editor for comments on the outline, you’ll have details of the editor’s vision for the book.
- If your editor asks for changes in the book outline or structure, revise the outline and resubmit it until you get a thumbs-up. It’s not legally binding, but it protects you when the manuscript is due, particularly if the editor leaves and someone new is assigned to you.
- If the editor has extensive changes on early chapters, revise the chapters in question until the editor is happy. Then proceed with the rest of the book.
- As you proceed with the manuscript, pick out one more chapter about half way through writing your book and try to get your editor’s read on it.
By taking these extra steps upfront, you’ll save time and energy writing a book that both you and your editor agree on.