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I'm thinking about sending what I've written off to get published soon, but I was wondering how much work I'd have to do after the publisher has actually got the contract with me and we're going to publish the book.

By work I mean any form of work I'd have to spend the days doing.

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If you mean how much work you will have to do between when a contract is offered and when the book is published, the answer is that it will vary depending on how good the MS is and how well it fits the publisher's needs. But it will probably be quite a lot and it will probably be the hardest work you have had to do on the novel to date because now somebody else will be holding you to account and you will be working to meet someone else's needs and demands, not just your own.

But that work does not necessarily start when the contract is signed. Supposing you can actually get a publisher to look at your work at all (a big step in itself) then you may very well be asked to undertake substantial revisions on spec before a contract is even offered.

Creating a novel that satisfies you is one thing. Creating one that satisfies another person, or set of people, people whose interests are at least as much commercial as they are literary, and often more commercial than literary, is something else again.

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You don't "have" to do any work, unless it's written into your contract. But if you want your book to be a success, you'll want to work on promoting it. These days, even the best and biggest publishers expect an author to put a lot of their own time and effort into book promotion --gone are the days when you could relax, put your feet up, and expect the publisher to do all the work (if those days ever even existed!). If you have an agent, they'll help you do things like book interviews and speaking engagements. If you don't have an agent, you'll want to be in close contact with your publisher's publicity department.

As far as actual writing work, publishers can and do sometimes ask for substantial revisions. But again, this is different now than it used to be. At one time, publishers were willing to spend a lot of time and effort whipping a promising manuscript (and its author) into shape. Now, publishers want a manuscript to be basically print-ready before they ever see it. So there are fewer revisions after the contract, but a higher bar to surmount to even get to the contract stage.

  • This is so important! I owned a micropublisher in the early 2000's and nothing was more frustrating than an author who expected to do absolutely nothing after the contract was signed. Publishing a book successfully today is a team effort - and the author is an indispensible member of the team. – JBH Aug 9 '17 at 21:15

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