Hey there! I’M BAAACK! (And so glad to be! I missed you!)
If you’ve been following what’s going on with my Facebook page, you know that my vacation was to England (London, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds, Warwick Castle, and Cambridge–probably not in that order, but I’m still so brain dead from the trip I can’t tell you)–and hopefully I’ll get a nice, detailed post up about that sometime this week. But it’s also currently Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’m failing it rather epically (today I should make the Day 1 word count goal? I hope?), so we’ll see what happens.
ALSO, before I forget! (Because despite the fact that this is THE most important day in our nation’s history, it’s also currently 9:20 in the morning and therefore I REALLY WANT TO BE ASLEEP RIGHT NOW. BUT LONDON TIME. So my brain is really and seriously and truly not working.):
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY (ONE DAY EARLY)!!!!!!!!!!
Boom. Colors. (I want sleep.)
Now, onto what this post is actually supposed to be about: The Publishing Industry for Non-Writers, Part 3: From Book Deal to Actually Published. Yes indeed, “writing process” won out again in the most recent Wordy Wednesday poll. This week, I’m going to focus on what comes after you sign the publishing contract, based on the scarce amounts of information I’ve managed to find online, because, you know, otherwise I would have no idea. (Unpublished writer probs.)
If you want to know more about what comes before the publishing contract, you can read parts 1 and 2 of the Publishing Industry for Non-Writers series by following the links below:
Okay. Now here we go.
Generally, despite the best efforts of both the writer and the agent, a novel isn’t actually ready to be published when a publishing house decides to pick it up. And I’m not talking “there are a few typos that need to be sorted out,” but like–there are scenes that need to be completely rewritten or cut or added, and there are subplots that need to be strengthened or eliminated, and ALL SORTS OF STUFF. So the first step in the editing process, once you’re working with an editor, is to fix all these problems. Which can involve rewriting your novel from start to finish multiple times over.
Of course, this step in the process–like pretty much the ENTIRE publishing process–is completely unique to both the writer and the book. No two publishing stories are the same. So some writers will have a killer rough draft that hardly needs any work before moving on to the next stage in the process, and others will have to rewrite their novel eight times before their editor thinks it’s ready. But the point is: A book tends to change a lot throughout the publishing process. And it’s this part, more than anything, that makes having a good editor important–you need someone who knows what they’re doing if you want to make your Itty Widdle Baby Book the best it can be.
Image found here.
Line edits are the part of revising that everyone always talks about dreading, because they are TEDIOUS to get through. This is the point where together, the editor and writer must question every word, sentence, concept, and character trait. The editor points out if a sentence is confusing, or a word unnecessary, etc, etc, etc, until the manuscript shines–sort of like looking for the crystal inside a geode rock.
After this is done, Super Editor and Grateful Author move on to…
Image found here.
My critique partner, Kira, worked as a copyeditor at her college newspaper this past year. Whereas in line edits you get really picky about making the book sound good, here is where the grammar and formatting stuff becomes super important–here, you’re making it look good too. The copyeditor for a book is generally someone other than the regular editor that the writer has been working with up until that point, and copyeditors are the ones who ask questions like, “Should this sentence contain a semicolon or an em dash?” “Should this word be capitalized?” “Should this be a period or a colon?”All that sort of fun stuff.
Approving the Pass Pages/Other Such Things
Once the copyeditor is satisfied with the novel, the editorial team moves on to doing the pass pages. This is the step where the writer finally gets to see their novel in (sort of) book form. And by “book form,” I mean that “pass pages” refer to a copy of the manuscript that is formatted like a book, generally in a PDF document, with the font and all that jazz that it’ll be printed with. This is the author’s last chance to make changes to the novel before it’s finalized and goes to print.
… And, as that denotes, this is the last say the author has in what the book will look like, period. Because work on the book doesn’t end when the author’s does–instead, the editorial and design and all sorts of other departments continue to hone the novel, making sure that it is absolutely, one-hundred-percent as perfect as they can get it, along with designing the cover and all that. Because I don’t work in a publishing house, I unfortunately can’t tell you much about what goes on during this period, except that it’s a flurry of work and a whole lot of waiting for the writer.
But, meanwhile–while all of this is going on, the author does get to do some fun stuff, like…
- Getting the author photo taken
- Working on the flap copy (blurb of what the book’s about, etc)
- Working on the tag line (because books, like Hollywood blockbusters, have to have nifty little taglines these days)
Why hello there, Requiem! Fancy meeting you here.
This collage is of me with Requiem, the last book in Lauren Oliver‘s young adult dystopian trilogy. I was super excited to win this copy of Requiem last fall because it’s an ARC, or “advance reader’s copy,” which means that:
A) I got it about four months before Requiem even came out.
and B) It’s not the final copy of the book (while reading, I found plenty of typos that were likely fixed before the book actually went to print).
ARCs are commonly used in the publishing industry in order to strike up a buzz about a book, whether by distributing them to bloggers and reviewers, or by giving them away in contests to fans (like how I got mine). It’s really important for authors and publishing houses to advertise a new release in the months between finishing with the final edits and actually releasing the book to the general public, especially with debuts, because–no matter how well-written a book is and no matter how well-executed the concept is, nobody will know to read it unless someone lets them know it’s there as an option.
In the past, the marketing departments of publishers put a lot of time and effort into getting books into readers’ hands, but these days, with the rise of the internet, it’s becoming the author’s job more and more. Now, in general, the publishing house will simply go around to all the book stores in order to convince them to stock the book, send out some ARCs to reviewers, and the rest of the business is the author’s job–which is actually pretty cool, because it means the author gets to be more involved in whether or not their novel succeeds.
Generally, as the release date draws nearer, the author will begin doing interviews, writing guest posts on book bloggers’ sites, and giving away copies of their novel–anything to spark other people’s interest in reading it.
Like everything in the publishing industry, it’s a lot of work for very little credit. Most advertising these days is done by the author, free of charge (because, I mean, hello–who’s benefiting from you selling more books? YOU). But I hear it’s also a lot of fun and a great way of making new writer/reader friends; I really hope I’ll be able to experience it someday.
Let’s Review: Timeline from Book Deal to Book On Shelves
Something I sort of skirted over in this post, but is very important to realize, is the timeline that all of this takes place over. Generally, it takes one to two years after signing the publishing contract for your book to come out. This isn’t because publishers think it’s fun to watch you squirm in anticipation–this is because it actually takes that long for the entire process to work itself out.
There’s a lot of work that has to be done once you’ve signed with a publisher, and the work doesn’t stop when the author’s portion of it does. There are so many people involved in making a book possible, and really: I have only given you a GLIMPSE into what the whole process is like, here. So just remember this the next time you’re complaining about how your favorite author is taking ages, and ages, and AGESSSS to get their next book out.
(If you’re interested in seeing how books are printed, you can find a really cool video about it HERE.) (I know, I know, I know. It’s Twilight. But this is one of the best videos on book printing I’ve seen.)
… So, I think that’s about it for today and, unless anyone has any burning questions about the publishing industry still, that’ll probably be it for the Publishing Industry for Non-Writers series. Is there anything else writing-related you’d like me to talk about? Leave your ideas and questions in the comment section, and vote for the “writing process” option in the poll, and I’ll get on it!