by Mandy Hubbard
For my first blog post, I talked about what it’s like to get “the call” that your work is going to be published.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that once the euphoria of selling your novel wears off, the real work starts. See, a publisher doesn’t take the book and just print it. You’ll go through many, many steps. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the process.
Step 1: Revisions. Your editor—the person who works for the publisher who read your book, loved it, and convinced a lot of other people that they should purchase it—will write you a revision letter. It may be two pages, it may be twelve pages. I’ve had both. And actually, the longer ones are sometimes easier! Some editors will talk about the issues and the possible solutions, while other editors will just say “fix this.”
So what’s in a revision letter? Well, they might talk about how Character A feels sort of flat, or they might say Chapter 4 serves no purpose and should be cut, or they might say the pace at the end goes way too fast. They might say they want you to change it from third person to first, or they might ask you to drop a subplot. In other words, they can ask for just about anything!
Generally, you’ll have 1-2 months to revise your novel and send it back to your editor. Then you wait, bite all your nails into little stubs, and cross all your fingers. If you’re lucky, you nailed your revisions and you move to the next step. Some people aren’t so lucky. Some people may do two or three rounds of revisions.
Step 2: Line edits. Next, you’ll receive your manuscript either via email or snail mail, and it’ll be marked up like crazy. You’ll cut paragraphs, clarify others with a few extra words tossed in here and there, fix punctuation, etc. If your editor uses track changes in Microsoft Word, this is an easy round. If it’s hard copy, then it’s kind of annoying and time consuming. You generally have 2-4 weeks to do Line edits, but sometimes you have far less. For my August 2010 book, YOU WISH, I had 24 hours. Luckily they were electronic and I did them in about an hour.
Step 3: Copy Edits. Up until now, you’ve worked exclusively with your editor. But for copy edits, you’ll have a new person going through your manuscript—the copy editor. A copy editor is someone who specializes in knowing exactly how sentences should be structured, words should be used, etc. They’ll point out if you misuse a semi-colon where there should be a colon, if you’re supposed to capitalize a proper noun, or if your sentence is missing a verb. This stage is the scariest sometimes, because they have all kinds of symbols and short-hand and you might not understand everything.
The difference with your copy edits and your regular edits is that these changes are made for you, and then you have to approve them. You are allowed to write “stet” next to things you want to keep as it was before copyedits, and they’ll undo what the copyeditor changed.
Step 4: First Pass Pages, or FPP: This is the final proof read. You’ve made it through revisions, line edits and copy edits, so now you’re just proof reading! The fun part is that usually your FPP’s are “typeset”—that means they have formatted it to appear exactly as it will in your book. As an author, you often get cool little surprises—For PRADA & PREJUDICE, the chapter headings had these fun, whimsical swirls. For Cyn Balog’s SLEEPLESS, she discovered her chapter headings either had a crescent moon or a flower, to emulate the cover.
Step 5: ARCs. Advance Review Copies are sent to the printer somewhere after Step 2…but you often don’t have them in hand until the end of the process. ARCs are a scary time—it means that the book is being sent out to reviewers. It also probably means no one has read it yet and you’re terrified it’s going to be torn apart soon. But it’s also a THRILLING part of the process because it’s the first time you hold your book. I admit, I read mine cover to cover. It’s the first time in the process that you realize your little manuscript is truly becoming a BOOK.
Step 6: Finished Books. Anywhere from a month to a day before your book goes on sale, you’ll get a box of them on your doorstep. And they will be beautiful. 🙂
Hope it all makes sense! If you have questions, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.
What I’m reading now: BEAUTIFUL by Amy Reed.