The Process of Making A Book

16 Dec

by Mandy Hubbard


Hi Everyone!

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.

Mandy Hubbard

What I’m reading now: BEAUTIFUL by Amy Reed.


13 Responses to “The Process of Making A Book”

  1. svonnah December 16, 2009 at 7:14 AM #

    Thanks for sharing the differences between line and copy edits!

  2. Alexandra Shostak December 16, 2009 at 8:56 AM #

    Great article! I always wondered exactly what order all this stuff went in–it really clarifies things for those of us who have never had a book published 😛

    I’ve heard of people getting ARCS before they got their FPPs, or before copy edits. Is that the case? Or what about, for example, with HUSH, HUSH, where the ending was changed after the ARCS were released?

  3. mandyhubbard December 16, 2009 at 9:35 AM #

    Yeah, Alexandra, ARCs can come at any time after you are done with your editor’s line edits– sometimes before copy edits. As an author it’s scary becuase you know the ARC has lost of typos.

    I received ARCs before i saw my FPP’s…. It depends greatly on the schedule and how much of a crunch you’re in…if you’re trying to make a certain publishing slot, it gets all crammed together.

  4. sara December 16, 2009 at 1:20 PM #

    thanks sooooooo much for writing this out! I definitely bookmarked it – what a wonderful source of information. I’m always curious about this stuff!

    And ditto to the above comment – thanks for clarifying the difference between line edits and copyedits. I had no clue… In fact I think I’ve actually used the terms interchangeably…

  5. junebugger December 16, 2009 at 1:22 PM #

    Wow, what an interesting article! I thought an editor and a copy editor were one and the same. I mean…I thought an editor did both jobs. Thanks for the inside info!!

  6. Sandy Shin December 16, 2009 at 1:24 PM #

    Thank you for the wonderful view into the publishing world post-book acceptance. 🙂

  7. Pamela Wilson December 16, 2009 at 1:47 PM #

    This is a great post. I think that having this type of ‘inside’ knowledge takes away the pain a little for new writers and enables them to have a greater expectation of the process they are about to face. I am a freelance copy editor for a publisher, and I know that when the copy goes back to the author with all those red lines, they are going to freak out. But, usually, it is just small things like missed commas, superfluous words and house style issues such as numerical use or using a single ‘ mark instead of “, etc. …. in other words, nothing to freak out about.

  8. Marnise (NiseTucker) December 16, 2009 at 5:36 PM #

    All of the above article was honestly new to me. In all the time i’ve been seriously considered sitting down and writing an actual novel (not really long by anyone’s standard’s, just over 6 months) I never ever knew what would happen after I sent out queries.

    This blog is so helpful to me in so many ways!!! For one, it’s nice to have someone to go to for questions. especially since im considerably young and new to the ‘new writers circuit’, as I like to call it.

    I always though a book just you know happened. Now i see there’s so much more to it, and im so much more inthralled and excited about possibly going through the experience!!!

    Thanks again for the helpful inside information.


  9. Carolina December 17, 2009 at 10:10 PM #

    So nice to get a good rundown of the process! Excellent. I bookmarked this one! And congrats on your book deal!

  10. RaeAnne December 27, 2009 at 2:20 AM #

    Thank you for the insight! Sometimes it’s hard staying optimistic with all of the rejections you go thru during the query process finding an agent, it’s nice to read the positive, what actually happens when you sell a book to a publisher! Perseverance! Thank you again!


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