Monday, July 19, 2010

How you find out all the ways you screwed your book up.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by Friday to tell me I'm not crazy. I appreciate it. (Even though I sorta am.)

I've been neck deep in Original Sin revisions for the past few weeks. And being neck deep in...well, you know, got me thinking about how much I've learned about the publishing process in the last seven months since my book deal. I belong to a really cool group of debut authors, The Elevensies, and we ask each other all kinds of stuff, because, for most of us, it's all a big mystery until it falls in our lap. And by it, I mean whatever the next step in the process is.

So, here's my rundown from book deal to shelves in a nutshell. Understand that there are variations between publishers and differences in nomenclature, but these are the basic steps in getting the actual manuscript ready to put out into the world.

Step one: Write a Book
You've gotta write something that someone wants to publish. Without that...well...

Step two: Revisions
Your editor reads your manuscript (usually more than once) and provides you with an editorial letter. I've heard other authors say they were shocked when they got their letter. One of the funniest stories I've heard is Margie Stohl's. She likes to tell the story of when they got their editorial letter for Beautiful Creatures and Kami was sure it was a mistake because their editor had told them how much she loved it. No matter how much your editor loves your manuscript, they WILL ask for some changes. Sometimes the changes are big and relate to pacing or plot. You may need to pull your manuscript apart and put it back together (aka: revising with a chainsaw). Other times it's smaller points such as character development or consistency. DO NOT BE SHOCKED when you get your letter. Average editorial letters, from what I've been able to glean, are usually between 5 and 10 pages, single-spaced. (My OS letter is 6) And that's when your editor LOVES your manuscript.

Step three: Line edits
Once you've turned your revised manuscript in to your editor, she/he will go through a line edit. Here, they'll ask you to clean up any lingering issues, fix smaller things like grammar and punctuation, and, if you're me, make you take out all your em dashes. Hi Melissa. =) *waves* Some editors do this hardcopy, others, electonically in Word using track changes. That all depends on their preference.

Step four: Copy edits
Once that's done, your manuscript "goes to production." That means it goes out to a copyeditor, who does a...well...copyedit. Copyedit is basically a more thorough line edit. This is when your manuscript becomes a study in red. Red ink EVERYWHERE. The copyeditor will pick out all the typos, make you fix your grammar, and also look for consistency throughout the manuscript. So if you spelled Marc Marc in chapter 1 and Mark in chapter 3, they're supposed to catch that, as well as any dangling subplots that need cleaning up after revisions. They will also mark spacing and punctuation for the typesetter. This is generally the last chance to make any major changes to the manuscript.

Step five: First pass pages
This is totally fun, but a little scary. It's when you get to see the typeset pages just as they will appear in your published book. It is also pretty final. You can fix typos or the occasional grammatical issue, but you can't add or cut a scene, or change the text significantly. So hopefully, between you, your editor and your copyeditor, you didn't drop the ball and majorly screw something up.

Step six: ARCs
You usually get these six-ish months pre-publication (for YA). This is basically your book. It usually has your cover art and everything. Usually there is still time to fix typos before the print run for your finished copies.

So, that's it in a very simplistic nutshell. Back to Original Sin revisions! Check back tomorrow for my Tuesday Personal Demons preview! =)


  1. Thanks! That was nice and thorough.

    Enjoy (er) your revisions!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I've included it in our Friday round-up of best articles for writers. It's a great overview of the process from draft to arc!


  3. Thanks for sharing your journey, Lisa! I love to hear this stuff.

  4. Fantastic post and sooooo true!!

  5. Yay! These are the posts I love to see!

  6. Thanks for the review of the process. That was very nice of you to take a break and let us know how it all works.

    Hope the new one turns out as well as Personal Demons.

  7. Wow, I love getting little glimpses like that. Sigh. Now if only I can get that contract... :) I can't wait to read your book, btw.

  8. Scary to think of all that work, but scarier to think of a published book full of flaws. Thanks for spelling it out.
    And, my ARC of Personal Demons has arrived! Thank you.

  9. Thank you so much! What a great rundown! I'm bookmarking this page so that when my books get published and people ask me about the process, I can send them the link.

  10. Thanks for the info it was very informative ^_^

  11. Well, darn on the em dashes! Hope I get to keep mine. ;)

  12. Thanks guys! Glad I could help shed some light =)

  13. Oh, thanks for this! I've always been curious about the whole process, and now I know. :)
    Love, Hannah

    P.s. You aren't kidding. Margaret Stohl came to talk at my book club, and she is SO funny! I was totally tearing up the whole time!

  14. Thank you for this wonderfully timely post! My agent recently landed me a three-book deal, and the first two manuscripts (already written) are due on my editor's desk in 10 days. Though I know she'll have plenty of edits for me when the time comes, I've been tweaking and polishing and perfecting on my own before sending them to her for the first round of edits. I'm nervous to see whether she'll even notice the tweaks I've made between the time she last saw these manuscripts and the time I turn them in. I'm also curious what additional edits she'll have for me.

    Thanks so much for shedding some light on this process!