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Monday, September 29, 2008

From Sale to Shelf: Part 4

Once I return the copyedited manuscript, I feel as if the book is truly complete. I go back to work on the next project. But there are a few things left to look at: cover art galley proofs, and ARCs.

Sometime in the next weeks, my editor will send me a jpg cover image or an actual cover flat. This is the first time I get to see the cover and it is always a "gulp" moment. Will it match my vision? Will it be striking enough to draw new readers? Will the back copy give away secrets? Will it reflect my own words? Would it make me want to read the book?

I have been fortunate with covers. All the artists have been excellent, even if their vision didn't match mine. Several of my covers have actually given me goose bumps! (Revelation, Restoration). Some covers have fit my image exactly (Daughter of Ancients, Son of Avonar) or even taken my vision one step farther (Revelation). Some have been beautiful or striking - which is the most important function of covers - despite not fitting my image of the person or scene depicted (Flesh and Spirit, Breath and Bone, Restoration). Only two have disappointed. Proof is left to the reader...

Once I have the cover image, I need to start thinking about marketing tasks - making bookmarks, fliers, updating the website, and so forth. Mostly I procrastinate...because I don't like the marketing stuff, but I DO like starting a new book!

But at sometime a month or six weeks after the copyedits have gone in, I'll receive another bundle of pages in the mail from my editor.

These are the galleys or proof pages, the typeset pages printed just as they'll look in the book. For a mass market paperback (the smaller format) I'll see two facing pages per 8 1/2 x 11 sheet. For a trade paperback, I'll see one page per sheet.

This is the first time I see the "book design," the typeface, the chapter headers, the beautiful drop caps they have at the beginning of the Flesh and Spirit chapters, or how they handled the narrator sections in Song of the Beast or the "Part" divisions in Breath and Bone. This pass is really for hunting typos, misspellings, or any other mistake that might have been entered in the typesetting process. These are typically very few.

The tricky thing is that the lines and paragraphs are now set tightly on the page. R
emoving or adding a word or even a comma requires the whole line to be re-typeset. If the word or punctuation is in the middle of a paragraph, the entire paragraph must be reset. If the length of the paragraph changes, it pushes or contracts the text that follows it. Typesetting is expensive.

But as with any time I read the manuscript start to finish, I find things I want to change. Can I do that? Yes, within reason.
1. Certainly errors must be fixed. Those aren't optional. Typesetting errors aren't "charged" to me!
2. I can certainly tweak a word, phrase, or even a sentence, if I see a critical need. The trick is to replace a removed word with something of similar length. I've even gone through and changed a made-up word or a character name - simple replacements are the easiest to deal with.

3. For slightly more complicated changes, if I can make restricts the resetting to a single paragraph, not changing the page length, I'll usually do it.

4. The toughest pieces to deal with are places where I think the prose needs to be tightened, ie. words removed and not replaced. I have actually squeezed this through on one book, in places where the actual chapter page length has not changed. My editor was merciful.

I absolutely cannot do anything that will change the page numbering. The entire rest of the book would have to be reset = Very Expensive.

Once I've made all the changes and fixes, I pull out those pages. I make sure the marks are very clear - don't want to introduce more typos or errors! And then I count the number of pages. And then I try to figure out if that number will make my editor nervous or, heaven forbid, cause the publisher to charge me the cost of retypesetting!! I don't have a set number I'm allowed, but I can get a creepy feeling if the stack of pages is more than about 25. I read each one and decide if this is critical. I keep all error fixes that I've found. But some of my own changes... Honestly, some things a reader will never notice, and I reluctantly pull them out.

I ship off the proof pages that contain corrections, and now I'm really finished. The next time I see the book it will be bound. First, I'll see the ARC (Advance Reader Copy). This bound book has no cover art, and the text is essentially the uncorrected text. It is produced at the same time as the proof pages, and is sent out to reviewers, bookstores, and the like. Sometimes they show up on ebay!

But one day a padded envelope shows up in the mail with my first real copy of the book, real cover, corrected text, and I sit and read and say, "Wow, did I really write this? It looks like a real book!"

Any questions?

My cover artists
Luis Royo: Flesh and Spirit, Breath and Bone

Matt Stawicki: Revelation, Restoration, Song of the Beast, Son of Avonar, Guardians of the Keep, The Soul Weaver, Daughter of Ancients

Kevin Murphy: Transformation


Anonymous said...

I have an interesting question. What was the first thing you did after seeing your first book in print? I always wonder about this, what authors do after this moment in their careers. Were you able to plunge right into the dishes, or did you stop every two minutes to go, oh my...

carolwriter said...

What was the first thing you did after seeing your first book in print?

My editor sent me my first copy of Transformation in the mail. I pulled it out of the envelope, caught my breath, plopped myself down on the couch, and started reading. I could not BELIEVE it was my story. There is a magic about typesetting and binding that transforms mutable words into permanence - a Real Story.

Anonymous said...

Well written article.

carolwriter said...

Thanks, Electra!