Friday, July 27, 2012

The Process of Herding a Book to Press, Part 1

Wow - I do apologize for my tardiness in posting lately. I've been holed up in a mountain cabin for the past three weeks working feverishly to beat my deadline for my new book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate. 

And I'm happy to report it's finished! For now. But not forever. Let me explain. 

 With work finally winding up on the third book in my "Take On Life" series for Barbour Books, I thought you might like an update on the process of getting a book to press. It's not quite as easy as writing it and simply turning it in. Oh, how I wish it were! It's more like herding snakes.

What happens is this: You're given a deadline for completion in the contract which you signed back when you negotiated the deal with your publisher. It, like most other fine contractual points, is negotiable. They'll usually expect 4-6 months to finish a partially completed manuscript, but that can vary depending on a lot of factors. In my case, I agreed to a smidge over 5 months to write the thing from scratch.

I had only previously written one sample chapter, which I included with my proposal. Since this was the third book of a series and they were already well acquainted with my writing, they accepted only one chapter, but usually a minimum of three are required for a new series or a stand-alone book.

Since I was super busy promoting the second book of the series, More Beauty, Less Beast, which had just been released about the time I signed the contract for the fear book (which didn't have its final title until about a month ago), I wasn't sure when I was going to find time to write. Traveling, speaking and conducting interviews to promote a book drain more energy than you can imagine ... not just living-day-to-day energy, but creative energy as well.

But I HAD to get the next book done. My contract said so.

So I budgeted out how many words I should write each week of my allocated time to complete it, with two spare weeks at the end for self-editing before turning it in. My contract called for 50k words, so a simple math equation provided me with my weekly goal, which I then divided by 7 to get a daily word count goal.

Then I knew that I must, as the commercial wisely instructs, just do it. 

So I did. When interruptions arose (as they inevitably do), and I wasn't able to log my daily word count, I made up for it before the week was out so I wouldn't fall too far behind. Then the two weeks at the end were used to go over the entire manuscript with a fine-tooth comb - that's called line editing - not just once, not just twice, but three times. And I was still finding things that needed to be tweaked.

Then after I submitted the completed manuscript, the waiting game begins. But I mustn't forget to mention that hitting that "send" button somehow cues my agent and editor (how do they know???) to begin elbowing me about ideas for my NEXT book. Yeesh! Is there no such thing as down time?

Okay, so we're still about 6 months away from my release date, Feb 1, 2013, sometime in November, I can expect to hear from my publishing house editor for the first round of edits. She doesn't make the changes, only suggests which changes that I'm to make. We arm-wrestle over any discrepancies of opinion that might arise, and then the usual course of action is that I yield and make the changes so she won't resort to a full body slam.

Once this final editing process begins, you're expected to give up life as you know it for about two weeks. Hurry, hurry hurry. As soon as you finish first round edits and turn in the corrected m/s, within a few days, it magically returns to you from yet another editor with more suggested changes. Or you might luck out and only have a few. But the process usually goes three rounds before you're presented with the galley, the finished product which shouldn't need any more changes. It's up the author to go through it one last time, checking every single word and punctuation mark, to make sure it's as perfect as it can be.

Then the galley goes to print. And within a few weeks, usually around three weeks before your scheduled release date, your beautiful brand spanking new book arrives in the mail, along with your "author copies." The number of these depends on what you negotiated for in your contract. Many times, it's between 20-50, but I always request 100 to give away at book events and for promotion.

And the real work begins. You dive in over your head into the promotion ocean, which I'll talk more about next time. So stay tuned for the next episode of, "As the Printing Press Burns ..."