The Process…from manuscript to book from author’s point of view

March 5, 2009 | Articles | 5 comments

Galleys for Amazon Ink arrived yesterday; corrections are due back to Pocket by Monday–which means I’m busy groaning and dreading. :) I posted a tongue in cheek note about this on Facebook and a number of people replied with congrats. Got me thinking maybe people didn’t understand what galleys are, and probably weren’t even familiar with the process of producing a book from the author’s POV. So, I decided to do a quick informative post here before starting in on the galleys (not that I’m putting it off or anything…).

I have now worked with three different publishing houses and they all pretty much work the same way. We’re going to start this AFTER you have completed the book and it is sold.

The first step is revisions. My most extensive revisions were on my first book, but even those weren’t too terrible. Revisions can come though in the form of say a 20 page letter. The tough thing about revisions, no matter how minor, is getting past your initial gut reaction to pitch a fit. :) Thoughts like “if it is so bad why did they buy it?” are pretty common. At this stage it is wise to stay away from all forms of communication with anyone anywhere except maybe a trusted writing friend who understands your moment of temporary insanity.

So, you work all that out and send in the revisions. Life is good again.

Then come copy edits. Copy edits are after a copy editor has (in addition to your regular editor) gone through your book and made changes by marking on the manuscript manually. These changes range from grammatical to good Lord knows what. My favorite part of CEs (and I mean this sincerely) is the continuity check–things like pointing out your heroine had blue eyes on page 6, green on page 200 and brown at the end. But copy edits can be as painful as revisions. Like all things, there are good copy editors and bad copy editors. You can get a copy editor who doesn’t get you–or thinks all of your dialogue should be written like an English text book. Or in one personal instance deleted all of my scene breaks where a character point of view happened, making it look like I was a head-hopping fiend.

So, you have to re-read everything and decide which changes you like and which you hate. You write STET to keep things the way you had them and draw little lines, etc. to insert new bits you’ve decided you need. At this stage you can do those things; it is totally acceptable to add a full page of new stuff if you like.

You send off the pages you had quibbles with (not the whole manuscript) and life is good again.

Then about the time you are fully engrossed in some new project, galleys arrive. This stage is the only place where one of my publishers (Harlequin) does things differently. They don’t do galleys; they do something called Author Authorizations or AAs. Galleys look exactly like the final book will look, the pages the same size, the type the same size and set in whatever font it will be set. AAs are more like a manuscript page but with each line numbered. This is actually kind of handy because if time is short you can email back the changes with the page number and line number noted. You can do this with galleys too (because of time restraints that is what I’ll be doing with Amazon Ink), but it isn’t quite as smooth.

At the galley stage you can not add a new scene or delete three pages. Well, you can, but people are not going to be happy with you and can in fact charge you for that. Galleys are not for changes–they are for making sure the copy edits were done as you requested.

But, like copy edits, you have to sit down and read the whole thing again. Trust me, by this time you do not want to read this book again. And galleys are the worst because if you hate something major, you are probably stuck with it. (Which actually is good because whatever it is is probably fine and you are just psychoing out….)

After this, you are done. You do not ever have to read your book again, and for what it is worth I never have. I have never picked up one of my books in the completed, bound form and re-read more than was necessary for a reading at a bookstore. I have friends who re-read their books, but I like living in ignorance–the thing is done. I’d much rather read something brand new to me that I didn’t write. :)

Oh, but you do wait eagerly for those author copies (free copies of actual book that you negotiate in your contract) or ARCs (advance reader copies that are sometimes produced). I love getting those boxes!


  1. Linda Schmalz

    Great blog, Lori! I’m not this far in the game, but hope to get there some day, and this information was very helpful to me!

  2. Victoria Janssen

    Sitting down and reading the whole thing again is sometimes the hardest thing to make myself do.

  3. Lori

    I KNOW the pain, the pain…

  4. Karin

    Thanks for sharing that, Lori. I can only imagine how not fun it is by the time you get to galleys.

  5. Ashlee

    I loved this bit about the process. It is humor filled and gives me an idea about what is in my own future.