Friday, October 9, 2009

So, What Happens During the Editorial Process?

I’m in the middle of my first experience with book editing, and I thought I’d share the process. My excellent editor at Puffin, Jen Bonnell, gave me a detailed plan so that I could follow along as the book made its way from manuscript printout to actual print.

The entire thing is a great deal more complicated than I’d thought. I knew there would be revisions – I love revisions! I’d already made a bunch of revisions with my agent. But this was something else. So here’s what happens:

1. Initial editorial stage. This is where the editor asks for this big change or that big change – “structural changes” was the way Jen put it. We moved big blocks of text, we deleted scenes, we added scenes. I say “we” because she made suggestions (great ones) and I did the work. And then I sent it back to her. We went through this a couple of times. Then I had the manuscript for about 3 weeks of intense editing until I felt it met her ideas and my own standards.
2. Line edits. Jen took the manuscript and gave it her own close line editing.
3. Copy edits. The manuscript goes to your high school English teacher. Or my high school English teacher (this is where my manuscript is right now. And I’m kidding – copy editors are really important to the process.) All the little punctuation problems, sentence structure errors, confusing internal inconsistencies – these are rectified by the copy editor.
4. Review of copy edits. Copy edits are fabulous for catching grammar errors but sometimes you want a sentence fragment or a dropped clause. You and your editor have the chance to add them back.
5. Design stage. The pages are set in semi-final format.
6. First pass pages. The copy editor looks over the design pages again, then passes them to the editor, and then a bound galley is sent to the author. This is where you break out the champagne or other celebratory beverage and feel both excited and nervous. Changes can be made, but not many.
7. Second and third passes. Editors in house pass over the manuscript to make sure it’s clean. One of my teachers recently mentioned the technique of using a ruler and reading the manuscript from back to front to catch minor errors – I used it and I recommend it.
8. ARCs (“advance reader copies”.) These paper-covered editions allow the publisher to circulate your work for advance publicity to librarians, bloggers, etc. They are not guaranteed error-free, having been made during the design stage.
9. But at last everyone has had a chance to pass on the text and you have…
10. A book. A real book. Now you can share your celebratory beverage – and your book – with the world.

All this time the designers are creating the perfect cover; the library and school market people are looking at the novel; the publicity and marketing people are framing a campaign; and you, the author, are having your picture taken on a good hair day and writing dedications and acknowledgements and getting permissions for any cited notes.

It's fun and exciting and a great deal of work!


Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Thanks Janet. I've read about the process as friends have gone through it, but this is the first time I've seen it laid out so orderly.

I can say, I'm seeing numbers 1 and 2 squished together in my packets. It is wonderful) working with an advisor who is also an editor.

Janet Fox said...

Yes! The process is made so much easier by our fabulous experiences at VCFA....

Anne M. said...

Thanks for sharing your new knowledge, Janet. I'm so clueless about the process of publishing. I liked reading a list of how editing goes.


Janet Fox said...

You're welcome, Anne! I'll try to share more in the future.

Shelli said...

i did not know there was a difference between copy edits and line edits!

Janet Fox said...

Shelli - me neither! I just got my line edits back from my editor (it's beginning to look like a text, with acknowledgements and such) the copy editor has the manuscript and I'll get it back in maybe 3-4 weeks.