Getting from your best version to the version people buy.

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Last time, I ended with my need to find out more about the editing process. There are developmental edits, copy edits, and proofreading, and these different phases take up a large part of the publishing process. So what happens in each one?

Developmental edit: this phase examines the manuscript as an entire story, including all the vital elements. Does it hold together? Does it move to slowly in some parts, or too quickly in others? Does the story fit the target audience? The editor will look for character development, plot, tone, and voice to make sure those things are consistent throughout the manuscript. Typically, the editor will not focus on typos or grammatical errors because whole sections of the text might need to be rewritten or might get thrown out entirely. There is back-and-forth between author and editor in this phase.

Copy edit: the meat and potatoes of editing. This phase is like handing your manuscript over to your 9th-grade English teacher, you’re gonna get it back dripping with red ink. This phase is where editors work on spelling and grammar and sentence structure and paragraph construction. There is back-and-forth between author and editor in this phase, too.

Proofreading: essentially the last pass at copy editing. This is the detail phase where the editor is trying to catch every remaining error. Which is, of course, impossible. I’m sure everyone has seen typos in major book releases, it’s unavoidable. But the editors in this phase try to get it perfect. This is usually an editor-only process, with author review after it’s finished.

Now that we know what’s involved, at least at a high level, with each editing phase, I can see a couple of possible issues.  And by that, I mean issues I’ll have with the process.

Dev edit – the editor and I might disagree on some major points, like tone, or target audience, pacing, or even major plot points. I hope this doesn’t happen, but I need to decide how I’m going to deal with a disagreement like this if it comes up.  I’ll probably defer to their expertise, unless their expertise suggests something stupid.

Copy edit – I need to repeat my mantra of ‘be patient, be kind’ when this phase starts. I hate, hate, hate nitpicky edits to my stuff, and that’s something I’m going to have to get past. Yeah, I ended a sentence with a preposition, so what?

Proofreading – I’ll have a go at it when the time comes, but, honestly, by that stage I will have gone through the manuscript three or four times already, I’m not sure what I could add to the proofreading process after that kind of fatigue. But I’ll grind it out.

When these phases begin, I’ll let everyone know. And, of course, I’ll keep you posted on the details as they happen.
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I got an email today regarding the schedule behind getting my novel published. As you may have guessed, it’s a lengthy process, an estimated 38 weeks. That’s a lot of weeks. I’m sure I can short-cut some of that because I’m highly motivated and can get my part of the schedule done under the estimated time. That still leaves others and their workloads to consider, though. I only have to worry about me, the publisher has to worry about me and everybody else in their pipeline.

There are seven (7) caveats the publisher puts right up front, before outlining the schedule.  These include things like larger project volume (more books in the pipeline), or complicated formatting requirements, or… author problems.  They don’t say ‘author problems’ but that’s what they mean.  More time required by the author than estimated = ‘this guy’s taking too long’ and Changes requested by author at a later stage of the project = ‘author suddenly realized he wasn’t taking this process seriously enough at the beginning.’  I get it, authors are the major barrier to getting a book published.  The whole enterprise would go so much smoother without them.

Be patient, be kind. That’s my mantra when I go to the grocery store, it’ll be my mantra with this process, too.

So what’s the schedule look like?

Contracts – 4 weeks
Developmental edits – 5 weeks including author and publisher time
Copy edits – 5 weeks including author and publisher time
Edit review – 1 week, publisher
Proofread, second editor – 2 weeks, publisher
Proofread review, author – 1 week, author
Print formatting – 1 week, publisher
Kindle formatting – 1/2 week, publisher
Formatting quality check = 1/2 week, publisher
Print and Kindle review, author – 1 week
Proof copy upload and order (I’m not sure what this means) – 1 week
Marketing and trade reviews – 16 weeks

Whew! My manuscript is going back and forth over and over again! If I’m counting right, SIX TIMES! No wonder the publisher puts a lot of language in their contracts to protect themselves, that’s a ton of work on spec. Imagine if I were a writer who didn’t know what compromise or collaboration were, I’d drive the editors crazy. I understand collaboration, but that still doesn’t mean I won’t drive the editors crazy. I’ll just try to be polite about it.

It looks like 22 weeks (-ish) for the process to reach a final product.  That’s 5 months, or somewhere in February for a release.  I’m guessing.

The first thing I want to know: what’s the difference between developmental edits, copy edits, and proofreading? Luckily, the publisher spells that out for me. I’ll fill you guys in on the details in my next post.

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Next Changes? The Editing Phases

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Last time (The Contract pt. 1) I went over the negotiation process, or at least how I approached it for my contract. TLDR – know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign, and get all the help you need to reach that understanding.

I signed, they signed, we now have a legally binding document that outlines our obligations to one another as we go about getting my novel published.

Sweet. But… hold on a second. I wrote the novel, isn’t my part in this exercise pretty much over? Not even close. If you want to get your book in someone else’s hands – and have them pay you for it – then finishing a novel is just the very first part. Your publisher is putting themselves out for you, especially if you’re a first-timer, and you need to realize you have obligations too.

Marketing

In the contract, my publisher outlines very specifically what marketing they’re going to do for me. For example:

  • Provide PR leads
  • Promote my book on their website and on social media
  • Outreach to influencers
  • … etc

The contract also outlines what marketing I agree to do. For example:

  • Build a website (where you are right now)
  • Journalist and influencer outreach
  • Contacting reviewers and responding promptly
  • … etc

This is a lot of promotion and glad-handing, and we haven’t even gotten to the editing process yet! Hokey smokes, can’t I just write stuff?

Nope. Being an author means, in the parlance of our times, you gotta hustle. My publisher will do everything they can to make my novel a success, but I can’t just lay back and wait for the cash to roll in, I have to take an active role in my own success. I have no problem doing that, I actually like it, but if you’re the kind of person who really would rather not, you’re going to need to get over it. If you want someone to buy your book, they need to know that it exists in the first place. Like it or not, you’re your own marketer.

Editing

While you’re revving up your marketing engine, you’ll also be going through the editing process. I’ll get into more detail as my novel reaches those stages, but in the contract there is section dedicated to the editing process. This is perhaps the most collaborative section, since the publisher and the author need to work closely on edits. The publisher protects itself, however, by outlining that when the author is unable or unwilling to make edits, the contract terminates immediately.

Honestly, I’m behind the publisher on this one. If you’ve gone through the effort to find this work and execute a contract to publish it, and the author digs in his heels and won’t make changes to the manuscript to make it fit for publishing, they’re not really someone you want to work with anyway. As I’ve outlined elsewhere, authors used to working alone might have a problem becoming part of a collaboration.

The contract also includes sections for royalties, payments, subsidiary rights, sequel rights, controls, translations, termination, auditing, etc. If you really want to go over any of that stuff, let me know, I can make another post about it.

The process starts in earnest tomorrow. I’ll fill you in as it moves along.

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