Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Whole Lotta Waiting. . .

I think the other girls have pretty sufficiently covered all the stuff that happens with the editing process once you turn a book in. So I think I’ll talk about what doesn’t happen. In the spaces in between edits and copy-edits and galleys and trying for blurbs, there’s a whole lot of anxious waiting on the part of the author. That’s right, after turning a book in you wait. And then you wait some more.

It takes a long time from the time you sell or turn a book in until the time it releases. For me, it’s been anywhere from a year (THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS) to 18 months (THE LIFE OF GLASS and THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS). And yes, there are things that happen along the way, the stages of the editing process, seeing the cover, getting blurbs, and starting to think about promotion, and all of this is fun and exciting for all the reasons that Tracy and Maureen and Lisa discussed. But also, a lot of it just feels like. . . waiting.
As a result, I’ve had two things happen. One, there’s so much time that elapses between when you finish/sell a book a get ready to go out into the world and promote it, that I find I sometimes honestly forget some of what happens in the book. In the 18 months between when I finished THE LIFE OF GLASS and when I sat down to prepare myself for my first reading/signing in February, I found myself opening up the book and having to reread it so I was prepared to talk about it. I also had so much distance from it, that when I sat down and reread the first chapter, I felt like a different person had written it, which, in a way, was true, since 18 months ago, I was in a different place in my life in a lot of ways.

The second thing that’s happened to me, at least with THE LIFE OF GLASS, is that some of the events in the book ended up being quite similar to events that transpired in my life – after I wrote them. Yes, it sounds a bit like a paranormal thriller – but it’s really not. THE LIFE OF GLASS is about death and moving on and learning how to live your life, and it’s realistic fiction, so these things happen in real life. In my real life. In the time between when I wrote THE LIFE OF GLASS and when it came out, someone close to me died in a similar manner to the way Melissa’s father dies in the first chapter of the book, and some of the actions and reactions of the characters played out in similar ways. Which made it awfully awkward when the book came out to try to explain to some people in my life that I’d written the book first, that it really does take a really, really, really long time from writing to publication.

But even with all the waiting, that still doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy every little step of the process. Because I do. When I saw my cover for THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS a few months ago, I liked it so much that it made me cry. And last week, when I received a copy of the galley proofs for THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, (which means I got to see my book looking like an actual book for the first time – printed out on regular white paper) I got chills. Because that was the moment when I looked at my words, and felt, somewhat shocked to realize, this is actually going to happen. This is actually going to be a book! Granted, it’s still six and a half months away. . . but who’s counting?!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Now that it's been beautifully covered

. . . I'll try to contribute my two cents to what happens once a book has been turned in to the publisher!

The only thing I can think to add is on the subject of BLURBS. I'd never even heard the word used in the context of author's comments before I'd written Dixie. The publisher, in my case Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, starts sending the bound manuscript out in hopes of getting back positive, and hopefully rave reviews from other authors. I remember cringing at the thought of this because I'd not yet been through any part of the editing process. "OMG. What will they think of my first-ditch effort?" I remember thinking.

People are incredibly busy and have so much going on that I think the first part of the blurb gathering process is actually finding an author who is not under a deadline. Or, on the other hand, might be busy but is extremely organized and a great manager of their time. Someone who is NOT ANYTHING LIKE MOI!!!!!!

Of course, there is always the possibility that even if the author agrees to submit a wonderful blurb, it might not make it. As was the case with Maureen. By the time I finally was at a place where I could dive into her wonderful manuscript for Not Ready For Mom Jeans, it was too late. There was no room for my blurb on her back cover. And that, dear readers, is a missed opportunity for me.

Using your contacts - any contacts - is paramount. We, as writers, have to think of "anyone who's anyone" in the book world. Or, in my case, anyone who is in the least bit famous . . . and go for it. It's hard for me to ask anyone to do anything for me but I mustered up all my courage and asked anyway. In typical Lisa fashion, I decide to try for - of all things - a HUGE movie star. I had had the good fortune of working with Jeff Bridges on a big music project a few years earlier. As difficult as it was to actually ask him to read my book and then hope like heck that he might find it a wee bit entertaining, I knew that I had nothing to lose but many night's sleep, heart failure and a crashing blow to my self-esteem. BUT, due to my willingness to make a dumb fool out of myself, much to my shock and surprise "The Dude" said yes!

That's why I ALWAYS live by the rule: Might as well try.

In the beginning of my writing process, I used to say to myself, "I'm going to at least TRY for a New York publisher." And low and behold it happened. But it never would have happened had I not dipped my toe into the frigid, dark, uncharted waters of the big, bad New York publishing world. That's why I say to everyone - whether they are a writer, a chef, a banker or a housekeeper - might as well shoot for the stars. I shot and look what happened. I actually landed this year's Oscar winner. But it never would have happened had I not pointed my arrow, drew back my bow and aimed for the bull's eye.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So Many Emotions!

After Tracy's ultra-detailed and spot-on post yesterday, I'm not sure what new information I can add to the discussion of the logistics of what happens after an author turns a book in. It varies a bit, but most publishers follow a similar timeline: developmental edits, line edits, copyedits, galleys, second pass, final book. There might be some changes to this scenario, like in special circumstances when a book is really being pushed through quickly, so occasionally some steps might get combined. So, instead, I'm going to talk about another process that dovetails with the logistics of getting a book into publication: the author's emotions.

Step up, everyone, and witness Maureen's Rollercoaster of Writer-Crazy!

Developmental Edits: This is the first real feedback you get from your editor. Sure, he or she bought your book, so they don't totally hate it. But this is where they go, "It's great, BUT..." For Mom Jeans, this letter was ten pages looooong. And had sentences like, "No. Just no." Not surprisingly, this is also the stage where I cried my eyes out, gnashed my teeth, sent off a few pouty emails, had two glasses of wine, and realized my editor Katie was so, so right. And also? She's brilliant.

Line Edits: This is when your editor tells you if you pulled off your initial revisions. Thankfully, I did. *wipes sweat from brow* The real fine-tuning and clean up began here. Whereas the developmental edits are more global in scale, line edits are more like, "Cut this sentence. It sounds ridiculous." Not that specifically, but you know what I mean.

Copyedits: My eyes bugged out the first time I saw copyedits. I also instantly gained mucho respect for copyeditors. I'll never forget when I saw my copyedits for A Bump, and the copyeditor made a little note that I had Clare watching Lost on a Monday night, when, during that time period, Lost aired on Wednesday night. It made me chuckle, and completely realize that my book was Bigger Than Me at that stage.

Galley: Much screaming occurred at this stage, too. Because this was the first time I saw my book as a, well, book. It's all nicely bound, with a pretty cover. Even though there's some refining still to be done, and mistakes still exist on the pages, it's like a dress rehearsal. I started to actually believe, holding my words in between a shiny cover, that my little story was going to be an actual book.

Final Pass: This is your last shot to make any changes to the book. This is also the stage where I start freaking out, and want to heavily edit the entire book--rewording sentences, scrapping whole chapters, etc. But then I always see the little asterisk in my editor's letter that reads: "You may be charged for any extensive revisions made to the text." And suddenly, that sentence looks just fine.

Finished Book: Although the moment when twenty finished copies of A Bump dropped on my doorstep was fabulous and mind-blowing, at that point, I was somewhat Over It. I'd seen my book and edited my words about a hundred billion times. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to see it all finished and pretty, but my brain had moved on a bit to the next book, so I was just happy I didn't have to do any more copyedits!

Then, of course, the promotion really begins with book fairs, signings, launch parties and conferences, but that is when I switch out my "Writer" hat for my "Author" hat.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Final Steps

We've talked a lot about the writing of our books here at The Novel Girls, we've talked about promotion, what it feels like to see our books on the shelves, and how cool it is to receive reader e-mails. But we haven't talked about what happens when we turn a book in.

While a lot of the steps are likely to be the same, each publisher does have their own way of doing things. So we thought it would be interesting to share what each of our experiences are after we've finished writing (and editing) our books and turned them in to our editors.

My publisher is Dorchester Publishing. Rather than do a simple guideline, I'm going to pull up the dates and the steps I've taken with each of the three books I've turned in so far, beginning with my first book, A TASTE OF MAGIC. First, though, let me run through a few of the terms I'm going to be using:

Line Edits: This is where someone (at Dorchester, this person is the editor) goes through your book word by word, line by line, and makes changes based on grammar, punctuation, story, clarity, etc. This person will ask questions if something isn't clear enough, give suggestions if something isn't working, look for lazy writing, repetitiveness, gaps of information, order of events, etc. Basically, the line editor is looking to see if your story works, and if it doesn't, why not? At Dorchester, this is often done hand-in-hand with the revisions.

Copyedits: Copyedits are when a copy editor goes through the revised and line-edited book in an effort to correct grammar and punctuation following the house's (publisher's) standards. A copy editor will also point out areas of confusion or give suggestions, correct terms if incorrectly used, and flag anything else that jumps out at them (such as an incorrect sequence of events).

The Galley: Galleys are when you receive your revised, line-edited, copyedited, and typeset book for the last look before it goes to print. Basically, this looks like your book will look when it's printed, but without being bound and covered. This is the author's last chance to find errors and request changes. However, changes at this point tend not to be editorally focused changes. Rather, they are errors: typos, miss-spellings, inconsistencies, and the like.

Okay, now with that out of the way, here is a breakdown of the path I've followed so far with my books at my publisher:

The debut book is a little different, which is why I want to start with that one. When I wrote A TASTE OF MAGIC, I didn't have a contract and I didn't know if the book was going to be published. So in this case, everything started with my editor reading the book and deciding he wanted to publish it.
  • 05/01/2008: Received "the call." Woo!
  • 05/05/2008: Accepted representation from my awesome agent, Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary.
  • 06/04/2008: Received revisions from my editor. I had until July 1st to complete them.
  • 06/25/2008: Completed revisions and turned revised book in to editor.
  • 06/30/2008: Completed my dedication and acknowledgements and turned those in to the editor.
  • 08/07/2008: Turned in author photo and bio to the editor.
  • 09/10/2008: Received comments and line edits from editor (based on revised book) along with some other minor changes to be made.
  • 09/11/2008: Turned in book with changes based on comments and input from editor. Obviously, the alterations were finally minor, as I was able to complete everything and re-read the book in a 24-hour time frame.
  • 09/25/2008: Received the copyedits for the book from my editor.
  • 09/25/2008: Turned in book with changes/verifications made per the copyedits. Again, they were relatively light as I turned this back in on the same day.
  • 10/06/2008: Received the galley version of the book to review.
  • 10/20/2008: Turned in corrections based on the galley.
  • 02/24/2009: Book is released!

So, about 9.5 months from call to publication. This is actually pretty fast, as often, the time frame between purchase and publication can take one year, two years, or more. Also in the time span above, I received cover quotes, my cover, reviewed cover copy and front matter, and was working on the next book: A STROKE OF MAGIC.

For this book, the timeline went as follows:

  • 11/06/2008: Turned in the complete of A STROKE OF MAGIC to my editor.
  • 02/19/2009: Received revisions and line edits from my editor. Unlike the first book, these were handled at the same time instead of separately. Luckily, the revisions were minor, as the publisher needed the book back to them asap.
  • 02/23/2009: Turned in the revised book to my editor. I also turned in this book's dedication and acknowledgements.
  • 03/04/2009: Received the copyedits for the book from my editor.
  • 03/04/2009: Returned the book to my editor with changes/verifications made based on the comments made by the copy editor. Obviously, these were minor as I turned them in before the day ended.
  • 03/24/2009: Received the galley proofs of the book to look over. With TASTE the galleys arrived in hardcopy. With STROKE, they arrived in PDF format via e-mail.
  • 03/26/2009: Turned in requests for changes/corrections based on the galley.
  • 06/30/2009: Book is released!

Again, in the same timespan as above, I worked on promotion, received the cover, reviewed cover copy and front matter for the book, and worked on and turned in my next two proposals, and received a new contract.

The timeline for the third book, A BREATH OF MAGIC, is:

  • 10/18/2009: Turned in the complete of A BREATH OF MAGIC to my editor.
  • 11/04/2009: Turned in the dedicaiton and acknowledgements for the book.
  • 11/30/2009: Received line-edits and revisions from my editor. In this case, I actually didn't have revisions of any sort to make regarding the story or the order of events. Everything that I needed to look at was in the moment, small things that were easily fixed.
  • 12/01/2009: Turned in book to my editor with changes/edits made based on his feedback and comments.
  • 12/08/2009: Received copyedited book from my editor.
  • 12/08/2009: Turned in book to my editor with changes based on the copyeditor's comments and suggestions. These were light enough that I was able to make the changes within a few hours.
  • 12/23/2009: Received the galley proofs of the book. Just before Christmas, naturally, lol. Luckily, I had until January 9th to go through everything. I set aside until after the holidays.
  • 01/02/2010: Turned in requests for changes/corrections based on the galley.
  • Now: Waiting for the release later this month (April 27th)!

And again, throughout the above dates, I've worked on promotion, garnered cover blurbs, received the cover (my favorite of the three), reviewed cover copy and front matter, and worked (and am still working) on the next title (BY MAGIC ALONE, a Dec 2010 release). Oh, and everything else that comes with life.

For my current manuscript: my deadline is fast approaching (it's in May), I've just received my cover copy (last week), and haven't seen a cover yet (but that should be soon).

As crazy as the timing gets/feels sometimes, I love every step of the process of seeing something I created evolve into a finished book. I love having my editor's input, as he always helps my books and the stories I'm telling become stronger. I get a little thrill of excitement when an e-mail appears that has my cover copy, and then my cover, attached. Oh, and when the big box of my author copies arrive? That's pretty dang awesome.

I love hearing how the process works for other authors, so I can't wait to read the rest of The Novel Girls' posts this week.

See you all next Monday!