In my last post, I answered questions about my recently finished Goliath rewrites. But one answer got rather long and has become its own blog post.
Which would be this blog post here. So, take it away, Gaia:
Now that youâ€™ve turned in the [second draft], what sort of sausage-maker does Goliath get churned through between now and September? What are the steps that take it from â€œwriter submits finished productâ€ to â€œravenous fans purchase and devourâ€?
This is a process with a lot of steps, which is why it takes from now till September, and oftentimes more than a year to complete. Here’s a rough guide to everything that’s going on. (Note that I know more about authorly stuff than the rest. Publishing industry folks, feel free to correct me—though every house differs in the details.)
My editor reads this new draft, casting aside the fact that she read the first draft many times already, and is unlikely to be surprised by the plot twists or find the jokes terribly funny anymore. This is an editor superpower that I do not have.
She may request more rewrites (hopefully much less extensive), but if the draft seems to be basically sound she sends it to a copyeditor.
(Let’s get something straight: editor and copyeditor are VERY different positions. My editor is the person I’ve worked with at S&S for many years. She commissioned the series ages ago, and has been part of its creation from even before I wrote a word. Bu the copyeditor is someone who I might never meet in person, and who’s probably a freelancer. So the copyeditor is taking a fresh look at the work, unencumbered by previous knowledge and expectations and unbedazzled by my personal charms.)
The copyeditor reads the whole book and does these things:
1) Corrects grammar, punctuation, and spelling, of course.
2) Verifies spelling consistency with the first two books. For example, in 1914 “Zeppelin” was capitalized, but these days it’s not. We decided to go with modern usage. It’s the CE’s job to make sure I didn’t forget any of these series-level decisions.
3) Makes a timeline for the events of the book, which assures that characters don’t go to bed on Monday night and wake up on Thursday morning. (Or whatever.) I already have a timeline of my own (because I am a good author!), but the CE is making their timeline only using the evidence in the book. So this should reveal if I’ve made any mistakes.
4) Checks historical facts and stuff.
5) Does other things I’ve forgotten, because I am an ungrateful author.
My editor looks at these copyedits first, to shield my delicate eyes from umbrage. (For example, the copyeditor of Leviathan tried to change the spelling of “aeroplane” to “airplane,” which I would not have survived.) Then the copyedited manuscript is sent to me, and I go through them for about two weeks. In each case, I either accept the changes, defy them completely, or make a different change, solving the CE’s problem a different way. Defying a CE is called “stetting,” because you write “STET” next to it. “Stet” is Latin for “let it stand,” because we publishing types are a CLASSY PEOPLE.
This heavily marked up masterpiece goes to Production at S&S, where they lay out pages along with the art. (Note that Keith is still working on the art as I type. He should be done by the end of this month.) This creates “page proofs,” a version of the book that looks like it will when it’s done, with the same font and such, but is not bound. However, wrongness and typos will exist, so it goes to a “proofreader.”
The proofreader does these things:
1) Also corrects grammar, punctuation, spelling.
2) Gets rid of “widows” and “orphans.”
3) Makes sure that non-standard characters (like Alek’s mom’s family, the House of CroÃ¿) have made it from the manuscript to this stage intact.
4) Makes sure there aren’t weird-looking typographical artifacts, like the same word piled on top of itself for three lines in a row. In any novel, this stuff happens randomly, and if left unfixed it breaks the reader out of the story. The proofreader just breaks a line somewhere above the pile-up, by adding a premature hard return, and the problem usually goes away like magic.
5) Other magic stuff that I’ve forgotten.
I get a copy of these proofread proofs (as does my editor, who as you can tell is there beside me at every stage). I go through them to make sure nothing has gone wrong with the corrections, still wielding the magic power of STET. I also check the art at this point. Usually one or two pieces of art is missing, and about a dozen pieces need to be moved. This last part is ANNOYING.
Let’s say there’s a full-page piece of art, and I want the reader to see it while reading the text on page 100. But the designer put the art on page 99, so the art spoils the surprise in the text. Argh.
Okay, so I move the art to page 100. Problem solved!
But that means that page 99 is now empty, so the text in question slides forward onto page 99 to fill that space. Note that odd-numbered pages are always on the right-hand side of an open book, so the reader won’t see the art on page 100 until AFTER they’ve finished page 99 and turned the page. Now the art is TOO LATE!
AND THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM.
Well, I could rewrite the book somewhere else to slide stuff around, but that would just mess up something somewhere else. So I make do. (Keith and I have partially solved this problem by avoiding art that is entirely text dependant, that is, which has to be seen by the reader at an EXACT point in the story.)
This mass of scribblings all goes back to Production, who change stuff graciously and without complaint.
Then the “second-pass page proofs” come to me, and I realize that the ONE WORD that I deleted on page 187 has shifted things so that a piece of art on page 345 is now on page 344, which is the WRONG PLACE!
So I fiddle and move and shift, trying to get it all to work, like a prisoner solving a Rubrik’s Cube by passing hand-written notes to the dude in the next cell who actually has the frickin’ cube, but is slightly color blind. Well, sort of.
But somewhere around the third-pass page proofs the book has finally been made perfect, or we all politely pretend that it is, and it goes to the printer to become . . .
Advanced Reader’s Copies
Advanced Reader’s Copies are a special, cheap-paper print run for publicity purposes. They are sent to buyers at major chains, indie bookstore owners, well-connected librarians, book clubs, reviewers, my agent, bloggers who beg really well, and me, roughly in that order. (This is mid-May, because Book Expo America is in late May, and cannot be missed.)
I usually crack open one of the ARCs that I’ve been given, using it as a set of fourth-pass pageproofs. Changes can still be made. (But I don’t read the text at this point, because I can’t seriously stand it by now.)
Then comes a great ordering process, where a mighty sales force goes out to talk to bookstores and chains. The buyers there listen to the pitch, read the book and judge its cover, then look at how many Leviathans and Behemoths sold (and how quickly, and where), and finally and pick a nice round number for how many they want on their shelves on week one, and how many in reserve (printed and held, but not shipped to them right away). Organizations like the Junior Library Guild (a book club for libraries, basically) order en masse for their members, while big library systems order for themselves, as do many individual libraries. (Scholastic Book Club also gets into the action, but a little later.)
All these numbers are crunched and mangled on a really vast and glorious spreadsheet that S&S actually sent me once (see “personal charms” above), and this combination of math and BookScanomancy determines the size of the first print run. (This is in the low six figures for the likes of me.) This number is then multiplied by three and announced to a credulous and trusting world as the Official First Printing of Goliath.
Places like the Science Fiction Book Club take a different route, and prepare to print their own copies, so they can offer their members cheaper prices. (Scholastic Book Club often does this, but they love the Leviathan series’ fancy-doodle paper, and so use S&S copies. Much appreciated.)
Around this time I also get page proofs from Australia, because Penguin Oz likes to Australianise the text, turning “flavor” to “flavour” and “Dr.” to “Dr”. But they print at the same time as S&S US because of the fancy-doodle paper thing. (I appreciate youse all!)
(Note that S&S UK doesn’t send me page proofs, because they keep my American spellings. So that’s one less thing to do. And none of the foreign editions are part of this process, because other languages have their own entirely separate publishing schedules. They have to translate the whole thing, after all.)
We are swiftly leaving my areas of expertise, but at some point in, like, August or whatever, giant presses in some state with lots of vowels in its name roll and make a bunch of books. Then they print covers and stick them on, and then there are boxes and palettes and stuff. They go to an S&S warehouse or to various distributors’ warehouses, or something, but I pay no attention because . . .
My good friends in S&S Publicity have started calling magazines and other media outlets asking if anyone wants to interview me, and then they start arranging the Goliath tour!
We have meetings about marketing strategies and blog tours and whatever, and it starts to get exciting again. For one thing, no one is making me look at PAGE PROOFS. And for another, I know that soon I will be basking in the warm glowing warmth of your fannish adulations. I buy a few tweedy philosophy professor jackets for events, and start trimming down to prepare for my two-month diet of hotel room-service cheese!
And all this time, usually, I’m writing my next book, which I finish the first draft of in the nick of time. But in this case, I won’t be doing that. Instead, I will be working on a bunch of Secret Projects, each one more secret than the last, which I hope that you will be enjoying in 2012.
If you want to know what those secret projects are, come to Comic Con in San Diego. And if you can’t do that, maybe the nice people at Comic Con will allow those who do make it to use the internet.
Or just stay tuned here in late July.