From Draft to Hardback

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 you’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 “writer submits finished product” to “ravenous fans purchase and devour”?

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 Croÿ) 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!


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.

40 thoughts on “From Draft to Hardback

  1. I’ll jump in with corrections from the industry folk 😉 Design does the page layouts and all that, rather than Production. Production come in during the “printing” stage, since someone has to tell those guys at the giant presses (in Pennsylvania, or thereabouts, if you’re curious) what/how many to print.

    Needless to say, us Production folk don’t know much prior to that stage so we learned a little bit here as well 😉

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write all that Scott. It was very interesting to read. I feel like I should be a writer now! 😀

  3. That was amazing! I imagined little Goliath copies being manufactured as I read it. Thanks for breaking all of it down for us, now it makes it a little easier to understand why we have to wait so long 🙂
    I’m SO excited for artwork and tour dates!! 😀

  4. Do they do the whole Dr. to Dr thing in reverse? do you like ARC’s? I always thought advance readers copies lack a certain… something the way they feel in your hands and how they wrap around your brain… but anyway I think the process to make a book is so elabrate it’s a wonder no authors have snapped in the middle of all that editing!
    The whole thing sounds chill though! Especaily the copy editors job, just reading all those stories that only a select few know the contents of! Akk I can’t wait to read it I’ve already saved my money up!

  5. Very interesting! I’m excited for Goliath to come out now, but your blog can hold me over until then. I did notice that your link on ‘widows and orphans’, is not valid, though. Just to help out.

  6. Wow, talk about a migraine in a bottle. I hope you have your neurologist on speed dial, if you have one (I definitely know mine would be. I’d need those Trigger Point Injections a lot more than I do now. That’s A LOT of stress).

    Thank you for taking the time and breaking it all down!

  7. This was really fascinating. I’ve wondered what exactly page proofs involved. I sort of thought it was the same as copy editing in case errors had found their way back in somewhere. I guess pictures must make everything a bit more complicated though.

    After looking at it so often and in so much detail I imagine the book all starts to blend together. I’d be afraid after so many re-readings you’d start to get book angst and start wanting to change things again!

    You know I don’t think I would ever notice things like “Dr.” “Dr” “Doctor” but I did catch an error in the UK edition of Behemoth where there was an instance in an Alek chapter of Derryn/Dylan being called Dylan in one line and then Derryn in the next. I think it only threw me for a loop because Derryn/Dylan’s double disguised gender identity is such a key thing and the name swapping dependant on POVs got so familiar after a while.

  8. @Alwyn, I actually noticed the name thing as well in my US copy. It did throw me for a loop, “Wait a minute; you are not supposed to know her real name.” I now understand the importance of editing. The whole Dylan/Deryn thing must get confusing after a while.

  9. @Scott: I’m at S&S. Other companies do things different, of course. Even our own Adult & Childrens departments have different procedures within the same company. (Production oversees everything in Adult, including Design, but the departments are broken out more in Childrens.)

    Just goes to show that none of us do things the same way, anywhere 😛

  10. This is process is all to long for me! how did you write it all (i skiped most of it) but i still cant wait untill it comes out! drawing is easier

  11. Thanks for posting this. It was really interesting read what happens to your books after you write them. Stop mentioning your secret projects! It’s driving me crazy not knowing what you’re talking about!

  12. Wow! Thanks for sharing. XD I’m in the process of writing my own novel, so this is very insightful.
    … Not that I’ll be able to get it published anytime soon. (dramatic sigh)

  13. That was so interesting I literally gobbled it up in minutes, then my eyes widened when I scrolled back up to the top and realized how much it really was. 🙂

  14. That was really interesting… I’ve always wondered what publishing a novel really involves.
    And now I’m dying to know about the Secret Projects!!!! I’m still happy that Goliath is coming out early though:)
    People who read other book have to wait so long… but we lucky Westerfans get an early release date!

    P.S. February 8 this year was Jules Vernes’ 183rd birthday, if anyone cares…..

  15. Thanks for the informative post, Scott. It really made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into a book! 🙂

    So… just how well must we beg to get a Goliath ARC? 😀

  16. Do you have any say in the design of the bound book?
    Say style of page numbers, headers with author’s name/book name or chapter name.
    If not, who decides on all that?

  17. your killing me Scottsters!!!!!!!!!!!!!! at least ill be at ComicCon… Ill be the blonde chick dressed as Yuna whos gonna see you, and scream SCOTTSTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and most likely break a few innocent pedestrians eardrums

  18. So pumped for Comic-Con! Thanks for taking the time to write all this, it’s really interesting and great stuff for book-lovers like us to know!

  19. I’m not a distributer, blogger or reviewer. I’m not a librarian, indie-bookstore owner or spelling champ. I’m just a busy fan who is DIEING for the next installment and, sadly, I’m not even creative enough to beg properly. But you, Mr. Westerfeld are CLEARLY the imaginative type. So let me set the stage of my desire for an ARC, and then you can tell me where your imagination goes.

    Enter a 24 year old woman. She works 35-50 hours a week and is taking 16 units at the local university. She pays for her own rent, insurance, and gas (not to mention entertainment) and has just been informed that tuition next semester is up to her. Needless to say – she doesn’t have much fun. There is no time and less cash. Reading is her only escape, and she especially loves strong, no nonsense girls who work hard for what they want and let nothing stand in the way. It encourages her to keep working hard herself. Picture this woman with a heretofore untold fortitude and willingness to BEG for an ARC.


  20. Scott, Thanks for the update!

    I’m glad to hear that everything is going well with the book!

    I’m so excited to actually read it!

  21. Really interesting! Thanks for involving us in the life of an author. Fascinating, maybe tedious at times, but it certainly gets the job done!

  22. Wow! Thanks for the time and thought (and humor) you put into answering my question. This post was really informative and very much appreciated.

    I think I was most surprised to learn how much effort goes into the process of getting the proofs laid out neatly. It’s something I never consider as a reader when I’m focused on plot and characters. Kudos to all the proofreaders out there! (How strange it must be to have a job where the majority of the people who see your work never notice what you’ve done – unless you get it wrong!)

    One of the things that makes the Leviathan series so special is all the fabulous interior art. I’ll be sure to be particularly grateful for all the extra layout work that causes the next time I re-read. 🙂

    Thanks again for the very comprehensive answer! I look forward to reading the finished product – and to hearing what’s in store in 2012. (Fulfillment of Mayan prophecy via loris invasion…?)

    …And, no, I have no dignity. I am also a begging blogger.

  23. got a late start on Behemoth and JUST finished today! needless to say it was AMAZING!!! 🙂 duh…but now i have to patiently await for Goliath (ha yeah right…patience) after reading these books though i have a strong urge to speak in a British accent with all of Deryn/Dylan’s “bloody’s” and “barking’s” it’s so hard not to go around talking like that…if i did i’d probably be looked at kind of funny considering i’m in the US…ah well maybe i’ll consider it anyway 😛

    @Gaia: umm loris invasion would be AWESOME!! well except if they ended the world…though i’m sure all us fan would be safe 🙂

    anyway i know that nothing i said really had anything to do with this post, but i haven’t been on here in FOREVER…extreme shame :/ so i just had to say brilliant work Master Westerfeld, cannot wait for the next installment and your secret projects! 🙂

    ~~If I don’t look at you, it’s because I can’t see who you truly are.~~

  24. Oh! Scott! May I pretty, pretty please with a cherry and a multitude of rainbow sprinkles on top PLEASE be an advance reader?! I blog, AND my boss says I do amazing coverage of scripts/manuscripts! I will be helpful and promote you and maybe also send you mountains of baked goods if that isn’t outside of your comfort zone/legal restrictions as a famous writer! ^_^

    Also, I am really glad to hear that there is a copyeditor to take care of the minute details that I tend to spaz over when I’m writing. My hat goes off to copyeditors AND proofreaders; I couldn’t do either of these jobs!

  25. so what i get for not reading entire posts is looking like an idiot. ADVANCED READER COPIES?!?! O.o umm YES PLEASE!!!!! 😀 an advanced copy of an AMAZING book from an AMAZING trilogy, from my ALL TIME FAVORITE author!!! my life would be thoroughly complete! the only reason i got a late start on the last book was so i would not have to wait so long for the next, but i could not stay away. i would do anything for an early copy of Goliath!! literally…anything…though i suppose waiting is half the joy of superb books…i’m good at begging and can be awfully persistent…even if i didn’t get an advanced copy i will always be a loyal fan…keep that in mind 😉

    and any chance this tour will be coming near Pennsylvania??? if so i’m totally there 🙂

    ~If I don’t look at you, it’s because I can’t see who you truly are.~

  26. I am fascinated by the copyeditor part. My favorite part of working at the newspaper for my university internship (professional writing major) was editing the newspaper proofs for both of the newspapers I interned at. Mondays were my favorite days because I would grab the looooong newspaper proofs and edit away with my red ink pen. I miss it so very much.

  27. There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for you, since you put yourself through this horrifying (but probably fun) process time and time again to write superb books that I read over and over and over and ov– You get the point. A few of the English programs at my school (such as creative writing and newspaper) were cut this year, and it was really saddening to me because I would love to be an authour. You get to create worlds the way you want to, and have characters you can control. You get to decide the ending, the beginning, and everything in between. It’s like… playing god for a time. If you had any advice on anything writing related, I would love to hear it.
    Again, thank you for doing everything it is you do. You have taken my mind places I never knew it could go.

  28. Art checks sound interesting, if frustrating. Might I humbly suggest adding a large boldface disclaimer/warning on the page before any more double-page spreads of the bedamned behemoth? That thing exploded into the darkest nightmares of my innermost drowsy brain at about 2am on the night when I was binging through that book, and it took hours to scrub it out again. I am a grad student, but I am not ashamed to say that I seriously considered leaving the light on that night.

    I mean, it is amazing art, but. Sweet mercy. D:

  29. This was great, Scott. (Great Scott! Hah! I’m hilarious.) You made us editor types sound quite magnanimous.

    Also, to everyone looking for an ARC: Sometimes waiting for something amazing makes it that much sweeter when you finally get it.

    If every eager fan and blogger got an ARC, there would be nobody left to buy the book, now would there? And then Scott and the publishing house would make no money, and they’d have to stop making books and it would be terribly sad. ARCs are for people who will write stunning early reviews. So unless you’re in a position to do so (from a place of authority in the industry/blogosphere), then sit tight and wait for the finished product! It will be worth it.

    Now, if money’s the problem then you have nothing to worry about. Get yourself a library card! They’re free and libraries hand ’em out like they’re going out of style. Libraries almost always order best-sellers like the Leviathan series. And if you live in East Podunk Missouri and your local library only carries 5 books, ask your librarian about their inter-library loan policy. That’s right! Libraries can borrow from each other. Chances are, if you’re living on ramen noodles and melted snow, you won’t ever have to buy a single book as long as you have your library card. 🙂

  30. Bloggers who beg well huh? Well in that case………
    I lovelovelovelovelovelvoelovelovelovelovelvoelvoelvoleovleolovelvoe <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 the Leviathon series, and every day I die a little bit inside because I have to wait 147 days until it's released! Every night I cry myself to sleep waiting with anticipation for Goliath (not really im not that pitiful) and every morning approximatly 1/147 of me dies because I can't read the book. IF this keeps continuting, then by the time Goliath comes out, I will no longer a person, but a quivering pool of jelly, and I won't be able to read your masterpiece, so I can't appriciate the genius of MY FAVORITE AUTHOR IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!! That would be HORRIBLY HORRENDULY BAD! (im listening to your music that u composed, and I LOVEOLOVELVOELVOE Arabic #1!) I want to read this book so badly that I will post a comment every other day asking for an ARC. pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease[lease? :0:0:0:0:0:0::):):):):):)

Comments are closed.