Timing is everything!

15 Sep

So, once you’ve decided to write a book, and presuming you want it to be published at some point . . . oh, wait! You don’t want to be published? Believe it or not, there are those people out there who do not want to be published – for various reasons. And that’s fine, I think, as long as it’s that person’s decision and not pushed onto them by someone else. (I am not referring to those people who seem to accumulate world-class collections of rejection letters! And yes, I know about John Creasey’s mammoth collection, before he went on to world-wide fame as the multi-multi-published author, and one of my faves, by the way.)

A good friend, who is no longer with us, was a superb editor and writer. She was fairly famous in this area for her erudite articles on a multitude of topics, and it never occurred to me that she was interested in longer-length writing. I nearly fell over the day she mentioned to me that she had written several books. When I said I’d like to read them, she blithely responded “Oh, they’ve never been published.”

I picked myself up from the floor, and asked, “Why not?”

She very calmly replied, “Oh, I could never let anyone change anything I wrote in them, so I chose not to ever submit them.” She looked at the bottom drawer of her desk, and said, “They’re all right here, and there they’ll stay.” I queried her about the articles that must surely have been edited at some point, and she said, yes they had, but articles were one thing and books another. And that was the end of that discussion. Drawer closed.

Of course, there are other reasons, too. A family history, for example, might not have enough general appeal to make it worthwhile to proceed in that direction, if a copied spiral-bound edition will serve just as well. However, new advances in self-publishing might make it possible, after all.

Perhaps the quality most needed by a writer is patience. Nothing ever goes quickly in this process, and rushing will only make it worse and worser. Trust me on that one! (I’ll elaborate more on that later.)

If you have been good enough (and lucky enough, too) to be offered a contract by a commercial publisher (they do all, or most of, the work—and keep most of the earnings, as well) the first question you’ll think of asking is ‘when do you think it will be published?’ and the answer will be, “I’m not sure just yet.”

Publishing schedules are determined by a good many different factors. Is the manuscript finished? Has it been copy edited, then line edited? These are different procedures: the first is for general quality and fact-checking, etc., while the second is for the nuts and bolts of the thing – to be sure it reads smoothly, isn’t repetitious, has everything in the right place, et., etc., etc .

Since different people in various  locations usually do these tasks, it can easily take 3-4 months for this to happen. Once these have been done, the author should receive the immensely decorated (mini post-it notes all over) manuscript back again for opinion, approval, whatever. Sometimes you can disagree with either editor, but you must be sure of your facts, or be able to explain convincingly why you did what you did just there. (But I really love that phrase, or word, or whatever!)

This is the stage where, if the heroine is a blue-eyed blonde at the beginning of the book, and she then appears as a green-eyed redhead later on, there should be a reason other than author not paying attention! Or if the hero takes the train from New York to Boston, he shouldn’t end up in Philadelphia. That sort of thing! A good copy editor is worth his/her weight in gold, believe me!

So, you send the much-marked-up manuscript back to the acquiring editor once again, and this time they ship it off to the typesetters. It’s possible in this age of the computer that you will submit your manuscript only electronically, and then you will receive a copy of it back in that same way, with all your mistakes and editor’s quibbles highlighted in some fashion, so you’ll make most of the corrections. BUT – the editor in question will still go over it thoroughly before submitting it to her editor, perhaps the managing or senior editor or some other title.

During this process, you’ll also be asked questions about the cover (what you would like does not necessarily translate into what you’ll get!) and the back cover blurb, plus possibly the inside front page copy. Authors frequently have something to say about words, but seldom the art involved for the cover.

At this time, it’s probably 7 to 8 months since your manuscript was accepted. Next up is for the author to receive the typeset version for another proof-reading. (I promise you that before it’s a book, you’ll be thoroughly sick of your baby. It becomes exceedingly painful after a while.) If you are offered this opportunity, however, it’s vitally important for you to pay attention. Many authors don’t get that privilege, and seeing what’s been done to their (now-published) book flings them into a tizzy!

You should about now receive a rough of your proposed cover. Each publisher approaches this differently, so I’m not on firm ground here. But if you violently dislike it, say so politely to your editor and ask nicely if anything can be done. You NEED to like your cover, because when you’re at a book-signing, you’ll be surrounded by those things with your name on them, and if you can’t stand your cover, you’re in for an unhappy experience. I’ve been mostly fortunate in my covers, but I know authors who chose not to do book-signings because they didn’t want anyone to know about their book. That is NOT a happy ending, believe me!

Generally speaking, a book gestation is about a year. There are exceptions in either direction, but on average, I think that’s a reasonable expectation on your part.

Next week, we’ll discuss time-tables for self-publishing, and why you shouldn’t try to rush it! Words of caution from my own experience!

As always, please feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested, and if you have questions or comments, please send them to me at: bookmechanic@gmail.com Thank you!

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