From Idea to Finished, Step 9: The Publisher’s Editorial Process

The book is in the hands of the publisher and for once, you can take a breather! Hooray!

Depending on the publication schedule, this breather might be for a couple of weeks or it could potentially be months. I always feel like it takes forever to get my copyedits, but then, I also usually turn things in ahead of deadline. *knocks on wood*

First, the manuscript is sent off to a copyeditor. The copyeditor’s job is to check for grammar, spelling, proper sentence structure, consistency, and the like. Copyeditors are worth their weight in gold, because no matter how good you are at grammar and no matter how many times you’ve been over your book, your eyes will skip over even the most basic of errors. It’s human nature that we see what we think is there, not what is actually there. Plus, copyeditors know all sorts of things about tenses and participles that make most of our eyes go crosswise.

Will they catch everything? Probably not. They’re still human, after all. But they do find a lot of things that keep us from looking like idiots, and we’re all sorts of grateful.

The Magical Stet

All that said, sometimes there is a conflict between “correct grammar” and “the writer’s voice.” It’s the copyeditor’s job to make sure things are “correct,” but it’s within the author’s rights to stet any changes they don’t like. (Stet means: Ignore this edit, leave it as it is.) Sometimes we writers like to make up words or do weird things for stylistic purposes, and it’s okay to ask that something be left alone if it feels right for the story. In the end, these are your words on the page.

You can also continue to make changes at this stage as well, though your publisher will appreciate if you don’t decide to rewrite the whole thing.

After we’ve reviewed the copyedits, the manuscript goes to the typesetter. (This was my job before I became a full-time writer!)

The typesetter enters all of the corrections that the author and the copyeditor marked (hopefully without introducing any new errors, but again, we’re only human).

The typesetter also inputs the manuscript into the design file.

“Design file?” you ask.

So, at some point, the designer has created a design for the interior of the book. They choose the fonts and decide how big the type will be and how big the margins will be and if each chapter will start with a fancy drop-cap or lead-in or whatever. The typesetter takes the manuscript from the Word file and puts it into the design file and styles everything according to the designer’s instructions.

And when it gets printed out… voila! It’s starting to look like a real book.

Page Proofs
Page proofs are the printed pages that show the book in its typeset form. They’re sent to the proofreader, who will compare these pages to the copyeditor’s marks and make sure all those edits were entered correctly. The proofreader is also checking for any errors that cropped up during typesetting, such as awkward word breaks at the end of a line, or weird characters that appeared when you changed the font. (Computers are weird and sometimes weird things happen.)

The  page proofs also get sent to the author, and we squeal and dance around because LOOK HOW PRETTY IT IS and OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE I WROTE ALL THESE WORDS.

This is the part of the process when I think: Okay. I have been over this book a gajillion times. My editor has been over it. My beta readers have been over it. The copyeditor has been over it. The proofreader is clearly going to do an amazing job going over it. I am done! There is no earthly reason that I should have to read this blasted thing one more time!

Don’t listen to that voice.

Read it one more time.

The very experience of reading the book in a new font with pretty chapter headers will have you seeing the words on the page differently. You will catch mistakes. You will pick up on a bunch of awkward wording that you never noticed before.

While this is not the time to start rewriting entire chapters (which can cost the publisher a lot of money and make people annoyed with you), this is also not the time to get lazy. This is in many ways your last chance to make sure you’re putting forward your best work.

One more read-through. You can do it.


(On a side note… I’ve received the Fairest page proofs!! So that’s what I’ll be doing as soon as I finish this blog post. Reading it, one. more. time.)


Fairest epigraph




Sales, Marketing, Design, Publicity, Production… all the non-writing-process related stuff

Unless you’re self-publishing and overseeing all of this yourself, there will be a lot of things happening behind the scenes that you’re only vaguely aware of, until you get an exciting email or your publicist requests some extra content from you or someone on Twitter tells you that your book is available for pre-order and you’re like, oh, hey, that’s cool.

In the months leading up to the book release, you get to see cover art for the first time. Advanced reader copies go out to reviewers and you freak out because OMG PEOPLE ARE READING IT. You write posts for blog tours and respond to interviews. You try to ramp up your own social media engagement without being totally obnoxious. You plan a launch party. You design and order swag. You run giveaway contests on your blog. You are a bundle of enthusiasm and excitement and panic and stress.

But mostly you kind of wish that everyone would leave you alone because you’re also on deadline for the next book, which is always somehow due at the same time that this book is releasing. You amaze yourself at how much you can get done when you really put your mind to it. You enjoy every moment of the book launch, while simultaneously dreaming about the quiet times when you’ll be back to just writing, revising, and daydreaming.


BAM—you wrote a book!

One day, you receive a box in the mail. You open it up and see the most beautiful thing in the world.

A real book, with your name on the cover.

You dance around for a while, post pictures on Facebook, maybe put some more champagne in the fridge. Then you get back to work.

Write a book, publish a book. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Next week I’ll comment on some of the great questions that have come up during this series. If you have questions that I haven’t addressed yet, now is the time to ask them. 🙂