A novel goes into production
At long last! I received word last week that my novel Tattoo, the sequel to Ice Song, is going into production. What exactly does that mean? For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process, I’ll outline it here. Once a manuscript has completed initial editorial processes (revisions made in response to the editorial letter and subsequent discussions/changes), and the editor has a book that you’re are both fairly satisfied with, the book moves into production. A release date is set. Tattoo is slotted for release May 24, 2011. To give you an idea of my time frame, I began writing Tattoo in 2009, while subsequently promoting Ice Song and juggling home, family and a day job. I received my editorial letter in November 2009 and the revised final manuscript was turned in May 2010. Delivery & Acceptance. This is a lump sum payment, one of two or three that you may receive as part of your earnings in addition to payments after the contract is signed and/or when the book is released and hits the shelves. Line edits commence. My editor/s (I’ve actually had the good fortune to have two editors working with me on Tattoo) reread the manuscript (MS) and add their changes, suggestions and comments to the document (electronic or hard copy). Electronic versions use the Track Changes feature in Word. A Production Editor steps in to help shepherd the MS along from sheaf of papers, to ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy), to the final hardcover or paperback. Copy editing begins. The copy editor goes over the revised version of the MS after you’ve incorporated your editor’s changes and submitted a new version. Here’s where you really have to be careful. The novel is moving along a sort of conveyor belt heading toward its final manifestation as a printed novel. The time for major revisions/rewrites is over. This is just housecleaning. Do you mean cast iron or cast-iron? Do you want a semicolon there or would you prefer to start a new sentence? The copy editor corrects your spelling and grammar according to the dictionary that the publishing house uses (maybe this varies, you can ask them what dict. they source from when you are looking up words yourself, to avoid later changes/questions). For example, one of the things that was changed in Ice Song, was my use of ‘towards’ and ‘forwards’ which, I learned, is British English, not American. To standardize with Random House’s style guidelines, these were amended to ‘toward’ and ‘forward.’ The copy editor clarifies your meaning and fixes all the invisible little writing habits we have (for me, it’s excess commas. I usually stick one in there while I’m thinking about what comes next). The writer must be very clear here in approving the copy editor’s changes (“stet” which means “ok as is”), or crossing them out and writing in your preference. This step is a great help in uncovering stylistic and technical weaknesses. The MS with your changes goes back to the publisher by email or snail mail. Cover Art. Somewhere in here, the editor, art director and marketing team will converge for a cover meeting. They’ll work from their own experience and ideas, along with yours, to create a compelling cover and back cover copy. (Click here to see a gallery of some of the artists, styles and images I like for the Tattoo cover). Galleys arrive. This is a printed MS incorporating your last round of changes. It’s also the last chance you’ll have to make corrections. The publishers have drawn a line in the sand: “No more changes!” They know that we writers will twiddle our manuscripts into oblivion if they don’t tie our hands, confiscate our pens and march us away from our computers. ARCs. Next to arrive is an Advanced Reader’s Copy. This is a bound book showcasing the book design (interior pages, fonts etc.) and possibly cover art and marketing plans. It is sent to reviewers several weeks/months before release so that reviewers can publish their ( hopefully) glowing reviews to coincide with your book’s sale date. The Stork Arrives. The Fed Ex man makes his final delivery–the one you’ve been waiting for since you first committed your story to form and began writing your book. Oh glorious day! You’ll receive a copy of the finished book and it’s on to the next leg of your authorial journey. I’m awaiting my D&A check (which has already been spent 100 times over, whee!) and will be talking about the cover soon. I’m also working on back cover copy and gearing up for final changes. I’ll keep you posted as we move along. Onwards and ever upwards (or Onward and ever upward, as the copy editor would prefer), Kirsten Imani Kasai

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  • Persia Walker

    Good luck and best wishes for a great launch. (BTW: I wanted to see the cover suggestions for your book, but the link isn't working.)

  • Stacy-Deanne

    Hi Kirsten,

    Good luck with the book! You got the stages to a T. I was previously with S&S and all I gotta say is, I've now moved onto a smaller house and I gotta say I LOVE it! I can definitely say that it's not the size that matters, LOL! So I did have to work around the stages you mentioned for my last two books but now that I'm with a new house, I have more input and I can participate in the process. They even ask me when I'd like the book released. Can you believe that? Never would that happen with a big press.

    I'm the type that likes to have some control and some help in terms of promotion, etc. With a smaller house you have that attention. In a big house, nope. I'm extremely happy and I didn't know such a change would restore my love for the publishing world. I will always love writing, but big pubs and how they did things turned me off to where I almost gave it up altogether. Thank goodness there's publishers that fit everyone!

    Best Wishes!