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Ten to Eighteen Months Before Publication – The Editor at Work

Ten to Eighteen Months Before Publication—The Editor at Work

Now that the publishing house owns the book, the editor gets to step in and edit. She’ll put together an editorial letter or phone call, and the author will, with varying degrees of grace, provide whatever rewrites are needed. Given that every person reading or writing a book brings unique experiences to it, this process can be a joyful voyage of discovery or a war of attrition. Sometimes the editor is absolutely inspired, sometimes absolutely wacko, most often somewhere in between. Sometimes the writer takes a great book and makes it a masterpiece, sometimes the edits destroy it, most often somewhere in between. The editor, while waiting for the rewrites, creates an art memo to help the art department design the cover of the book, and a sales memo to help sell the book to accounts. Authors, after consulting with their editors, should provide everything they can think of to help this process—photos and postcards and things ripped out of magazines to influence the cover, short bios and author photographs and ISBNs of previous books and geographical areas that might do especially well with the book and (if appropriate) lists of bookstores interested in holding signings and any planned media exposure and good quotes from reviews of previous books for the salespeople. There’s absolutely no guarantee that anybody will pay attention to any of this, but they often do, and it’s better to try and fail than to look at some disaster after the fact and realize that you never tried to help.

Once the revised manuscript is in, the editor prepares it for the production department. She writes a memo indicating any problems to be watched for, and characterizing the amount of help (usually limited to minor grammar and spelling help) she thinks the book needs, a list of any previous volumes in the series to check for spelling consistencies, and so on. On some complicated books, it’s worthwhile for an author, if you have these sorts of things, to include a list of character and place names and any foreign or unusual words spelled (and defined, if necessary, with references) as you want them to be spelled along with your manuscript. It helps keep the copyeditors from doing things you might regret later. If the book is a mass market or trade paperback, the editor will pull or write a blurb to appear on the first page. In addition, she’ll check to make sure the book includes any necessary dedications, quote pages, tables of contents, lists of an author’s previous books, author notes, photo page inserts, appendices or indexes, and whatever else needs to go into the final manuscript. Then she’ll turn in the manuscript to production. The production department does a cast-off of the manuscript, which is an estimate of how many pages the book will be in its finished form. This helps the art department determine what width to make the spine on the book cover and tells the printer how much paper to order per copy for the factory that’s going to print the book. Next the book goes out to be copy-edited, and to a freelance writer who’ll write the cover copy.

Next: Six to Nine Months Before Publication

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