June 10, 2007

The Process: Part VII—Author and Proofreader Page Proof Review

Once the author and proofreader have the set of proof pages, they start on their respective reviews. This is the author's second official review (the first being post-copyediting), and basically the last chance to make any major changes. It is preferred that the author concentrate on the existing text rather than continuing to rewrite (unless this has been requested by the acquisitions editor), but occasionally that is necessary, and there is still enough time to incorporate and verify additions this early in the process (usually there is still at least two months before the final book is sent to the printer). Both the author and the proofreader are given between three and five weeks to complete this read-through.

Aside from an approval of the general interior layout, the author is also fact-checking any last details, fine-tuning the language, making sure the book reflects what they intend it to, and trimming back sections as needed (especially if the book is running a bit long).

The proofreader is instructed to do another light copyedit from scratch (they may also be asked to do a side-by-side read, which means they look at the copyedited manuscript file simultaneously to verify the proofs). They are looking for the standard grammatical stuff that may have been missed (the copy editors can only catch so much, and sometimes errors are introduced during the author's review of the copyedited manuscript) as well as formatting mistakes, such as an incorrect heading, a word that should be italic, or a chapter name that is misspelled in the table of contents (often designers type them in by hand).

Both the author and the proofreader mark on the printed pages directly (with a colored pen or pencil so it's easy for me to see). Sometimes every page is just covered in red and other times the book is in such good shape that twenty pages at a time are completely error-free (this is a rare and lovely thing, but it always makes me wonder if it has been read closely enough).

Usually I have a pretty good idea of what the author/proofer will catch because I have looked over my copy of the proofs, but I am relying on them to find the things that won't catch my eye immediately (though my education and everyday experience make me a trained and competent proofreader, my attention is devoted to other things the majority of the time).

Once the author and proofreader have completed their reviews, they return them to me so that I can incorporate the changes. If they have dealt with an error differently, I either look up the correct style (in the Chicago Manual) for myself, or go with the proofreader, unless it is a question of preference, in which case I defer to the author's choice. I have both sets of proof pages in front of me (and sometimes my third copy as well, if I have marked anything for correction) and go through them start to finish. I incorporate the changes into the InDesign book file and save this for the designer. (The production manager—who looks at the very technical aspects and ensures compatibility for the printer—prepares a memo for the designer with any requested alterations to the file. I do the same from an editorial perspective and return the corrected file to him/her for what we call second pass proofs.)

I am solely responsible for the book from this point forward. As soon as those proof pages are returned to me, I oversee the rest of the process without a lot of contact from the author because it is assumed that their part in the creation of the book is complete (and for the most part, it is). There will not be any other freelancers involved (except an indexer if the book requires one), so all subsequent reviews are done in-house by me and my managing editor.

What happens after this are my final proof checks, cover design, and the start of publicity... all to come

May 31, 2007

The Process: Part VI—InDesign Layout, First Pass Check

Designers should have the first pass of the book layout in pretty decent shape by the time the production editor receives it from them. This means all pages should be accounted for (and allocated appropriately), title pages and table of contents formatted, and all chapter openers and running text flowed throughout. The first pass will be a rough (sometimes more, sometimes almost perfect--depends on how thorough and detail-oriented the designer is) version of the final book.

When the designer is satisfied with the file (or until they run out of time), they will send it back to me for my review. I give it a once-over, checking on a few key items before I proceed:

(1) Length: Does the book run long or short? If so, does it look like it will be an easy fix (such as moving headers down by a quarter inch or reducing the amount of index pages)? If not, I troubleshoot the possibilities and figure out what is viable without destroying the layout and keeping the book readable.

(2) Styles: Did all of my tagging flow into InDesign correctly and do all styles ? Are there random paragraphs that became all bold because of a missing closing tag? Did text that was supposed to appear in a sidebar mistakenly end up in the body? By this stage I usually know the book very well and can immediately find anything out of place.

(3) Page makeup: All title pages, the TOC, foreword, introduction chapter openers, index, etc. should begin on a recto (right page of a spread). I also check for sparse and blank pages (a blank recto is a sin), and fix what I can.

(4) Formatting codes: We have specific, searchable "codes" for a variety of common elements such as em- and en-dashes, ellipses, fractions, degrees, etc. Because none of these items translate to InDesign from Word, we ask the designer to do a "find/replace" and put in the correct formatting.

Now if anything on this list (or something related) is a serious problem, I will make a note of what needs to be fixed before I can send the pages off to the author and proofreader. (The proofreaders are usually fine working on a pretty messy set of proofs, but authors can be easily freaked out when they see a big ugly jumble of words that is supposed to be their masterpiece.) The production manager (sometimes this person acts as the art director and/or printing manager as well) looks over the file to make sure all page measurements and characteristics are appropriate for printing (for example—if the text margins are too close to the edge of the page, they must be fixed and the entire book will reflow; if the designer has used color builds that won't print, these must be corrected, etc.). Once he/she lets me know if there are major issues, we go back to the designer for any pressing modifications. It is usually expected that the designer will have the corrected file returned within a day or two.

If things are looking pretty good (or once the designer has completed the revisions), I do a very brief page-by-page glance and fix glaring errors (typos, hyphen break at the bottom of a page onto the next, widows/orphans, incorrect spacing), leaving the minor stuff for later. I print three copies of the proof pages—one for me, one for the author, and one for the proofreader (whom I will have contracted for the project a month or more previous in the same way I would a copy editor). Depending on the book (specifically design-heavy layouts) and my availability, many times I will do a simultaneous light proofread at this early stage since I know all of the style requirements in addition to the text. Otherwise I wait until I have incorporated the all of the corrections requested by the author and proofreader.

Speaking of which, what happens during the author and proofreader review is soon to follow...

May 29, 2007

The Process: Part V—Manuscript Cleanup and Tagging

So now that you have reviewed the copy editor’s suggestions, answered any queries, revised the text, added an introduction, the acknowledgments, a dedication…once you are really sure that the manuscript reflects the final book you want it to become, you will return the document file to me to prep for the designer.

Usually the electronic manuscript is looking a mess by this stage. There can be anywhere from two to a dozen different tracked colors appearing in the document depending on how many people have made their mark in the file. (Word tracks individual computers and assigns a new color for changes made on each one; if you modify the file on your home computer as well as your work computer, you will have two unique colors.) Luckily, you as the author don’t have to worry about sorting through and fixing this. That’s where I come in.

When I receive your revised document, I go from start to finish and browse each page looking for embedded queries you may have answered. For example, the copy editor may have inserted [[AU: Where can readers buy this product?]] in the midst of a paragraph, and I would expect you as the author to either answer the question directly within the brackets, or more appropriately, have inserted the answer into the running text as part of the final manuscript. When I figure out which one you have done (if you incorporated it into the text, I just delete the query altogether; if you have merely answered it in the brackets, I will try to place it myself), I modify or approve the text accordingly and move along. An aside: I can also "Reject Changes" as I go along if I feel something is inappropriate or incorrect, or if you the author prefer a certain style over something the copy editor has selected.

Similarly, if the acquisitions editor or the copy editor or I have asked you to expand on a particular point, I will do a light copyedit of the new section of text you have inserted to make it consistent with the rest of the book. My responsibility is to get the manuscript cleaned up as much as possible so the proofreader (and you again) can focus on the important details (correct tense, hyphenation, word choice) rather than common mistakes (typos, missing commas) throughout.

After I have gone through the entire document (this can take a few hours or a whole day; it comes down to how messy it was to begin with, how long the book is, and how much you have modified), finalizing all the text, verifying all queries have been attended to, and deleting any comments or notes back and forth that are not meant to be in the book, I select “Accept All Changes in Document.” This brings me back to a totally clean black and white text file that has every single mark anyone made using Track Changes now incorporated. At this point the file is ready for tagging (also known as coding).

This part of the process is very similar to Web and software programming languages. If you have ever looked at HTML code, you will see that it and InDesign tags are nearly identical in some ways. Basically, just as HTML is telling your computer how to display a Web page, InDesign tags tell the program how to feed in the text and display the correct font, spacing, etc.

I’m sure this won’t appeal to many of the creative writers out there, but for the more analytical/logical types, here is an example of how coding in a manuscript would appear:

{ParaStyle:chapter}The Title of My Chapter
{ParaStyle:txtni}This is the first paragraph of my chapter. First paragraphs are rarely indented according to common style. That is why the name of this tag stands for {CharStyle:bold}text, not indented{CharStyle:}.
{ParaStyle:txt}This is the second paragraph of my chapter. This paragraph is indented, so it is just called {CharStyle:bold}text{CharStyle:}. I could also have named it “indtxt” or something similar. As a production editor, I get to make these choices.
You will also notice that there is no closing mark for paragraph styles. They continue until they find the next paragraph style, meaning that even though this paragraph has not been tagged, because the closest tag is for “txt”, that will apply to this one too.
And finally, you will see I have used a character style tag above. Character styles need a closing tag because they only apply to a small portion of the text (and thus change the style of those collective characters—i.e. letters, numbers, spaces, etc.).

**Of note: The tags actually utilize < these angle brackets (not {}), but because they are used in HTML, it won't show up in the blog!**

You may notice that there are no extra returns between lines, and no tabs or alignment or boldface, etc. The reason for this is that the file is imported into InDesign as text only, meaning no character formatting or special attributes will carry over into the design. I strip everything out before sending it to the designer (if you were to open the text file after that final step, you would see a long jumble of words in courier font that is quite unreadable). This is why I have to tag the manuscript: the designer can just bring the file into InDesign with its presets and the coding tells the text what to do. (And the designer has "programmed" InDesign to display the text according to the approved interior design.)

Anyhow, it really is a crucial step in the production process. Many years ago my publishing company would send all manuscript files to a freelancer who coded the documents (at that time for Quark, as that was the only publishing program available—the tags for that are quite different). These days, with a swell of younger, tech-savvy employees, the company can save money by having the production editors take over that role. There are a couple of other tagging methods/styles, but many designers prefer the InDesign tags because they are easy to trace and usually help them finish the layout that much faster. Although it can be time consuming (for straight text I might be looking at two hours tops, for design intensive books, I could spend two days finishing up) and tedious (guidebooks are by far the worst, especially if they have icons and sidebars), I actually find tagging to be a soothing and mindless task that can be very rewarding and gives the production editor the control rather than entrusting everything to the designer (remember, they don't read the books, so it may not always intuitive for them why something is handled a certain way).

So, when all of these final steps have been completed, the text file is sent to the designer, who should be ready and waiting. I usually send a note with the file about any special considerations and the due date (the standard is two to four weeks). The designer is in direct contact with me as they prepare the first pass of the book proofs. The next time I see the manuscript, it will look like a book on loose-leaf paper.

Coming up: receiving the first pass of the interior layout from the designer

May 6, 2007

The Process: Part IV—Interior Design and Layout

While you work away on the copyedited manuscript I have returned to you, I am simultaneously moving forward with the projected interior look of your book. A specific designer (chosen by the production manager in much the same way I have chosen the copy editor: based on design strengths, the particular book's needs, subject matter, etc.) will have been lined up for the project. Often the acquisitions editor will have some input as to how the book should feel to the reader. Does it need icons to separate sections? Should the typeface be soft and traditional? Or should it be striking and confrontational? Script or boldface? Usually there are general recommendations made that the designer can incorporate into their samples.

I prepare an interior design memo that accounts for all possible elements in the book that the designer needs to consider: number of headings and levels, running text, bullets/lists, sidebars, charts, icons/illustrations, footnotes, and of course the page count, number of words, page size, and other specifics. (A note for another post: there is a very calculated way that word/page counts are determined, and it is rare that they change much after a manuscript has been accepted. Sometimes we have to employ a little sleight of hand to turn out the book as originally figured.)

Once the designer is equipped with this information (I also submit a hefty chunk of text for him/her to work with, making sure to incorporate all unique elements discussed in the memo in that sample), they have between one and three weeks to provide us with two to five rough interior sample layouts. These are usually about ten to twenty pages long and should look just like the final book so we can get a good idea whether or not it will work.

Obviously this process wouldn't be terribly challenging or all that time consuming for a novel (nor is it for a nonfiction narrative, usually) because all you have is running text and maybe the chapter name/number to worry about. For some nonfiction works, however, it can be a stressful and fine art to get a design right in the first round (which is extremely rare). This is especially true of cookbooks, guidebooks, and instruction books. Everything has to be just right if you want the target audience to purchase it.

The designer's samples are passed around the office for several key opinions: the publisher (always has the final say), the sales/marketing manager (very important input, but not as crucial as the cover), the acquisitions editor (one of just a few people who has actually read the book and understands it fully), the production manager/art director (the in-house design specialist and technical guru), and the managing editor/production editor (again, one of few who has read the book and sees both the editorial and production sides). Many times it comes down to a vote for the favorite (sometimes incorporating an appealing piece from one of the overall less liked samples), and detailed notes about any modifications needed are made. This comprehensive feedback is sent to the designer for a second round.

Hopefully the designer will have made all requested alterations to the layout and look, and when they return the second design sample everything is perfect. Usually it isn't so easy, but most of the time the second attempt is very close to what becomes the final design. Several back-and-forths are sent and eventually a design is approved.

By the time you return your revised manuscript file to me, we should have the interior layout ready to go. Occasionally the author is included in this process (or at least given a complimentary look at what we have decided on), but unless you have some very strong feelings about a particular page style/font being used, we move forward with what we have.

It is really exciting to get to this part in the process because it means we are very close to seeing your manuscript in book form. It is one of the highlights of being a project editor (the greatest being holding the finished, printed book in my hand).

And next: Cleaning up and tagging the manuscript

April 30, 2007

The Process: Part III—First Author Review

You haven’t been able to touch your book for a month and a half by now. You may be going crazy, you may be ecstatic. Many authors jot notes down while they wait for the manuscript to be returned to them for another set of revisions. You obviously can’t alter the original file because it has been sent to the copy editor and will come back to you in a very different way than it left.

Copy editors do not work on hardcopy pages (that’s a proofreader)—everything is modified electronically using Word Track Changes. If you haven’t ever used this revision tool, I highly recommend trying it out. Not only is it really cool, your understanding of it is pretty essential for your copyedit review. (Your production editor can train you on the basic functions when you get to that part of the process, but if you want me to post some brief instructions here, let me know.) It is a HUGE timesaver for all parties and the wave of the future. That being said, I do still occasionally print out physical pages for an author to do his/her review. I respect the author’s preference, but in all honesty it is a huge hassle for me since it means I have to key in any and all changes the author wants made.

When the copy editor sends back the manuscript file(s) to me they also provide a book-specific style sheet. I can explain style sheets at length in another post, but basically it notes all decisions made about many text elements (formatting, spelling, etc.) for me, you, the proofreader, and anyone else who reviews the book. One of the biggest problems can be inconsistency. You don’t want “Minow Theatre” on page 8 and then “Minnow Theater” on page 55, unless you are talking about two different places. The style sheet will list which is preferred or correct, and anytime it shows up later in the book it can be checked.

Once I have verified that the copy editor hasn’t queried anything inappropriately (you’d be surprised) or whether I can answer/resolve any of the questions, I send the file (and style sheet) off to the author. Using Track Changes, the author decides what to incorporate or reject and what to add, delete, or revise. In the end, as long as it isn’t blatantly incorrect or in direct opposition to our publishing house, the author has the ultimate say in the final content.

You will get about one month to review the edits and make any last decisions. This is pretty much the last time for significant changes to your book. (You get one more shot during the proof page review, but those usually have to be fairly minor.)

To come: interior design and layout

April 29, 2007

The Process: Part II—Copyediting

After your manuscript is in its final form and has been "handed" over (everything is electronic now, no recluses typing on a Royal these days) to the publisher, it begins the wild adventure that is production. This is my specialty.

The acquisitions editor (the one who sought you out and paid you for your work) actually has the manuscript in his/her possession for about a week or two after officially accepting it as complete. The AE gives it a once over and prepares a memo for me, the project editor, with any details, oddities/preferences (such as "the author hates the term 'googled'—please make sure the copy editor refrains from using this"), and considerations for improving that particular book. I then translate this information to the copy editor in my own memo after checking the file for any formatting issues and verifying consistency throughout.

Copy editors are almost always freelancers. Some of the large houses employ full-time copyediting staff, but generally it is much more cost effective to pay on a per project hourly basis than it is to offer a salary and benefits. Not to mention the fact that a copy editor wouldn't necessarily have a steady stream of work at all times due to the standard publishing seasons (Fall [Aug-Nov] and Spring [Mar-June], sometimes Winter [Nov-Feb]). A copy editor is allotted a timeframe of between three and six weeks for most manuscripts.

And, if you are curious, copyediting fees are generally calculated using a formula considering standard hourly wage [$22-35 per hour], level of edit required [light, medium, or heavy], and the number of pages/words. A pretty average project might have a $1,250 copyediting budget for a 325-page book. With a medium-edit rate of 7 pages per hour, this job is approximately 47 hours of work. This example pays out about $27 per hour.

Given that I will know your manuscript is coming down the line at least a couple of months in advance, I use that time to decide on an appropriate copy editor (one who specializes in your subject matter, is skilled with fixing a particular weakness, etc.) and offer her the job (for the sake of simplicity, I will use "her" here as the vast majority—say 90%—of freelance editors are female). I let her know what level of edit I expect, the fee I can offer (which the AE determines), the expected delivery dates, and other expectations for the job.

When the AE does transmit the files to me, and I have reviewed them I email the copy editor my memo and the manuscript document(s). It is then out of my hands until several weeks later. Often I will get a few initial questions from the editor as she does her first read-through, but otherwise I put the book out of my consciousness until the deadline and focus on my other projects.

Exciting huh?

Coming up... first author review

April 22, 2007

The Process: Part I—Submission

How is it that a writer goes from putting their ideas to paper to holding their published book in their hands?

The first part of this lengthy (often multi-year) process is submitting a manuscript for consideration to an agent or publisher. (The pre-first part is writing and polishing up a full novel manuscript, or—in the case of nonfiction—creating a solid book proposal and establishing a decent platform with which to sell yourself/your idea.)

Many writers wonder whether it is better to query an agent first or go straight to a publisher. The lengthy reply can be saved for another day, but the short-ish answer is: you can do either. Agents are really handy to have on your and your book's side (and in almost every negotiation they can secure more for you than you might alone), but they do take a percentage of your profits. And of course, even if an agent is willing to represent you, there is no guarantee they will sell your novel—nor will you be the primary decider as to which publishers the agent sends your manuscript. If you decide against seeking an agent first, you can approach a publisher directly, but beware that often the large publishing houses require an agent or referral and do not accept unsolicited queries. If you don't end up with an agent by the time you are signing a contract with a publisher, you really must have a lawyer who specializes in book contracts give yours a look so you fully understand the terms and details (a benefit of having an agent, as they can fill this role).

So let's say you are a writer who has been welcomed with open arms and a book deal with a mid-sized publisher. If you have finished a novel, you will have already completed your manuscript upon acceptance. Given the likelihood that it isn't in perfect condition, you will probably spend a few weeks to several months working with a developmental (content) or line ("big picture") editor to rewrite and revise. You will work out the kinks and ensure that the book fits the publisher's expectations and appeals to the target audience.

With nonfiction, your book could be in any number of stages at the contract signing. Many times a couple chapters and a loose outline are all that exist this early in the process (for those of you wondering why, it's because writing nonfiction can involve extensive research and compilation of data; it's less common that a nonfiction writer will put in the effort upfront to write the full manuscript if he/she isn't sure if anyone is even interested in the concept). This means that a nonfiction contract is usually signed with a transmittal deadline written in. (And although the publisher can legally act on a late manuscript, usually they just want it period and won't dissolve the contract due to tardiness.) Depending on the timeliness of the subject matter, the availability of the writer, and a number of other factors, the agreed-upon manuscript submission date can be anywhere from one to eighteen months (or longer) from the signing date.

As with a novel, usually there are draft chapters sent along the way to an in-house editor (usually the acquisitions editor who purchased the project) who can help shape the content as needed and keep the manuscript on track. When the manuscript is in roughly final form, the writer transmits the file for the publisher to officially "accept." Barring any major issues (such as significantly low/high word count, incomplete information, unsatisfactory story resolution, etc.), the publisher will adopt responsibility and guide the finished manuscript through the rest of the publishing process. The writer gives up their baby for a month or so before seeing it again after the first round of official edits.

Next on the agenda: copyediting...

April 17, 2007

Who Do I Think I Am?

And more importantly, why does my blathering even matter to you, the reader?

Well, I can only offer my long history in the book business as an adequate enough reason. It is up to you whether or not you will find anything you want to take away from my posts. I am merely offering my take on what I find to be a fascinating, ever-changing (and yet ever-steady) field.

I have been fully immersed in the business of selling, writing, editing, and developing books for nearly a decade. I have seen the industry from many angles: as a bookseller and merchandiser at one of the largest bookstores on the West Coast (six years); as a research assistant for a university disertation group (six months); as a manuscript reader for a literary agency (nine months); as a proofreader for corporate correspondence (one year); as a freelance copy and line editor for half a dozen writers (two years); and finally, as a project editor for a mid-sized book publishing company (one year and counting). *By the way, I realize this time adds up to more than a decade, but some of it overlaps.* And of course, I have the standard BA in English and a supplementary certificate from a year-long editing program. And if proximity matters at all (I'm not sure it's relevant to my abilities here), I have ties to a few of the bigwigs in New York as well as various agents, publicists, and bestselling authors.

I've got the goods on paper. But what's even better than that—I love this business just as much as (probably even more than, actually) the day I began. I am more than delighted to go on and on at length about it.

Would you like to know more?

March 6, 2007

My Intent

Well, I have finally succumbed to the blogging universe. But, because I try not to be exceedingly vain (nor do I have much of interest to say about my personal life), instead of writing about myself, per se, I will use this space to discuss the world of book publishing, the trials and tribulations of being an editor, the burning passion that drives a love of all things literary.

In short, I am unshakably addicted to this career. There is no end to my excitement for this industry. Have you got questions? Well, I have answers, and I would be pleased to share them with you, dear reader.