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

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