Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What Happens After The Book Sale (i.e. The Real Work Begins)

So an editor makes an offer to buy your book. He/she loves the characters, he/she gushes about all the things he/she loves in your story, and now it's just a matter of signing a contract, cashing a check, waiting for release day and hopefully Hollywood to come a'knockin, right? Ummmm . . . not exactly.

No matter how much an editor loves your work, the odds are that it will undergo several rounds of intense revisions before it ever hits the shelves. The first stage is that your editor will read through your manuscript several times and then send you what is known as an edit letter. An edit letter is a very daunting, usually single-spaced, multiple page document that highlights in a general way what is working and not working in your manuscript. It may include some specifics, some potential fixes, or it may leave it entirely to the writer's judgement as to what is needed. When mine arrived, it was seven single spaced pages and I may or may not have momentarily forgotten to breathe. It looked like this:


Surely if it's seven single spaced pages this book must totally suck, right? I'd heard horror stories from friends who received fourteen page single spaced edit letters, so then again, maybe I was lucky. Fortunately, I have an AMAZING editor, and after spending half of that first page praising all the things she loved, she gently eased me into the pieces she felt were still working but could work even better. And she was completely spot on. Things that just made scenes pop off the page, a moment of heartbreak all the more gut-wrenching, or a tender moment even more feel-the-butterflies-in-your-stomach-ish.

We talked on the phone the next day after I'd had a chance to let her suggestions marinate, and then I set to work. It took me close to three weeks to make that initial revision, following her notes and suggestions like a road map of sorts. After I finished that initial pass, I then did what proved to be the most mundane and eye-opening part of the revision, which was a search and destroy for overused words. I found an amazing website called http://tagcrowd.com that allowed me to plug in my document and it would then generate a word cloud with my 200 most frequently used words. I could then formulate a list and go in to decide on a case by case basis which to keep, which to change to another word, and which should be eliminated entirely. There were over 25 words that demanded my attention in this way, and as such, I had to go through the manuscript another 25 times. Once I finished, I gave myself a break for a few days and then went back and reread the manuscript from start to finish, and the end result of all that work was a much more polished, cleaner, tighter story. My editor was absolutely right, and I sent it back to her, hopeful I'd hit all the marks.

Now I sit and wait for another couple of weeks as she reads my changes and then she will send me her next round of edits, which are called line edits. This is exactly what it sounds like - a line by line edit of the entire manuscript that details more specifically what is working, what is not, what should come sooner, what should come later, words to lose or change, etc. I will be given a few weeks to implement those changes and then it gets sent back to her again.

At that point, it will go to a copy editor, who will check things like grammar, spelling, and make sure I got all the facts and timelines right. Then the book will be turned into what is known as an ARC, or an Advanced Reading Copy. This will look like the actual book, it will have a cover, though it may not be the final cover, but it will not yet be proofread. These ARCS are used to send out to reviewers, bloggers, and sometimes for Giveaways to generate buzz and interest in the book.

The book starts to actually feel like a real book once first pass pages arrive, which are the proofed and typeset pages that look like what the actual pages of the manuscript will appear like. It will also be the last opportunity for me to make any changes to the manuscript before it actually goes to print.

Simultaneously, I have to start thinking about creative ways to get the word out about its impending release. I have to start thinking about things like building a website, blog tours, and trying to set up book signings or interviews with local media sources, and different fun, creative (and hopefully inexpensive!) ways to promote the book.

It's actually quite a mental and emotional journey, and each step is so exciting. It's all one step closer to actually holding my published book in my hand, the fruition of a lifetime dream. This whole process can take anywhere from 6-18 months depending on how much work the manuscript needs and the release date planned for the book. For me, MY KIND OF CRAZY is slated for publication in early April, 2016, so I have nine months to watch it all unfold. Ironically, the same amount of time it takes to have a baby, and for both of these undertakings, a comfortable pair of elastic waisted pants are highly recommended. :)