Friday, July 11, 2014

In the background

Michael W. Davis

Many outside the publishing world may not realize the depth of talent bought to bear to get a story from concept to release. It’s not just the author involved in creating the fictional world. May be different for other publishers and authors but for my books here’s a sample of the breath of “hands” involved from creation to putting it in the stores.

1.     Critiques – once you’ve reviewed and proofed yourself twenty times, and before you submit to the publisher, you send to a critique group to provide input on your Manuscript (MS). I have four talented individuals I’ve selected over the last six years with different skill sets. Two are technical (like myself) and avid readers, one is a retired tech writer, and one is an actual editor. All are comfortable with beating the crude out of the script and tossing a pint of blood front to back.

2.     Submission reviewer – Before I get a contract, my MS goes to a group within the publisher that reviews the draft and assesses if it’s “publishable” material AND original enough to be of interest. On three of twenty works I’ve submitted, I was required to go back and do major rewrites so just being published before is not an automatic check mark to get through the door.

3.     Contract – About two months from when submitted I receive a contract plus a request to complete a bundle of material to support marketing (including ideas for covers). Note this has taken as long as five months depending on publisher workload.

4.     Content Editor – If the MS makes it, about 3-4 months before release date (which is roughly twelve months from when submitted) I receive a marked up edited version from the content editor (focusing on readability, consistency, structure and compliance with in house and accepted writing protocols.)

5.     Line editor – Once the CE is satisfied (which usually takes three cycles) they pass to the line editor. I have no idea what they do given I’ve never interacted with them, but I believe it’s associated with formatting the MS for release to various outlets.

6.     Artwork – About 3-5 weeks before release I get a sample of the cover art.

7.     Errata – Between three and four weeks before publication I receive the galley version to which I must read every word to insure no typos slipped through all the eyes that touched the MS, plus no format errors have been induced by the conversion software. I send back the errata (correction) sheet and that’s it, the last time I get to view the produce before it’s released.

8.     Reviewers – There’s one more step and set of eyes that peruse the book, the reviewers. They are independent groups or organizations that evaluate the quality and enjoy-ability of stories in selected genres, then provide their candid opinion. Sources of reviews come from both the publisher themselves and sites I send to and request my work be reviewed.

Do all those fingers and eyes touching your projects before its released surprise ya? I know it did me. I had no idea how many talented individuals molded and lent their experience to improve the quality of your work.


Liz Fountain said...

Yup, it did surprise me. I'm not sure any other art form goes through such a collaborative process before it is "released." Maybe music, in the production process?

But all that editing helps distinguish good work from not-so-good, and those who are considering self-pubbing need to make sure they don't skip those steps, or try to do it all themselves. We just don't see the problems or errors in our own work until another pair of eyes (or seventeen pairs, or however many) points them out.

Thanks, BM!


Gabriella Austen said...

As I'm currently in the third (and fingers crossed final) revision of my YA novel, I'm so frustrated I think my head is going to explode. By this round, I not only hate my novel, I pray for the main characters to do the world a favor and die or at least leave me alone.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Gabriella, I hear you!

Big Mike said...

Agree Liz, very funny GA, been there, done that.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)