If we were having coffee today I’d be in a good mood.
“Why?” you might ask.
I’d tell you that I finally finished all the identified corrections on my latest manuscript.
Getting a book published is a process and you need to know you can’t skip any component parts of that process. Well, to be more correct, you shouldn’t skip any of the steps. If you’re lucky enough to get your manuscript accepted by a publisher and are offered a contract, the publisher proceeds to edit your manuscript. This is humbling because you, as an author, have been pouring over your own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, striving to deliver the best possible work. When you get the manuscript back you find out just what a fumble-fingered oaf you really are. I’ve reviewed some of the corrections wondering to myself, “who the hell wrote this crap?”
Yes, you get your manuscript back with hundreds of corrections, each of which you must review, and accept or decline. Sometimes you have instructions to rewrite a sentence or paragraph. Those must be flagged for the editor to review. It’s a process, usually involving two, three, or more rounds of correction/review.
At that point, it goes to the copyeditor, a process that can take several weeks. This is a period of waiting, a chance for an author to revert to lazy habits. Or, sometimes, a really good author might take this opportunity to work on the next novel. I’ve done both.
When the copyeditor is finished, the publisher proceeds to package the book into something close to the final form and sends you a test edition, called a galley. My publisher concentrates on ebooks so my galleys come in the form of a PDF file. This is the author’s most important step in the process. We’ve written the book. We’ve spent months, sometimes years, revising the manuscript, crafting it into the product we sold to the publisher. Now it is our turn to painstakingly read our own work. I mentioned a fine-toothed comb earlier. At this stage, we really need to sift the work for any errors we can find. I generally go to the library and sequester myself into one of those little study rooms for this process.
It is surprising, after revision, editing, and copyediting, I always find several dozen errors that need to be corrected. The corrections are listed with the full line, then on the next line, you put the full corrected line with the correction highlighted. You double-space after the correction. This allows the editor to easily find the exact line in the text and differentiate between corrections. Note: some of the “errors” are spacing corrections since the fully justified text sometimes results in inordinate spacing between words. This is your last chance to be creative. For Lucky Strike, I submitted five pages of these corrections.
Once this stage is completed, the publisher applies the errors you found and sends you a corrected PDF. You’re finished, right? Nope. There is one more base you need to touch. You need to double-check the corrections.
With my first novel, I neglected to do this. I trusted them. I was writing part-time, it was a busy time at work. I was new, I didn’t know what I was doing. If I had checked even a few of those corrections, I’d have immediately realized that they had somehow not saved any of the galley corrections and the “final” version was, in fact, the uncorrected galleys. Two weeks after publication I started getting reports of errors … very familiar errors. The enormity of the problem became evident very quickly but I had a heck of a time convincing the publisher what had happened. This is a story for another blog entry, but in short, I learned a very valuable lesson … double-check the corrections.
So, after I completed my corrections for the Lucky Strike, I double-checked the file and found a handful of errors that were either missed or were miscorrected. In most cases, these were instances where there were multiple corrections in the same sentence. We call the corrections errata, so I sent a new file of errata errata. This is what I just finalized. I got the new corrected PDF. Yes, I checked it again. Done!
But you know, it isn’t over there. On publication day, an author should actually order all versions of their own book, just like a normal reader. It is in our best interest to do this, so we can again spot check the published versions and also determine delivery times and availability. Again, if I had done this with the first book, I would have discovered the error much earlier than my readers.
So, like the title says, touch all the bases! Is it going to be perfect? Probably not. There are always things that slip through the process. How do other publishers do it? They do the same thing. I used to never see errors in books, but after going through this process, I spot things all the time. I don’t fixate on their errors, I just take a moment to feel the author’s pain.
What publishing nightmares have you survived?
Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. His latest novel, Lucky Strike, is due out in October. Now is a great time to catch up on his Traces of Treasure series … get more info on his web page.