Completing the Production Process

Red BookOnce a manuscript is finally in production—meaning that the author has submitted the book to his or her editor, and has made final changes based on the editor’s recommendations, it is not the last time that you will “see” the manuscript.

In most situations, an author will have to go through at least two more iterations as a book project moves from an imperfect manuscript to a polished and completed book, ready to be printed.

The first step is the copy edit process. That’s when a professional editor will review every line of the manuscript to make sure that the grammar and spelling are correct, that the right word is used in ambiguous passages, to make sure that the art (e.g. graphs, charts, photos) is where it is supposed to be, that it is correctly labelled, etc. This layer of editing is now usually done electronically, and takes place on top of the earlier layer that is completed by the acquisitions editor in conjunction with the author.

Once the copy editing is complete, it is sent to the author for his or her review and approval of the changes, to make sure that the copy editor did not alter the meaning of any part of the manuscript by mistake.

Then the copy edited manuscript is returned to the publisher so that it can be typeset.  That first draft of  typeset pages, usually called “first pass” pages,  will still have some typos, but it is still the document used by the publisher to create the bound galleys for the book . The galleys are what the publicist sends to the press  to hopefully secure reviews of the book that will be appear much closer to the book’s publication (galleys are usually done for all but the most technical books, depending on the publisher’s marketing budgets and priorities ).  Because most print publications—from Publisher’s Weekly to Fortune Magazine—require long lead time, the publisher sends the galleys to the press three to four months prior to the official publication date of the book. That’s one of the key reasons an average business book production schedule requires at least seven months (although books are sometimes  “crashed” with far shorter schedules). 

Once galleys are corrected, they may be shown to the author a final time to make sure that all of the typos have been incorporated into the manuscript. It is in galley stage that we ask the author to make the fewest changes, mostly to correct typos. We do not want the author to make extensive changes that would warrant either additional copy editing, or much worse, repagination of the book (a very expensive proposition).

Once all of the pages have been corrected, then a book can be prepared for the printing/publication of the book . Not to complicate the matter, but while all of the above is taking place, the publisher is also working on finalizing the book jacket mechanical (and the copy that appears on the jacket “flaps”). That jacket process usually goes on for months as well, which is why the publisher gets that part of the process underway fairly early on in the process. 

So an author “completes” the book many times throughout the process, as each step takes the manuscript closer to final book. As an author, I can tell you that there is no better feeling than sending the manuscript to your editor for the final time, after it has been typeset, corrected, etc.,  Then the printed book is right around the corner and the real fun begins!


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