Monday, September 28, 2009

Demystifying a Step in the Publishing Process: Copyedits for 13 to Life Book 1

I try to mention stuff here that relates to how the journey towards publication of my debut novel 13 to Life is going. I figure there are many things some of you as aspiring authors may be curious about that you may not get to see firsthand until you're in this weird spot that I'm in. You know--gonna' be published in June. ;-)

So this morning the UPS truck pulls up and delivers a large padded envelope. I only get such things from one place. Yep, my publishing house. St. Martin's Press in NYC. I'm filled with trepidation as I carry it inside. It doesn't feel any heavier than the last one, so maybe it's not horrible.

I'd gone back and forth about what I expect to see come out of the envelope. I was really spoiled with my first edits. There were very few corrections and suggestions that were made initially. So I hoped this would look like that--nearly unmarred.

But I feared it would be covered with changes--huge, dramatic stuff. Sweeping issues I needed to handle. The word SUCKO across the top. Perhaps peppered with crazy detail-minded corrections (because my typing is NOT amazing except, occasionally in that "oh, horrors--that's amazingly ugly" sort of way ;-).

So when I opened the envelope and pulled out the manuscript (held together by the two biggest rubber bands I've ever seen) I looked at the number of post-it notes on the sides (<--yes, plural). I read the note my editor sent. DUE BACK NO LATER THAN 10/9.

Whoa. That's like ten days (if snail mail speeds up from here to there). I admit it.

I panicked.

Generally I'm unflappable (at least in moments when it really counts). Devastating storm on the way and you need all the stock from your tent of expensive Renaissance garb packed into a van before you get my help moving folks to safety in the dorms? I'm your gal--AND I'll make a final sale for you right then too. In emergencies, I tend to be pretty cool (I think my brain moves straight past PANIC-mode to SERIOUSLY?-mode). But give me time to freak... Time to see how many ways this could possibly go wrong? You'll get a freak out.

So I read Michael's note. And Jane's note about copyedits. I looked at the Copyediting Style Sheet. All ten pages. I flipped through the manuscript. And I realized nothing was sinking in. I mean--what was this thing in front of me? What were their expectations of me? How could I fix this if I didn't understand what it all meant? Could I have a rubric, please? LOL ;-)

And how did I--a gal with quite a background in art--not have a single colored pencil in the house?!

So I emailed Michael. I called my hubby. DH was all supportive with the "It's no big deal--it'll be fine" stuff.

Then I called Deb.

"How bad is it?" she asked.

"I hope they own stock in Post-It notes." It was obvious they had invested in them to do my copyedits.

"It can't be that bad," she assured.

While on the phone with her an email response popped up. Michael was out of the office. I took a moment to spaz. And I realized I had Jane's phone number.

Deb verbally patched me up and I looked at everything again. Jotted down some questions so I wouldn't sound like a total idiot when first speaking to Jane (hey, I'm okay with people deciding I'm an idiot later--just let me try for a good first impression, okay?).

I even looked up STET (which was mentioned in my copyedit note).

I worked up my courage and called Jane. She was really nice, patiently answering my questions. I took notes. We talked about inserts and circling or not circling stuff, what the style sheet really meant and what I could do with it (never once did she use the verb "shove" ;-), the law against staples...

I even said, "So, all the corrections I'm seeing here already in colored pencil I should sort of take as tips to improve, right?" She responded with, "That's a very good way to think about them." Jane was wonderful and I thanked her and the so-far anonymous person who did the actual copyedits to my manuscript--They raised some good points!

And then I saw Michael had even gotten back to me on his day off! (<--This may surprise you, but it doesn't surprise me as much anymore). The guy's good. He clarified some stuff, alleviated my worries, and now all I need to do is find a colored pencil (or Jane said a regular pencil as long as my handwriting's different--I said different wasn't a problem and I'd even go for legible ;-) that's not red or green and get my butt in gear.

I also asked Jane what happens next? She said essentially they get my stuff back and everything's fixed, it goes to design and they do those elements and in about a month or a month and a half I'll see my "1st pass pages." That's when we can again scour for typos. Right now the focus is making sure most style, story, grammar and punctuation and story details are right. Really, we're almost there.

One more step in the process of publishing. And then another and another... I think we should all consider just how many hands are at work making sure an author is producing a good book. It's not just author, editor and publisher. There are so many other folks along the way that make such a big difference in the process. We can't afford to forget about them either.


Sheila Deeth said...

Wow! Exciting times. Thank you so much for sharing them. Sounds really scary stuff.

(I love your maybe go for legible comment!)

Shannon Reinbold-Gee said...

Thanks, Sheila! Yeah, I've gone from being super excited to utterly terrified so many times during this process it's mind blowing.

MattReeves said...

Wow, I love your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It get's me a bit nervous and excited, thinking about my own writings and my deep desire to be published. I can't wait for your book to get released. I'm really looking forward to it. Love the new cover. ^_^

Tamara said...

Great post! Am I crazy if I say I can't wait for the day I get my manuscript back with millions of post-it notes on it? I'm sure I'll feel different when it happens ;-)

Shannon Reinbold-Gee said...

Thanks Matt. :-)It's nothing to be worried about. :-) After my initial freak-out I actually really enjoyed doing my copyedits (which caused my editor to chuckle). It's definitely something to look forward to. :-)

Tamara--Nope, you sound like you're ready for the next step in the journey, too. :-) I was apprehensive at first, seeing those post-it notes, but after I read them I was really happy. No big deal--and it showed that someone was taking a lot of time to help me, too. I like that. :-)