At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed!

(The Joy of Publishing, Part 2)

Last week we talked about the closely guarded secrets of the publishing process, beginning with acquisitions and developmental editing (which is sometimes called substantive editing). I know you’ve all been salivating in anticipation of the rest of this, so let’s get started.

When the developmental phase is done, the manuscript is returned to the publisher by the dev editor. Now it’s ready for copyediting.

Some publishers call this line editing—because the copyeditor goes through the book line by line to improve the writing, check grammar and punctuation, and to make it consistent with U.S. publishing standards (by using one of the professionally accepted style guides, such as the The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most common; currently we are using the sixteenth edition). Some publishers do this in-house, but many send it out.

A copyeditor should be a good writer, because sometimes he will need to rewrite sentences or paragraphs; however, this type of writing has to mimic the style and voice of the author. And regardless of what the CMS says to do in a particular instance, the most important thing in copyediting is consistency in writing and format and conventions throughout the manuscript. You can read about other things the copyeditor does here (scroll down).

What the copyeditor is responsible for (as opposed to what the author is responsible for) is clearly delineated in the CMS. It helps to have someone who is well-read, with a broad base of knowledge, to do the copyediting. The copyeditor should question everything the author says, and be able to sense when claims are (ahem) outlandish. :) A good copywriter can sometimes offer a critique of a manuscript (a short developmental commentary) as he copyedits, and might well do it, whether he’s asked to or not. (Goodness. Did I say that out loud?)

The copyeditor develops a style guide as he works through the manuscript. The style guide is of particular importance to everything that follows in the process. In nonfiction, the style guide will be comprised of at least two sections: the conventions used (for example, the Oxford comma), and the word list (in fiction, there should also be a list of characters and their descriptions). When the book goes to the proofing stage, the style guide is provided to the proofers for their reference. I also provide the style guide to the author, so there are no questions about why I did what I did (since authors often aren’t even aware of the existence of the CMS, much less that some of us are slavishly devoted to it); I often leave notes in the style guide specifically for the author.

When the manuscript has been copyedited, it is returned to the in-house editor, who sends it to the author for approval. The editor will often send a cover letter of explanation, as often what returns to the author has changed a lot (and many authors, especially new ones, don’t understand the process)!

Once the manuscript is author approved, it is sent to the typesetter.

The only appropriate way to typeset a book is by using a page layout program, such as InDesign. These programs have powerful tools with which to manipulate type and text in a professional manner. Microsoft Word is not a page layout program, no matter what their advertising folks would like to have you believe.

The typesetter imports the manuscript from Word into a template he’s designed for this specific book; this is called “pouring” the pages. Most publishers have now electronically automated this process—which also is useful for formatting e-books.

Now the manuscript looks like a real book! The typesetter returns a .pdf of the book to the in-house editor, who has it proofed. (He might also send it to a printer for galleys, which is why—if you’ve ever been given a galley—it says “Uncorrected Proof” on the cover.)

Publishers hire three to five first-pass proofers to read the typeset book. This is not like getting your mom to proofread your term paper!

Like the copyeditor, the proofer must be very familiar with the CMS. Unlike the copyeditor—who does his work on the computer, using Word’s track changes function—the proofer works with a red pen on a hard copy. The proofer checks for things the copyeditor might have missed, of course, but his job is not to tweak words. Instead, his primary function is to check things that only become apparent after the book is typeset, such as running heads, page numbers, word breaks at the end of the line on justified text, widows and orphans, chapter and section breaks, general consistency in how the text template is handled … and on and on.

While the proofers are reading the book, the .pdf is generally sent to the author, for his or her approval (again). Any last-minute author changes (and they are discouraged) will be made when the proofers’ marks come in.

The in-house editor collects the marked-up proofs, and creates a clean copy, combining all the marks in one document (not all proofers catch the same things, interestingly, which is why more than one is hired). This collected proof is sent back to the typesetter for corrections.

If there were a lot of markups or serious issues with the first pouring of the pages, the editor might hire one or two second-pass proofers (people who did not work on the first-pass proof), and have the book completely reread. If the first-pass proof was routine, the editor herself will simply check the corrections, and move on to the next phase, which is to have the typesetter prepare the files for the printer.

… And that, dear ones, is how your manuscript becomes a book. Obviously, there is another chapter involving the printing process, but I’m done.

Tweet: How your manuscript becomes a book! The Joy of Publishing, part 2.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in The Book Biz, Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , | Bookmark the permalink | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

5 Comments

  1. Wow Jamie—a tour de force! Bravo to ya for letting self-published authors see what they’re missing. And this one post only covered the second HALF of the editing process, which only starts after the author has “finished” her book.

    This is one for the time capsule I tell ya—la capsule du temps!

    • jamiechavez says:

      Thank you, Wayne. I think it’s also important for those who think e-books are overpriced. Left out of this generic systems analysis is the step in which the manuscript is formatted as an e-book too. There’s a lot of work gone into a book before it’s printed!

  2. […] Back to Jamie Chavez Read>Play>Edit Your sometimes cranky editor writes about books, writing, & editing, words & language, and the publishing industry. Skip to content About « What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate … At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed! » […]

  3. […] the one about what I mean when I say I’m an editor, and my two-parter on the publishing process (here’s part 2), which incorporates the terms I have used as long as I’ve worked in the publishing […]

  4. […] created during the typesetting process: line breaks, page numbering, running heads, and so on. As we’ve discussed before, on a first-pass proof, most publishers hire more than one proofer for a book. That’s because […]

  5. What is style guide? is it like Romantic books should have kind of romantic tone or Thriller should have thriller kind of tone?

    • Jamie says:

      Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s discussion of style guides. U.S. publishing standards are mostly governed by the Chicago Manual of Style, with some exceptions in certain academic and trade publications. In the case of copyediting, a simple style guide would consist of a list of particular conventions used (italics for inner monologue, for example) and for any executive decisions (like using e. e. cummings instead of E. E. Cummings); in addition it would include a word list (any word in which the spelling might be questioned). In fiction, it might include a list of characters and their descriptions, and so on.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Style_guide

  6. […] typeset but before it goes to the printer, it goes to proofreaders. (I’ve detailed this process here, here, and here). Pages are sent to three to five proofers (because no single human will catch all […]

  7. […] * Sometimes I’ve been hired to handle the next step in addition to the content edit. Sometimes I am the next step, if someone else handled the content edit. ** You can read more about the particular differences in these posts, but in these budget-conscious days publishers tend to bundle it into one process. Every Novel Needs a Developmental Editor Parlez-Vous Editing? What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate The Secret Cookie Recipe At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed […]

5 Trackbacks

  1. By The Secret Cookie Recipe on 11 December, 2011 at 9:23 am

    […] Back to Jamie Chavez Read>Play>Edit Your sometimes cranky editor writes about books, writing, & editing, words & language, and the publishing industry. Skip to content About « What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate … At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed! » […]

  2. By Parlez-Vous Editing? on 16 April, 2012 at 11:42 am

    […] the one about what I mean when I say I’m an editor, and my two-parter on the publishing process (here’s part 2), which incorporates the terms I have used as long as I’ve worked in the publishing […]

  3. By To Err Is Human, to Forgive, Divine* on 13 August, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    […] created during the typesetting process: line breaks, page numbering, running heads, and so on. As we’ve discussed before, on a first-pass proof, most publishers hire more than one proofer for a book. That’s because […]

  4. By The Mysterious Case of the Kitten on the Keyboard on 24 April, 2014 at 11:37 am

    […] typeset but before it goes to the printer, it goes to proofreaders. (I’ve detailed this process here, here, and here). Pages are sent to three to five proofers (because no single human will catch all […]

  5. By Don’t Celebrate Too Soon! on 8 February, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    […] * Sometimes I’ve been hired to handle the next step in addition to the content edit. Sometimes I am the next step, if someone else handled the content edit. ** You can read more about the particular differences in these posts, but in these budget-conscious days publishers tend to bundle it into one process. Every Novel Needs a Developmental Editor Parlez-Vous Editing? What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate The Secret Cookie Recipe At Last! Astonishing Secrets Revealed […]