Better Books through Collaboration—
Notes on the Process of Getting Published
Copyright 2001 by Patricia Anderson
Anyone who has ever written anything of substance knows that good manuscripts are not made in heaven. They come from a much less comfortable place where it seems like you spend an eternity writing, rewriting, self-editing, proofreading, printing copy, proofreading it, editing some more, reprinting copy, and so on . . .
But finally your work is done, and you have a polished piece of writing—ready for the world to see. Here, as we all know, is where eternity gets even longer, as you send out your manuscript to agents or publishers and anxiously await their replies. And as we also all know, many of these will be less than encouraging. Still, there is that polished manuscript of yours, and you know it's good. So you persevere and, eventually, you achieve your goal. You've got a publisher!
Up to this point, the process of writing and getting published is a mostly solitary endeavor. Sure, your friends and family are supportive. But this has been your creation, your rewriting, and your sleepless nights, as you waited for the right publisher's door to open. Now it's happened and your status as lonely writer is about to change, as you become part of a process of collaboration whose ultimate aim is a better book.
And here's one of those catch-22s of getting published. One reason you now have a publisher is because you worked so hard to polish your manuscript. But from the publisher and marketing committee's perspective, polished is just the beginning. They want it to be perfect—or close enough to perfect to sell effectively.
Your initial contact in the collaboration process is the person who opened the door in the first place—your publisher or acquiring editor. He or she will generally work with you to guide you through any necessary rewrites or major editorial changes. This can be a challenging phase of the book production process, but also one of the most creative times. So you stay with it, and the result is a better book-in-the-making than your original manuscript ever was.
But it doesn't end yet. Now the acquiring editor passes the revised work to a copyeditor, who goes through it line-by-line. The copyeditor will correct small errors of grammar and style, suggest minor rewrites, read for consistency and coherence, and query you about possible errors, omissions, or confusing statements.
Meanwhile, a book designer has been at work on a cover and page layout. Others in marketing have prepared catalogue copy, and still others are working on market positioning and promotional strategy. You, the author, are usually asked for your input at this stage.
Once the design is set and the copyediting issues are ironed out and keyed in by an inputter, the manuscript goes to the printer. When you see it next, it's in the form of page proofs. Now, you, the copyeditor, and at least one other person proofread this version, and mark the errors. It then goes back to the designer for final work, and then to the printer once again.
Then the proofreading process is repeated and, yet again, the printer produces proofs. When at last everyone is satisfied that the proofs are as error-free as possible, they go to the binder.
At this point, you may well feel that this work no longer seems to belong to you anymore. But then it happens—you receive your author's copies of what was once that manuscript you so carefully polished in solitude. Only now it's a book with your name on it. The feeling of ownership returns and it's your book. And not only that, but it's a better book than you originally envisioned—the end result of the collaborative process of getting published.