I can give you self-publishers and indie authors an idea of the order of how things get done on the industry side, because I do a lot of work for a book design company, although I know that I do not know everything. Since you are doing it all on your own I thought you might like an idea of some of what is involved behind the scenes.
The first parts are for the author to do, the rest is where support personnel come in: beta readers (usually other authors or writing groups), agents (if you are lucky), publication editors, structural editors, copy editors, keyboarders or formatters, interior designers, cover artists, proofreaders, and printers. Some of these don’t apply to everyone, some apply to anyone who wants to produce a quality product, some to only print books, some to eBooks, some to all books, and some may never apply to the indie author who is self-publishing but can give a little bit of insight into the book industry.
- Write the first draft.
- Re-write 3 or 5 times.
- Get some beta readers (you can join an author’s group online or see if there is a local writer’s group in your area; colleges usually have one and often will welcome non-student writers).
- Do another draft.
- Before you decide if you want to publish an eBook or send the manuscript to a publication company or agent, you need to ask yourself what is best for you. If you are going to self-publish there are a lot of steps to take before doing the self-publish, if you want to do it right. If you are going to submit to an agent, you might want to get an intro to that agent from another author (another good reason to join a writer’s group). If you are going to submit it to a publishing house, do some research and determine which publishers print the books in your genre, what their guidelines for submission are, what they require for print and format for submissions, and how many copies they expect you to send if it is going to be hard copy – this is usually available on their websites but you may need to enquire. If you are submitting to an agent or publication company, you might want to have a structural editor or copy editor look it over before you submit it. Ask yourself this: How many authors submit books to publishers every year? And will they even bother to read my submission if it is not structurally sound and ‘clean copy’ (meaning minimal typos and mechanical errors)?
- Send it to the structural editor for big picture info (unless you have a line or copy editor that can pull double duty and provide that service as well, or the agent is doing that for you).
- Do another draft.
- Now you need to get a copy editor to find the things that beta readers never notice, since they are usually authors and miss the same things you would. Structural editors focus on the big picture, and don’t really attend to punctuation and grammar unless it smacks them in the forehead. The copy editor will (hopefully, if you get a decent one) catch grammar, mechanics, and even some of the structural issues.
- Run through the corrections and decide what to keep and what to toss out. Notice things that are consistent issues so you can work on improving your writing.
- Do yet another draft – you are almost done doing drafts!
- Get an editorial read done, though this is not always needed. Usually a copy editor can double at this part, doing a follow up of things that have been changed from the original to the current, but it is not a substitute for the copy edit unless you are an exceptionally clean writer (i.e., great grasp of grammar, understand punctuation and other mechanics of writing, and don’t need to rely on spell check or grammar check, etc.). This step can and often does follow the next step.
- Now keying, formatting, and proofreading – in that order. Proofreaders are there to catch the things that aren’t keyed right, and if you are using a service to format they should include proofreaders unless you are providing a fully keyed product ready to format. Some authors use formatting programs from different sources and do it themselves. This means you need to compare the finished product to the manuscript you started with and either have a proofreader go through it, or PROOFREAD it yourself, for sections that went missing in the formatting or were added incorrectly; as well as correct word breaks, change things that are not well broken in the page, tweak and twist things into place so the page has improved continuity and flow and visual appeal. Meanwhile watching for the inevitable errors that everyone so far has missed – because they are there. Keep in mind that most professional proofreaders do NOT actually read the book – their job is to make sure that there were no changes made between the manuscript authorized for print and the keying and formatting of the manuscript. They are required to work at such a fast pace that they do not really pay attention to content, although they are stellar at noticing niggly little typographical or mechanical errors in the ‘final’ manuscript. This is why it is that nearly thirty years ago I failed at proofreading, which was my first position in the book industry – I kept reading the manuscript and it slowed me down.
- Next, cover design – even if it was really the first thing you conceptualized – but get the blurb checked by your beta readers, copy editor, and maybe even some random folks out there in the world, before doing the cover design. That way you know you can get at least a one-line blurb inset into the front, and the full blurb or else reviews onto the back. This is often done simultaneously with the format and design of the interior, in the event that art needs to be consistent throughout. BUT if you are paying for one thing at a time and working to self-publish, that sometimes is not financially possible. Sometimes a very simple cover is better than a really complicated one – as long as the artwork is original or intriguing.
- Publish it! This is assuming you know that you are indeed self-publishing. At this point, having paid for all the steps up until now yourself, you probably better know that you are self-publishing or you just wasted a lot of money, because publishing companies use their own software and will re-format and re-proofread, and maybe even go back and re-edit the whole thing. Then they will determine what cover art will be best able to attract the largest portion of the intended audience, and they will change your pre-conceived cover design to suit the demographics of the audience that THEY think your book is targeting.
- Don’t forget to add an insert promoting previous or upcoming books in the front or back, as well as a note that tells us something about you, the author (with links to websites for readers to visit to see about upcoming books or other books already published as well as information on you, how to contact you, and what things you are up to – like book signings or conventions you are going to attend). Knowing something about you makes you real to the reader and they will become fans because you respond to THEM.
- So – you next need to find that online publication promoter, or hire a printer to print your book and try to sell hard copy.
- NOW start looking for avenues of getting it out there into the internet as a viable piece of reading material if you haven’t been doing that all along. Have a website? Even if it is one of those freebie ones? Post the titles of your work and your upcoming work. Got a blog? Use it. Got Facebook? Start a business page as an author. Don’t know any beta readers? Start a group of your own on, and police it to keep your name out there and visible, even if all you do is post the list of rules once a month. Use your author name on all of these things. You want to interconnect everything as much as you possibly can so you increase the possibility of reaching more people!
- Remember – the fans and readers are the ones that pay for the books you slaved over, so make sure that you find a way to let them have a voice! The wide variety of available social networking tools out there will help you reach your target audience if you use good tags on your blog, occasionally promote your site, and you actually respond to the comments where appropriate! Having a running conversation on your page or blog with several fans at the same time keeps you in their email and therefore in their minds. Ideally you have been posting running commentary on how long before the book will hit the market and where it will be available, so you have folks already wanting to buy it before it is even on the shelf/website!
Hopefully that all made sense and will be helpful to someone. Long winded today, aren’t I? I re-did this thing four times before I was totally happy with it, then edited it three times once I posted it…