An author creates something from nothing, a whole world of people, situations, places, and conflicts that up till now did not exist. Her words ultimately enter the minds of readers who then get to experience her genius. Even after he is gone, thoughts from the author’s mind can continue to speak to people for countless generations through his book. Here I present that book’s journey from when we receive it to publication from the point of view of an editor.
After the author has completed the book, revised it, had it critiqued by other writers, revised it again (and tossed it into the trash and resurrected it), and so on, the author must then find a publisher, which is not an easy task. Larger publishers generally only allow agented submissions while small press will often allow authors to submit manuscripts directly. Guidelines can vary and are generally posted on publishers’ websites. (Best not to ignore those guidelines. Why give an editor another reason to say no?) If the author is fortunate to have the manuscript accepted--usually publishers can only accept a small fraction of what they receive--the author and publisher start a new relationship and the first steps toward releasing the book.
When an author hears her book has been accepted (after waiting forever) she generally celebrates. Little known fact: the editor also celebrates, which sometimes involves much jumping around and screaming (but only in private), particularly if the book is from a new author, one the editor has now “discovered.” (Editors have egos, so go ahead and let them believe that.) The time toward publication varies, but for our press it can take up to a year, depending on the schedule of books already in the works. During this process, we offer an advance to the author and work up a contract.
Even a well-written book must be edited. The author may think his book is perfect--but it isn’t. Almost. Maybe. At our press, one or two editors and I will go through it and make comments and changes, each of which we run by the author. This usually involves passing the document back and forth with a “track changes” option enabled. Changes for which we disagree, we argue about, then the editor wins (but actually, we work with the author closely on any disputes and can be swayed to the author’s favor). When the manuscript reaches its almost final form, we send that to at least one proofreader who will search for typos and any inconsistencies that have slipped by our expert eyes. We run those by the author and when all corrections have been made, we produce a PDF “proof” layout for the author to read through once again. Sometimes we wait until this stage to send it to a proofreader. Any corrections--usually minor at this point--are made and we produce a file to send to the printer for advance reading copies (ARCs) to be made.
Meanwhile, we have been working on the cover. Sometimes we find already existing art that fits the story well; other times we commission an artist to produce the cover art. In either case, we involve the author in every aspect of this process, as much or as little as the author feels comfortable. Our goal is to produce an eye-catching cover, one that represents the book well (rather than have a catchy cover that has nothing to do with the book, or a rendering of a person who looks nothing like the character in the book). We hope the casual browser will want to pick up the book, read the cover blurbs, open the book, and buy it. The artwork is the foundation for whole cover design layout (the layout design is done by someone other than the artist). We try to have the cover ready in time for when we produce ARCs. The ARC is then very similar to the finished book.
When the ARCs are ready, we send them out to reviewers, including the large review magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and to various genre publications such as Locus, SF Review and many others, including prominent bloggers and anyone else we can convince that we are just about to release the best novel of the year. Additionally, we send books to authors and others who have agreed to blurb the book. ARCs are usually produced at least three to four months before publication to keep within the submission requirements of the review magazines.
When the ARCs are in circulation, we have one last chance to make corrections to the text and cover, which we can do up to about a month before release. Then the book goes to the printer in its final form. During those last three months we also we concentrate on marketing. Publishers, large and small, generally expect authors to help market. This includes getting around their communities and getting word out. Authors are often familiar with local bookstores and other venues that work for launching a book. We have done bookstore signings, house parties, and held launches in local historic places that will accommodate a good number of attendees. Often, the author will get an interview at a local publication and get the book launch included in local events schedules.
But we don’t expect the author to do the majority of the marketing. Our publicist produces press releases for local papers. We market the book directly to bookstores, particularly those where we’ve already done business. We contact libraries (especially those who already have titles by us) and let them know about the reviews. We place ads in the large magazines to support the books being reviewed there. Each book brings a new challenge and we always look for new ways to get attention. We attend conventions such as the World Science Fiction Convention and the World Fantasy Convention, and other conventions where we can meet all kinds of fascinating people. Sometimes we launch new books at those. We partner with convention-attending booksellers to make our titles available and sometimes we acquire a dealer room table and masquerade as hucksters ourselves. We make sure awards committees are aware of our titles--and we’ve had several books requested, including one that made the final list. Stories from our anthologies have been included in “best of” anthologies and have been nominated for awards such as the Hugo. All of these help lend much-deserved credibility to the new book.
Just before release, the book is placed with distributors from which booksellers and libraries will be able to order. The physical book is ready for the author to hold in her or his own hands. And then on the day of release, we try to make a lot of noise and we encourage the author to do so as well.
We not only produce hardcovers and paperbacks, but we offer titles on Kindle and soon they will be available in other formats. We’re entering a whole new world of publishing and we want the be at the forefront of new markets for author.
Publicity is essential for a successful release. Some of the areas where we’ve been successful have come from positive reviews (it’s during this time, just before or just after release, that libraries and book sellers are seeing reviews of the book), blogging by friends and acquaintances and their friends and acquaintances, and podcasted interviews. As the book makes its way to readers, word of mouth becomes an important way of getting books out to even more readers. (I remember a certain book that had a first small print run, only to gain from word of mouth. . .) After the book is released we continue to market it, and can set up book tours to help increase visibility of the book and its author.
Our titles remain in print for as long as the authors have granted us rights (and if we want to keep publishing them, we’ll beg for extensions). Best of all, with each new author, we have formed a new relationship that we hope lasts forever.