What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
How Babies are Made Part III: Delivery

Heh, see how neatly that little analogy comes together? I’m just so clever.

(Part one of this little series can be found here. Part two is here.)

When last we left little FOUR on its journey to the bookshelves, I was forcing myself to look at my stupid galleys, the Sales people were tallying the number of orders they managed to coerce and blackmail out of the poor bookstore buyers, my publicist was, well, probably dealing with far more important people than me. But she’s also probably getting together a list of review magazines/sites/blogs/whatevers to send ARCs to, if the publisher is doing ARCs, which they don’t always.

In dramatic time, it’s around June, or five months prior to release date.

16. Using the copyedited ms that was sent to me as a galley, the file is sent to the printer for ARCs if they’re being done. The timing on this bit is a tad sketchy, and really depends on how close we are to release date. But generally, if I’m not mistaken, ARCs are printed from that same ms that was sent to me, either with my corrections or before my corrections are added. They aren’t printed immediately, but they’re sent to enter a queue at the printer. This is why ARCs say “UNCORRECTED PROOF” in big letters, and it’s why you may get an ARC that is essentially pristine but another with more errors; some mss don’t get as many editing passes before it goes to ARC, because of the lead-time required.

17. I send my galleys back. I have now Officially Signed Off–so to speak–on the book. Nothing should be changed now that I have not approved.

Not that the galley process is done, oh no. My changes are input, and another galley is printed. That galley is reviewed in-house, for typos or errors that may have been missed the first umpteen times everyone looked at the ms. (By now we all hate my book, and wish it would just go away so we wouldn’t have to look at the damned thing ever again.) If there are any changes made, those are inputted again.

18. Cover art is finalized. This actually happened a while ago but I forgot to put it in. But it’s all done now. Sometimes, if the bookstores don’t seem too enthusiastic about a particular cover when the Sales teams visit them, a new one is quickly put together. That happens more often than you might think, but not as often as it might seem. (Hee.) Anyway. So you might have a new cover being finalized now, so it’s not totally out of place here.

19. ARCs are printed in August, and sent out shortly after to those reviewers etc. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few; my agent will get a buttload (that’s about twenty, for books) of them as well to send to the foreign market to try to convince them how great I am and that they should totally buy foreign rights for my books or they’ll be sorry because who could resist such a bundle of fabulosity? Nobody, that’s who.

ARCs must be sent out at least three months in advance of the deadline dates for the November issues of whatever magazines or whatever the book is being sent to. At LEAST. If we want reviews in those magazines the month of release, we have to meet their deadlines.

20. Everything is sent off to the printers now. Whoo! That galley that dozens of people have looked at, and that all those people in the Production department lovingly entered and checked and checked and entered, and those nifty covers, are put together into a special file and sent off.

21. Books are printed. It’s probably, let’s say…the middle of October. Or rather, for a November 1st on-sale date, the printing will need to be finished by the middle of October. Why? Because now we have shipping & distribution, which is a whole big thing I only know a very little bit about. But I will share that little bit of knowledge with you, dearies.

22. All of those books are printed, boxed, and shipped to the distributer and/or warehouser. I used to be better able to explain the difference, but it’s not particularly important at the moment. All you need to know is, they divide the books into the amounts of boxes that go to, say, B&N, Borders, and Amazon. There are about fifty books in a box. For smaller indie stores or other online venues they may break up some of those boxes, so Murder by the Book in Houston might get twenty copies of FOUR and ten copies each of UG, UM, and CoG, because of course everyone wants to buy lots and lots of my books, right? Why would a bookstore stock any others?

23. Anyway. The books for B&N et al go to their big divisional warehouses, according to what sells in that area. Like, if UF sells big in the Northwest, the Northwest will get 5000 copies, whereas an area like the upper Midwest may only get 2000 because that genre doesn’t sell so much there. From those regional warehouses they get distributed and shipped to the individual stores.

24. It is now probably a week or so before release date. If all goes well, and according to the way it should, those boxes should sit in the storerooms of the individual stores until release day, when they are unboxed and placed lovingly on the shelves or towers or front tables by happy, smiling booksellers, all of whom love me and want to force their customers to buy my books even if said customer is a ten-year-old boy (hey, these are sales numbers we’re talking about. I’m ruthless).

What often happens is the poor, overworked booksellers, who just want to fill the shelves, or who have plans next Tuesday (books are released on Tuesdays, just like DVDs, unless they’re superspecial Event releases like Harry Potter books or something) and so want to get the hell out of that store that day, or whatever, will open boxes early and put the books on the shelves. It happens. And I still say that unless and until someone learns they lost out on hitting the NYT because fifty copies sold the week prior, it’s something writers should just suck up. Yes, it’s better when they wait. We all love it when they wait. It reminds us that there is order in the universe, and that sometimes that order is Good and Just, and makes us feel that sweet “all is right with the world,” sort of feeling as we tuck into our little beds at night.

But there is also Chaos in the world, and books getting shelved on Saturday because Melinda’s manager told her to stop standing around like that and just fucking do something are part of that Chaos. Yin and Yang, people, Yin and Yang.

25. Books are on the shelves! Oh, happy day! Now is the best part. All of you wonderful reader people can lie up outside the bookstore at eight a.m., wearing your Downside t-shirts and stuff (hey, this is my damn fantasy here so shut up), singing songs and drinking beer or whatever until the bookstore opens, the cops show up, an impromptu musical number breaks out, or all of the above, and you buy your copies of FOUR, which you then rush home to shower with love in a purely non-sexual sort of way (or maybe not; what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, chickies). Meanwhile I sit at home, cowering, terrified that not only will there be no dance routines, there will be no sales at all, and at the end of the week my agent will call me to say not a single copy sold and there’s a cadre of angry bookstore managers about to rush the Del Rey offices and burn them down for wasting their valuable shelf space with my drivel.

And that is it. How a mss becomes a book. Isn’t that a sweet story?

I’m sure I messed up some timelines a bit and/or left some steps out. I’m not an actual employee at a publishing house, and some houses do things a bit differently. But this is based on my experience. my observations, and that of people I know, including a few very helpful answers/bits of info from Jessie at Random House. Thanks, Jessie.

Any questions?

6 comments to “How Babies are Made Part III: Delivery”

  1. Marie
    · August 31st, 2010 at 2:12 pm · Link

    I’m very impressed by how you’re able to make a walkthrough of the making of a book so funny (as well as interesting)!

    I’m already planning what I’m going to wear, and writing lyrics for the songs we’re going to sing, when I’m waiting in line for FOUR next year. 😉

    I’m curious to know how common it is to make major changes to the book late in the process. There seems to be quite a few turnarounds between the galleys and ARCs.

    The reason I’m interested in this in particular is because of what I became aware of after talking to people about Twilight. I’ve only read the books in English (except for “research” purposes), but a lot of people who’d read the books in both English and Swedish, mentioned that there were major differences in the books, which we found very strange. We couldn’t understand the reason for making the changes. The epigraph was different, and the epilogue had whole paragraphs missing or added and we couldn’t figure out why. So we managed to get hold of the translator and she let us know that when she translated the book, she had done so by using an ARC (or ARE, I can’t remember the exact wording).

    Finding this out made me angry and worried for a few reasons. The main reason was because I wasn’t sure how much I could trust translations anymore. It’s actually been a long time since I read a book that wasn’t written in English, and if that’s the original language of the book, that’s the language I’ll read it in. That way I can be sure that I’m reading what everyone else is reading. But what if I’m going to read a book that’s originally written in Russian for example? A language I can’t read. Then I can’t be sure if it’s actually the final product that I’m reading.

    The translator I talked to, said it was up to the US publisher to tell the foreign publisher of any changes that are made late in the process. I have to admit that I found it very strange that not all changes are relayed, just what the publisher chooses to share. Wouldn’t that be in the author’s/publisher’s best interest?

    When something like this happens I’m not sure which book to see as the “real” book. The Swedish translation of Twilight is in a way interesting to read, because you get to see the changes that are made late in the process before publishing the US version, but it’s still strange to know that it’s not really the same book.

    This has kept me wondering how big the changes have to be for the publisher to contact the foreign publisher, or if it depends on the US publisher or the kind of book. The Swedish translator told me that when it comes to certain details in the translation, they would probably have been more careful if they’d known how popular the books would be, and how they’d be scrutinized. Which makes me more worried and wondering if that means that we only deserve a correct translation if the books are popular.

    A long explanation for what is basically a short question, but because I love books, and I love words, these are things that really ignites my passion.

  2. Shiloh Walker
    · August 31st, 2010 at 2:59 pm · Link

    I’m so glad to I’m not the only one who hates seeing a book by the time it’s hit that last pass stage– 👿

    Time-consuming drawn out process. Drives me nuts. Why do we do this?

  3. Layla Messner
    · August 31st, 2010 at 3:27 pm · Link

    This series has been so helpful. Thank you!

  4. BernardL
    · August 31st, 2010 at 4:24 pm · Link

    Yikes! :)

Leave a Reply to Marie

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe without commenting