The Birth of a Book (warning: contains graphic imagery)

September 11th, 2012 · No Comments »

With Bad Grammar reaching the birthing canal, I thought I’d give you a little insight into the process of getting a book ready for birth.

What to Expect When You Are Expecting

Earlier on in the year I blogged about the first structural edit of Bad Grammar, where I added nearly 10,000 words, mainly to describe things (why should I have to do all the work, don’t readers have imaginations??). This of course greatly strengthened the book and I learned a valuable lesson about writing prose. Now let me take you through the second structural edit where I had to cut 4000 words to get it down to a manageable size.

Cutting 4000 words at first seems fairly daunting (but every word is a gem!) however when it comes down to it, it is easier to cut great quantities of words than you think. Simply Tightening sentences and getting rid of superfluous words knocks off a couple of thousand. I discovered I am addicted to the word just. I used it 163 times. Most of these instances I just (ha ha) removed the word and it didn’t affect anything. Now the book has 46 instances of the word that I just (ha ha) couldn’t part with. We’ll see how many more go in the copy edit phase.

So the second structural edit for me was about trimming the fat and ensuring the story flowed smoothly. Whereas the first structural edit really focused on the central story arch, the second structural edit gave more attention to the supporting characters, ensuring they were utilised to their full potential. After every draft you think you’ve got it perfect but of course there are always things to change. There is that famous quote about books never being finished, just abandoned.

So what happens next in the journey of the book?

I get a copy edit this week, where someone much more knowledgeable about the English language scribbles all over the manuscript in a secret code – at least this is what happened with Chicken Stu. I was given a code breaker sheet to tell me what all the different squiggles meant and then I had to go through and approve the changes, or not. The copy edit also helps point out the repetition of words, the awkward sentences and stuff what is like that.

The cover is in the process of being finished. I asked the publisher a while ago how long is spent on the cover and apparently with most books, the cover design starts right when the contract is signed with the author. Concepts and ideas are discussed – in my case, an illustrator was hired and drew up some different ideas that were then pitched at a sales and marketing meeting. I’ve seen the rough drawings of the cover and I think it looks great – really dramatic. You don’t always get to see the cover at this stage – with Chicken Stu, I only saw it when it was at finished stage, and then I could offer my opinion. My opinion is always the same: Couldn’t my name be bigger, like HUGE. I know of a first time author – I won’t mention names – who hated their first cover because of how it related (or didn’t) to their book. At the time I thought they were being a bit precious but the end cover design was so beautiful – so I think it does pay to be vocal, while still having an appreciation that publishers do this for a living and of course they want your book to sell.

After that there is the typesetting and design of the actual text. If my last experience is anything to go by, the author is again able to peruse this – and this is the last chance to proofread everything. You’d be surprised but even at this stage you can find errors. This stage is exciting because your book is starting to look like an actual book.

Sometimes before books are finalised and released, versions of them are used for both reviewing purposes and for international sales. Bad Grammar will be travelling to Frankfurt for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, arguably the biggest book fair in the world. Already my baby is travelling the world and it hasn’t been born yet! Also, new titles are presented to a sales team – these are the individuals who go out to individual bookshops and convince the booksellers why they should put in a HUGE order for your book.

So there you go, there is a bit more insight into the process. Below is some footage of the birth of Chicken Stu (not for the squeamish)

Later in the year I’ll take you through the next phase: what to do with a newly born book, including marketing and nappy changing techniques. Stay tuned!

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