In Part 1, I talked about the editing and design of a new book. Now come the three “P’s” of book publishing: proofing, printing and publicity. Proofing is one of those tediously joyless tasks that requires a trained eye and a solid grasp of grammar and mechanics. It’s easy to want to just delegate the proofing to your publisher’s editorial staff. But it’s important for writers to proof their work in galleys. This is our book and we’re the ones who will likely catch things others miss, ambiguities of meaning we didn’t intend, a sentence or phrase that may be wrongly construed, an error of fact we may have noticed after the manuscript was submitted. Readers delight in pointing those things out to writers.
Here’s what proofing looks like:
This is a photo of five sets of galleys/page proofs for my new novel A Stone for Bread. My husband and I each proofed a copy of the first set. I’ve been a professional editor in the past. He’s just a really, really good proofreader. After we’d made corrections and changes, I turned a third set of proofs over to a former Charlotte Observer editor who found all the errors we missed! What I then sent the publisher was a single corrected copy.
A few weeks later, I received a second set of proofs. My husband and I once again carefully read through the entire book. Next came a third version of page proofs, this one bound into a book with the paperback cover so it could be sent to reviewers. I again read through the entire novel. For a 299 page book, six readings of page proofs was about like reading a Jonathan Franzen novel, except boring!
The printing process these days goes hand in hand with proofing. Digital printing has revolutionized book production. What the author proofs on galleys will be what the final book will basically look like, which in the publishing business is known as WYSIWYG, the wonderful acronym for “What You See is What you Get.” The photo below shows how typesetting USED to be done:
Yes, that’s a newspaper being set in type but it’s an interesting old photo. Imagine what it was like to set type for a daily paper.
If you want to learn more about typography and typesetting, I’d suggest checking out this excellent site on typesetting.
Once set in type and carefully proofed, a book is ready to be issued. That’s when (if you’re not named Grisham or Harper Lee or a well-established author) the process will often shift from the publisher to the author for marketing the book. We writers often chafe at this. After all, we wrote the book and did what it took to secure an agent or publisher. Why should we have to also do the publicity for it?
Because that’s just the way it is in today’s marketplace.
Publishers will send out press releases and pre-publication copies to reviewers. They may guide a first-time author in setting up events and generating publicity. But more often than not, we’re on our own. Even when we aren’t, a writer needs to take personal responsibility for getting the word out about a newly published book. This can mean contacting local and area bookstores, newspapers and other media outlets like radio and television, utilizing social media to keep friends informed of news and events and having business cards and bookmarks designed and printed. Or if it’s affordable, hiring a publicist.
I find sending out a postcard to friends both locally and across the country is a good marketing tool. And if that’s too pricey, there’s e-mail. Writers tend to be introverts: we spend our days in front of a computer. But it’s essential we learn how to promote ourselves, how to speak effectively at readings, how to generate interest in our work. For a few pointers, take a look at my earlier post Necessary Arrogance.
And when that very long year is over and we hold a newly published book in our hands, our name on the cover, it will all have been worth it.