A reviewer asked me how a book gets published. I thought this was an interesting question so I decided to describe how Forgive Us hit the virtual bookshelves around the world.
During the creation of the manuscript, I work with my father who gives me ongoing feedback. I write in Google docs so that it’s easy for him to leave comments as the manuscript develops. Once completed, both my parents review the first and perhaps second draft before the manuscript is sent to my editor.
The professional edit process consists of several steps and involves a lot of rewriting for each step.There’s a good writeup of the editing process at https://blog.reedsy.com/types-of-editing/.
I will have read the book over 50 times before the editing process is done. Following are the steps my editor Alison Rolf and I went through to get Forgive Us ready for publication:
Developmental Editing. Alison provided detailed feedback on “big-picture” issues. The goal for this step is to help refine ideas, shape narrative, and help fix any major plot or character inconsistencies. Basically, the editor looks at just about every element of the story thereby telling me what worked and what didn’t.
At this stage of the process, I received a report with a general critique of everything Alison thought I should change, along with commentary on what was functioning well and should stay in the book. In addition, I received a marked-up version of the manuscript, with specific suggestions as to how I could fix each issue.
Structural Editing. This is pretty much what it sounds like: an approach to improve the story’s structure, such that it works for the particular narrative and keeps the reader engaged.
For example, if the story has tons of twists, a flashback structure might work better to increase suspense than a typical linear chronology. Structural editing also helps to determine if I should split the story into more or fewer chapters, if those chapters are in the ideal order (didn’t apply to Forgive Us since chapter order is crucial to the story, and what content I might delete or expand to either tighten up or fill out the story’s structure.
Copy Editing. This part of the editorial process happens when the big-picture issues of a book have been resolved and I’ve done any necessary rewrites. A copy editor’s job is to bring the author’s completed manuscript to a more professional level creating the most readable version of the book, improving clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness. The goal is to bridge any remaining gaps between the author’s intent and the reader’s understanding.
Proofreading. The last major stage of the editing process. Proofreaders are the eagle-eyed inspectors who make sure no spelling or grammar errors make it to the final version of the book. Proofreaders are extremely meticulous, as they should be — their painstaking review of your manuscript ensures that your text is 100% polished before going to print.
With the help of Alison, Forgive Us went from a good first attempt to a real good book. Her input and insights were invaluable and I highly recommend that you use a professional editor if you intent to publish a book.
In parallel with this, the book cover needed to be developed. I’ll write about the journey of the cover in another blog post but it’s safe to say that the first few attempts were quite amateurish until I hired a professional artist Robert Williams. Unfortunately, I received a lot of feedback from my publicist that this cover was too dark so I set up a competition at 99designs.com for cover proposals, which received over 100 proposals. The current cover is the winning design from the competition. I also had Robert develop a special cover that will be used for a special occasion. In addition, Robert created depictions of the main characters in Forgive Us, which you can see in some of my social media posts.
In addition to all the above, I also had to create the blurb; that is, the summary of the book. Writing a good blurb is an art in itself. I’ve written a blog post on what’s involved in that process. See https://etgunnarsson.com/chasing-the-blurb/.
After all the above, then you need to go through the typesetting and get ISBN numbers for the different editions of the book. Forgive Us is published on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Lulu, and many other book distributors.
Forgive Us is now available as an audiobook, too. You can listen to a sample from the book here.