Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Road to Publication - Copy Edits & Author Alterations (aka: Proof that I'm Not as Smart as I Think I Am)

So this week brought another first in the journey to become a published author for Harlequin Intrigue. Each of these milestones have been exciting and terrifying at the same time. And because each is so new to me, it's stressful. Way stressful.

One First that wasn't stressful - My first Advance check!
My editor sends me something -- a file, a question, a form to fill out -- and I do it. But then I wonder: are my comments understandable? are they appropriate? are they even wanted in some cases?

And, you know me, I always have a comment. About everything. I'm sure there has been times when my editor wished she had never signed me.

Regardless, I'm trying to treasure and appreciate every step as it comes because I know I will never have another first book. It's kind of like parenting: you love all your kids, but everything is unique, new, terrifying and unexpected with the first one.

This week, I received my first ever set of Copy Edits.  Basically, a copy editor and my main editor had gone through and marked up my manuscript -- everything from formatting to grammar/spelling, to overall consistency issues, to just better ways of writing a particular sentence. It was pretty brutal -- like being back in college. If their comments had just been in red ink, it would've bled just like a Freshman English paper all over again.

Here's a sample:

My Copy Edits

This is a reasonably mild page in term of comments, some had many more. Of my 220-page book, there were only about 10 pages that didn't have some sort of correction.

Anything that was undeniably wrong -- the blue words in the text itself above -- was just automatically changed for me, I had no say in that. But anything that required an opinion, something that could go either way, I had to approve. That's where the blue and red boxes came in. For the record, I agreed with probably 95% of their suggested changes.

So after the initial shock and embarrassment of "OMG, how did I miss so many errors?" wore off, and the perfectionist in me who doesn't like any red marks on her paper, was stuffed and gagged, it really wasn't too bad. I made what changes I needed to and I was able to get it back to my editor within a couple of days.

My Author Alteration file
And, to my surprise, a couple hours later my editor sent my Author Alteration (AA) proofs. This is basically my last chance to make any changes and catch any errors within my book. Once I send that file back (due mid-October), I am stating that, as far as I'm concerned, the book is officially and completely finished and error-free. It will then go to a second copy editor one last time for anything me, my editor, the first copy editor (and then me again) might all have missed.

And darn if that doesn't look just like a book. Like a real, live book. That people will hopefully buy and read come April 2014.

So here's my "Road to Publication" Timeline so far:
May 2012 - Sent a back cover blurb & 100-word snippet to Intrigue team as part of a contest; Editor requested first three chapters and full synopsis

June 2012 - Sent requested chapters and synopsis

October 2012 - Received (amidst the 2012 "So You Think You Can Write" Contest Madness - I'm still embarrassed to think about it) request for full manuscript from editor (read about that request here)

December 2012 - Sent full manuscript to editor

June 18, 2013 - Received "The Call" from Harlequin -- they wanted to buy and publish my book in April 2014

Mid-July 2013 - Asked to submit the "Art Fact Sheet" for my manuscript.  A list of a billion questions (about characters, locales, seasons, etc.) from which they will develop the cover of my book. So if my hero looks like Fabio, I only have myself to blame.

August 1, 2013 - After much discussion back and forth, I was notified that the title of my Harlequin Intrigue book would be Primal Instinct (read about that here)

Sept 10, 2013 - Received copy edits; made changes and returned on 9/12/13

Sept 12, 2013 - Received AA (author alteration) file; due mid-October.

There's other stuff I know I still have to do before next April when the book comes out, and I'm looking forward to that too. It's all a little bit scary, but a whole lot of awesome.


  1. LOL!! I just posted almost the exact same blog post! As a So You Think You Can Write contestant turned signed author, we seem to be going through the same things at the same time. I can completely relate to the surreal feeling of seeing things come together. Congratulations to you - can't wait to read your book when it's all finished!

    1. Blahahaha, Amy -- I almost used that exact picture you used in your blog post in mine. (I love it). It's definitely exciting times! When is your book coming out?

    2. January - I had one week to do my AA. I guess the upside of short deadlines is getting that book in my hands faster. I am pretty sure I will cry when that happens. I'm sure you can relate to that too!

  2. Thankyou so much for sharing your post-"the call" experience so that those of us who are still aspiring might know what happens next ;) Lovely to have a peek into the publishing world.
    And that pic of you with your cheque! I love it. Good luck with your last few alterations xx

  3. Janie,
    I hopped over here from the Har. boards. Thank you for sharing all the steps along your journey from writer to published author. Your honesty and humor are so excellent. I can't wait to see that translate into your books. I don't normally read suspense, but Primal Instinct will be on the top of my TBR pile next April.

    1. Aww, thanks so much, Lee. I'm pretty sure my irreverent humor finds its way into almost everything I write. :) I really hope you'll like Primal Instinct

  4. Janie! This makes me so happy. I haven't followed along as closely as I should this year, and I'm so excited to see all that's happened with your book. The NaNo writing brigade cheers you on! :D

    1. Thanks Amanda! Hope you're doing well. Will you be doing NaNo this November?

  5. I know how you feel about the copyedits phase. Believe me, I took notes because, like you, I want a cleaner version coming through next time. :-)

    1. Yeah, Barb, it was pretty brutal. But seeing all the mistakes laid out for me really helped me see some of my problems more clearly.

  6. Congrats Jane! You are such a great addition to the Intrigue line!! Can't wait to read your book! BJ

    1. Thanks so much, BJ! I'm hard at work on my next books, but can't wait until April! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Wooo! Love the picture! Kicking myself now for not having thought of that.

    It's so neat to see how the different offices do things differently. Though now that I say that, I realize that sometimes different lines in the same office do things differently. I've never filled out an art fact sheet yet, the Medical editors do it, but my Presents pal Michelle Smart does her own. And I don't think either of us see and approve the line edits or format the book, we go right from the last round of revisions and into the AA's.

    I'm thinking I must be being spoiled... that's 2 steps I don't have to learn how to do!

    Enjoy it the first time around, for sure. Next up: the cover glee. (If you haven't yet, email Miranda to get on the list to have it emailed to you when it's in the system!)

    1. I am both thrilled and terrified to see the cover, Amalie. I'm not sure when that will be -- maybe January for an April release? I love the new (more realistic) direction the Intrigue covers have gone that started back in September.