PDA

View Full Version : Question about galley proofs



Arianne
03-27-2016, 10:43 AM
Bit of background: the MC is a famous (like JK Rowling famous) YA fantasy fiction writer whose third book in a series is out in a few months. However, after submitting the final draft of the book to her publishers, she discovers a reason that she needs to change the plot.

This is my (very vague) understanding of how the publishing process works after an author submits the final draft:

1. You get an edited proof with editor/publisher comments on plot, word choice, inconsistencies etc, which you fix (or don't), following discussions with said editor/publisher, and then send back
2. You get a new proof more like an ARC, where you check for typos and grammatical errors, and tell the editor/publisher
3. The book gets printed and hits stores

Not sure if the above is right. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

So my questions are:

1. Is the proofing process now done electronically or still on paper? Or does it vary by publisher? Or do you get both a paper and digital copy? I would imagine that it's easier to correct printed-out pages. Once you've done the proof correcting, do you send a digital or paper copy back?
2. What is the absolute last stage before printing where you could significantly change the plot? Like, kill a character change? Would famous people get more leeway?

Thanks in advance!

randi.lee
03-27-2016, 03:38 PM
Hi Arianne :-)

Your questions are very agent/publisher specific. Some proof electronically, while others will send you a physical copy to proof. Significantly changing the plot is a bit different, though. I'd suspect significant plot changes should be made as early in the game as possible, as most agents/publishers aren't going to stand for you making serious changes to your story after they've accepted it. Hope that helps!

Captcha
03-27-2016, 04:09 PM
I'd add a few more back-and-forths to most stages of that process, based on my experiences...

Everything's digital. I've never seen a printed version of my MS until the finished book is delivered to me.

The process I've gone through usually starts with substantive editing, where it would actually be fairly normal for the author to change some plot points in response to suggestions from the editor - like, maybe the editor says "I don't really feel like character X has a compelling enough motive for doing thing Y," and then the author says, "Oh, okay, I can add plot points A and B, but that would also mean I'd have to change C, which could actually be pretty cool, because then I'd get to do D!" And changes are made.

After the substantive editing is done it would be pretty annoying to have to make plot changes, though, because after that you're into line edits (looking at the writing itself, like word choices, flow, questions of style). Once an editor has gone over writing in this level of detail, she's probably not going to be too impressed if the author wants to jump back a stage and make substantive changes.

After line edits it's time for copy edits, which are often carried out by a whole different person and look at grammar, continuity, etc.

And then the book gets formatted, and after that it's time for ARCs/galley proofs. My publishers make it very clear that at this stage they are only looking for corrections to things that are actually empirically wrong, like typos or formatting issues.

But... I'm a small fish. JK Rowling is a Great White Shark, and her editors are seals. I've never been JK Rowling, but at her status I assume things are much, much different. So I'm going to get resistance or actual refusal if I try to make substantive changes after the substantive edits are done, but I imagine JK would get a polite question about whether it was really necessary and then some tight smiles as her wishes were carried out. At a certain stage I imagine her publisher might mention that it will cost a lot of money and/or screw up shipping dates if changes are made, but JK could streamroll through that if she felt strongly enough about it. And depending on her reasons for making the change, the publisher might fully support her decision (like, if she was setting things up for a sequel! or, more prosaically, if she's was trying to make sure they didn't get sued).

So - junior writer would have trouble getting changes. JKR? Don't think it'd be an issue.

Arianne
03-27-2016, 05:21 PM
Thanks, randi.lee and Captcha!;)

Following up on what Captcha said...I assume the digital proofs are emailed to the publisher/agent/editor after you've done working on them, rather than sent via CD?

And-do you remember the timeline of the proofing process?
For example how long before publication you were doing substantial edits, line edits etc?

Old Hack
03-27-2016, 06:13 PM
Bit of background: the MC is a famous (like JK Rowling famous) YA fantasy fiction writer whose third book in a series is out in a few months. However, after submitting the final draft of the book to her publishers, she discovers a reason that she needs to change the plot.

This is my (very vague) understanding of how the publishing process works after an author submits the final draft:

1. You get an edited proof with editor/publisher comments on plot, word choice, inconsistencies etc, which you fix (or don't), following discussions with said editor/publisher, and then send back

They're not "proofs" at this stage. Just manuscripts. Proofs come later, once all the editing is done.

A manuscript will be edited, but that doesn't mean it's been changed: all it means is that it has notes attached, with problems highlighted and suggestions made.


2. You get a new proof more like an ARC, where you check for typos and grammatical errors, and tell the editor/publisher

You don't see the book in book form until everything's been done. Sorting out typos etc happens much earlier than ARCs. At this stage it's all done in Word, pretty much, in files which are emailed back and forth.


3. The book gets printed and hits stores

Not sure if the above is right. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

You're missing out quite a few stages. See my summary, below.


So my questions are:

1. Is the proofing process now done electronically or still on paper? Or does it vary by publisher? Or do you get both a paper and digital copy? I would imagine that it's easier to correct printed-out pages. Once you've done the proof correcting, do you send a digital or paper copy back?


Most editing, etc. is now done electronically. Very few publishers work with paper. So you'd only get a digital copy, and that's what you'd send back.

I think you're using the word "proof" to mean "manuscript going through the process of editing". They're not interchangeable. Proofs are final-versions of the book before printing, not documents you intend to change or edit.




2. What is the absolute last stage before printing where you could significantly change the plot? Like, kill a character change? Would famous people get more leeway?

Thanks in advance!

If your books sell enough copies you can change things at pretty much any time in the process, but it might well cost you.

If you are a new writer you won't have the clout to pull a book back once it's gone to press, for example, unless you realise there was a potential legal issue in the book--in which case you'd probably be liable for the costs involved in cancelling the print run, and re-editing the book.

I would not be happy if a writer wanted to make significant changes to a book after we'd already spent time editing it. It would be so disrespectful to everyone who had helped that writer so far. And it would really screw with my production schedules, having what was essentially a new book to edit.

Further, if a book needed a significant adjustment to the plot, this would probably have been picked up by the editor involved, so it wouldn't be appropriate or required.


Thanks, randi.lee and Captcha!;)

Following up on what Captcha said...I assume the digital proofs are emailed to the publisher/agent/editor after you've done working on them, rather than sent via CD?/

Yep. Email all the way.


And-do you remember the timeline of the proofing process?
For example how long before publication you were doing substantial edits, line edits etc?

I've worked on books where I started the first round of edits about eighteen months prior to the publication date. But I've also worked on books which went from signing to publication in five or six weeks, which was a bit of a challenge. So much depends on the book.


When I started work in publishing in the 1980s this is how it worked. Roughly.

Before signing a book I'd discuss with the author what our vision for the books was, and make sure they matched with the author's. Assuming they did, we'd either sign or we'd request revisions and then sign.

When I got a final ms, I'd read it through, make notes, and (usually) within a week or two send the writer my detailed notes. I'd suggest some solutions to problems I'd seen, and so on. The author would then have a few weeks to respond to my notes, and either make the changes I'd suggested, or make different changes, or say why he or she didn't agree with my suggestions (which is fine).

We might have three or four goes at this, until we were both satisfied that the book was as good as we could make it. Each time, printed copies of the book would be exchanged--word processing files, not printed books.

Then I'd send the book to a copy editor, who would fact-check where required, check grammar and punctuation, and house style. The author would then see the copy editor's changes, and approve them (or not).

Until this point it was relatively easy to change almost anything, so long as both I and the author agreed to it.

Book goes to designer and typesetter. I'd see the work a few times during the design process, to make sure the work was taking the book in the right direction. I'd have to go to the designers' offices for this, usually (sometimes it was in-house, sometimes we used external designers).

Author might or might not see it at this stage.

Once design and typesetting was done I would read it through quickly to pick up errors introduced through the design/typesetting process. This would be galley proofs: they're flats, each of a two-page spread. Relatively expensive to get so I didn't have unlimited supplies: usually just one set. The author would see it too; and it would go to a proof reader, who would check again for errors.

Once we were at galley stage it got quite pricey to make changes, to we really wanted only minimal changes at this stage. It would be difficult, for example, to make a change which altered the length of a line of text, so adding a para or deleting a chapter would be a bit of a nightmare.

Once we were all happy with the galleys the whole package would go off to the printers, who would send us a few advance copies before setting the presses off to do the whole run. The printers we used were often in Asia, and so those boxes would take a few days to arrive and if we then found anything which needed changing it would be a big problem. Once we'd approved those, the presses would run. Books would usually arrive a month or so later, sometimes three months, as it was only economic for them to be sent by ship.

There are two ways in which things have changed.

The first is that the process has become shorter, and the number of people involved has reduced. Often the acquisition editor will also do the copy editing, and even the proof read. There are often fewer rounds of editing; sometimes there is no specific copy edit: it's handled as part of the structural edit. The designers of a book will take care of the typesetting too.

The second is that there's almost no paper involved now. Manuscripts are sent via email, and we mark texts up on computers instead of by hand. Galleys are digital, and so on. It's made things happen more quickly: but I think it's harder to pick up all the errors on-screen, and I know many (mostly older!) editors who share my view.

I hope that's a help. And I hope others will compare their experiences, as I know that every publishing house does things differently.

Dennis E. Taylor
03-27-2016, 06:57 PM
Book goes to designer and typesetter. I'd see the work a few times during the design process, to make sure the work was taking the book in the right direction. I'd have to go to the designers' offices for this, usually (sometimes it was in-house, sometimes we used external designers).


Book cover design -- does the artist read the book? Read a summary? Or does an editor give them instructions for possible cover images?

Arianne
03-27-2016, 08:32 PM
Wow! Thanks, Old Hack. That was super detailed and super helpful.
It looks like I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board to figure out some plot points :cry:

With a celebrity author though, is it possible that editors are more reluctant to make plot suggestions and maybe would let a book straight through to the typo editing stage? It is unusual for an author to be very uninvolved with the editing stages of a book?

Old Hack
03-27-2016, 11:00 PM
Book cover design -- does the artist read the book? Read a summary? Or does an editor give them instructions for possible cover images?

Sometimes the artist/designer reads the book, sometimes they're briefed by the editor and given a synopsis, or a summary of a significant part of the book. Sometimes they're given instructions for possible designs. It all depends on the publisher, the editor, and the artist concerned.


Wow! Thanks, Old Hack. That was super detailed and super helpful.
It looks like I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board to figure out some plot points :cry:

That's what writing's about. You'll do fine.


With a celebrity author though, is it possible that editors are more reluctant to make plot suggestions and maybe would let a book straight through to the typo editing stage? It is unusual for an author to be very uninvolved with the editing stages of a book?

It depends what you mean by "celebrity author".

Celebrities who are not already writers will be given a ghostwriter to work with (I've done this a few times). They might not have even read their book when it's published: their editor and their ghost will work on the book together.

The "typo editing stage" is "copy editing".

Writers who are hugely successful will sometimes refuse to be edited, or refuse all editorial suggestions. This is rarely a good idea: the books which result are often very self-indulgent and end up not selling well.

It is extremely unusual for writers to not get involved in the editing of their books. It's their name on the cover: they need to be in control of what's between the covers.

King Neptune
03-27-2016, 11:56 PM
Your author might be able to make substantial changes to the plot, if the changes on paper are only adding a "not" or something like at a crucial point, but forget about changing a lengthy section.

Arianne
03-28-2016, 06:56 AM
It depends what you mean by "celebrity author".



Sorry, my mistake, I meant famous author=author who is a celebrity, aka the JK Rowlings and Stephenie Meyers of this world.

I notice that famous (or famous-ish, not naming names) authors seem to get more leeway as a series goes on and gets bigger, to the point where sometimes random elements are thrown into a plot that seem to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to indulge the author, so that was why I was wondering if sometimes editors/publishers would basically give the book a pass on plot points (but would still of course copy-edit).

Old Hack
03-28-2016, 11:54 AM
It's not that the more successful authors don't get edited to the same extent: editorial suggestions are still usually made, but some authors are far more inclined to reject them than others.

I knew someone, years ago, who won one of those big "get your novel published" competitions. The novel was good, but did need some work. They found the editorial process threatening and difficult: they felt that being told something needed attention was being told they were a bad writer and their book was awful, and balked. They rejected almost all editorial help and in the end, the novel was published (by a major publisher, with quite a lot of attention, because of the competition) with many issues remaining. Reviewers picked up on those issues. The novel flopped. Their second novel was rejected, not because it wasn't good enough but because the publishing house had found the writer so very difficult to work with (they sulked, they argued, they shouted...). And for that writer, that was that.

I know established writers who refuse to even consider their editors' suggestions, because they think they know better. Sometimes they do, sometimes they are shooting themselves in the foot. But those suggestions are still usually given.

I know editors who have been intimidated by the big-name authors they've worked with. But I don't know any who haven't done their best to provide good, strong editorial suggestions to those authors, even if those authors have been difficult to work with.

Siri Kirpal
03-28-2016, 11:39 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Just throwing this in as a comp: P.D. James wrote a mystery The Lighthouse, which involves the death of a famous writer who insisted on extensely editing his proofs, not the manuscript. The book was published in 2005, right around the time publishing houses were switching from paper proofs to electronic ones. (The proofs for my yoga book in 2002 were on paper; the ones for my Sikhism book were electronic.)

Hope this helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Arianne
03-29-2016, 11:42 AM
I'm trying to come up with a scenario as to why an author would be able to go for so long without noticing the need for the big change in the book's plot (hence the need for the last minute revision), and I was thinking that they might be the kind of person who doesn't do any editing and just leaves it to the editors, and then, for some reason, the author decides to read the book before publication (gasp!) and then finds a gaping plot hole.

Old Hack
03-29-2016, 03:18 PM
I'm trying to come up with a scenario as to why an author would be able to go for so long without noticing the need for the big change in the book's plot (hence the need for the last minute revision), and I was thinking that they might be the kind of person who doesn't do any editing and just leaves it to the editors, and then, for some reason, the author decides to read the book before publication (gasp!) and then finds a gaping plot hole.

You don't understand how editing works.

Editors highlight problems and make suggestions on how to fix those problems. Then the ms is handed back to the author, who addresses all the points the editor makes. The author can make the suggested changes; can reject the suggested changes but make other changes, in order to address the problems highlighted; or can reject the suggested changes outright.

What an author at a good press cannot do is leave it to the editor to make the changes suggested. That's not what editors do.

What you could do, perhaps, is have a celebrity--not an author, some other kind of famous person--working with a ghost writer. Ghosts write books for celebrities, and work with their editors. It is not uncommon for the celebrity "author" in this case to never read the books they are supposed to write: but if your celebrity decided to, and spotted a problem with the plot, that might work. However, I think it highly unlikely that the celebrity's ghost and/or editor would have missed the "gaping plot hole" you mention, so you've still got an issue to solve here.

davidjgalloway
03-29-2016, 04:45 PM
If the accidental won't work, try the deliberate. It seems clear that unless you're going to make the MC a self-published writer (cough), then the editing thing is not going to work. A publisher is unlikely to put a flawed book out--too many eyes on it--but if the MC tries to publish with a smaller, essentially one-person outfit, and that person has it in for the MC, then they could really turn it into a diaster by, say, excising most of a chapter or something. That scenario still would make the publisher look like an idiot, so maybe a freelance editor who wants to screw the MC over as opposed to the publisher?

Arianne
03-30-2016, 10:24 PM
This is getting more complicated than I was thinking...:cry::gone:

To clarify, the steps after an author submits a "first final" draft would go:
Submits first final draft
Gets manuscript with editor notes/suggestions/corrections etc (I assume there's some email or phone discussion at this point, where they discuss maybe changing this or that character or plotline or whatever? Also, I'm assuming that editors don't really change the big overall plot, just maybe character side stories or mini side plots? At this stage, can authors substantially change the plot if they want to? Would a famous author get more leeway to change the plot at this stage?)
Submits final edited manuscript
Gets copyediting manuscript (I've set this at a couple of weeks after the final edited manuscript has been sent to the editor/publisher. Is this timing reasonable? With a very popular book, would it be possible that the copyediting and design and typesetting are all being done simultaneously, so that after submitting the final edited manuscript, the next thing the author gets is a galley proof? In other words, get to a stage where it would be all but impossible, or at least very expensive, to change the plot?)

I am also assuming that with a very popular book, a lot of things that would normally take months are being compressed into a matter of weeks? For example, where it would normally take a newbie author 1-2 years to see their accepted book in print, it might only take 4-6 months for a famous author? If I put editing back-and-forth time at a couple of months, and 2-3 months for printing and shipping, that sounds pretty rushed to me! So would a lot of steps be combined or ignored during the process? (Such as the "go straight to galley proof stage mentioned above?) Does the author need to sign off on a copyedited manuscript for the printing process to proceed? Can an author not approve the changes? And if so, would the publishers just go ahead and print anyway if time was of the essence?

Old Hack
03-30-2016, 11:35 PM
This is getting more complicated than I was thinking...:cry::gone:

To clarify, the steps after an author submits a "first final" draft would go:
Submits first final draft
Gets manuscript with editor notes/suggestions/corrections etc (I assume there's some email or phone discussion at this point, where they discuss maybe changing this or that character or plotline or whatever? Also, I'm assuming that editors don't really change the big overall plot, just maybe character side stories or mini side plots? At this stage, can authors substantially change the plot if they want to? Would a famous author get more leeway to change the plot at this stage?)

There is usually a talk before the book is signed, so that the editor and author know they're working towards the same end.

Editorial notes are very detailed and run to several pages. The ms might well also be marked up a bit. Editors and authors can talk at this stage but it's not usually necessary, although it's nice.

Editors might well suggest plot-changes, but this should have been agreed before a book is signed.

Authors can change plots if they want but once they've turned the book in, and the edits have started, why would they want to? Pro writers will have already got the book as good as they can AND they're likely to now be writing the next one, so their time will be limited. Being famous isn't the issue here: being professional is.



Submits final edited manuscript
Gets copyediting manuscript (I've set this at a couple of weeks after the final edited manuscript has been sent to the editor/publisher. Is this timing reasonable? With a very popular book, would it be possible that the copyediting and design and typesetting are all being done simultaneously, so that after submitting the final edited manuscript, the next thing the author gets is a galley proof? In other words, get to a stage where it would be all but impossible, or at least very expensive, to change the plot?)

Copy editing can take days, weeks, or months. If editing is finished early, it won't automatically go to copy editing straight away: there are schedules. Copy editors get booked up. A couple of weeks is possible, but it could take longer.

A book can be designed prior to the final edited version of the text being available but it can't be typeset, as you need the text for that.

It can happen that authors get the galleys soon after approving copy edits. It can take a while, though, depending on schedules, as I said.


I am also assuming that with a very popular book, a lot of things that would normally take months are being compressed into a matter of weeks? For example, where it would normally take a newbie author 1-2 years to see their accepted book in print, it might only take 4-6 months for a famous author?

No, that is extremely unlikely to happen.

It's not just editing, designing, typesetting and so on you have to work into the schedule: there's marketing and promotion too. ARCs usually have to go out at least three months prior to publication to ensure reviews appear, for example. Printing then shipping books to the UK can take three months. And you have to book your slot with the printer, too, which can take a while.

In addition to that, there are publication slots to consider. Very popular writers' books have to be very carefully scheduled to make the most of everything. There are only so many publication slots per year per imprint, and the best writers get the best slots (for example, books published in the run-up to Christmas tend to sell better than books published in the summer).


If I put editing back-and-forth time at a couple of months, and 2-3 months for printing and shipping, that sounds pretty rushed to me! So would a lot of steps be combined or ignored during the process? (Such as the "go straight to galley proof stage mentioned above?) Does the author need to sign off on a copyedited manuscript for the printing process to proceed? Can an author not approve the changes? And if so, would the publishers just go ahead and print anyway if time was of the essence?

Many steps can't be combined. You can't print a book which hasn't yet been designed; you can't copy edit before structural edits are done. You're ignoring publication slots, marketing lead-time, promotional requirements, and so many more things.

I think it would be useful for you to read up on book production schedules. Learn about how this happens. Don't try to shoe-horn the process into a shape which suits your novel, it won't work and you'll waste all that effort. Do your research. It'll be worth it.

WeaselFire
03-31-2016, 12:38 AM
I have yet to see a galley proof on any book I've done with a major publisher, at that stage it's been up to in-house staff. I have gotten writer's proofs, which are similar but don't have all the publishing markup, bleeds, etc. to them. But this is non-fiction, which is a different process. Until the writer's proof, I never see a page with the actual diagram or photo printed.

As for edits, for about the last decade it's been track changes in Word. For my editors, I have had to respond to every note or change, even if it's just to sign off on their edit for grammar, tense, adherence to the style guide or whatever. I get a line/copy edit where I double check their edits, usually finding something really minor. I'm convinced the job of line and copy editors is to remove your mistakes and insert their own. This is after all the changes are done and the manuscript is locked as far as the publisher is concerned.

Sometimes I'll get two or three rounds of edits, sometimes it's just one. It depends on the manuscript and the editor. Often there's a technical edit in non-fiction to make sure the information is correct. This isn't something you see in fiction. Very occasionally I'll get an edit from the legal guys, usually they couldn't secure the rights for something I have written and I have to do a rewrite to avoid it.

On everything I've written for any publisher, once the contract is signed, they are in control. They may be lenient and seem to let me do what I want, but they can, and will, change things to meet their needs or the contract. Absolute worst has been them telling me "XYZ just published this same book and we're going in a different direction, enclosed is a check for cancellation of your contract." On a better note, I got to work on the new book and ended up with basically two payments for about the same total work. :)

Every contract I've had has a production timeline and deadlines specified. I've had to extend deadlines for unforeseen reasons, and the publishers have allowed some leeway, but they assign everything from press time to promotional tours many months in advance so I can never be off by much.

Bottom line on all this is, write the book and get it to be the best you can make it. Find an agent, change the book as needed at their suggestions. Let them get you the publisher, then hang on for the ride. It's a hectic ride, so stock up on Pepto Bismol and chocolate.

Jeff