Publishing imperfectly – why having a publishing standard matters

When I worked in publishing, we had to find a balance between the need to meet deadlines and the requirement to publish to a high standard. You notice I said “to a high standard”, not “perfect”. That’s because getting each book published was also of high importance (you don’t get far if you don’t get the book out into the market).

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Revising your first draft

April 16, 2015 |  by  |  Copy-editing, Revising, Writing  |  Share

If your book has got stuck at the first draft stage, it’s probably because you are struggling to do your revisions before you send it off to an editor. Revising your first draft is one of the most difficult stages in writing a book, but one that can make all the difference to the quality and readability of the end product. It will also reduce the cost of editing because your editor will need to do less work for you.

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Edit-Amend-Check

People often think I’m joking when I say the publication process takes about 12 weeks. “Why on earth does it take so long?” they ask. And there is a simple answer: because in publishing, you go through the edit-amend-check process time and time again until (hopefully) everything is correct, and you are as sure as you can be that the book is error-free (or as error-free as is humanly possible).

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The Publishing Process – Editing

The publishing process can be confusing and difficult to navigate. When I first started working in publishing, it took me a while for me to totally understand the process, so I sympathise with you if you are coming to it for the first time. The truth is that the publishing process is not set in stone. There are variations to it depending on the format you are using to publish your book: Kindle, (or another electronic format), print (self-publishing), PDF and the traditional method used by professional publishing houses (although this has also changed substantially since the advent of desktop publishing). When I started out in publishing, there were no computers. We did everything on paper. No wonder it took so long to publish a book! The text of the book was produced twice, once as galley proofs (long sheets of typeset pages with no page breaks) and page proofs. In between galleys and page proofs was the design process called paste-up, and yes, the typeset galley text was literally pasted onto printed page templates using a sticky spray glue that allowed pieces of paper to be put in place then moved again if necessary. We went through gallons of that glue! Life got simpler when everything became electronic, although the editors who didn't like computers would probably disagree with me. The arrival of so-called desktop publishing sped up the process by months as the edited manuscript could be pasted (not with glue!) directly from Word to QuarkXpress (the publishing standard software) that the book designer had already set up. The editor could then tweak the page proofs so the text fitted correctly on each page and add editorial and proof-reading changes directly. This meant that the editor and designer were now doing the work that the typesetters and printers used to do. However,...

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The final stage in getting your book done

The final stage in getting your book done is often the hardest because it involves a technical process that can be difficult to understand, and because it can involve working with other people. This can quickly turn into a stumbling block that keeps you turning back to more revisions, and endless delaying unless you finally begin the publication process itself.

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Am I capable of writing a book

One of the key reasons many aspiring authors don't even start their book is because they are dogged by the question: ‘Am I capable of writing a book?’ The root of that doubt lies in three places: Your ability to get through the process of writing a book. Your ability to write the number of words to create a book. Your ability to write sufficiently well to write a book

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How to handle a revised deadline

Deadlines can change in the blink of an eye. When I worked at BBC Books, deadlines changed all the time as television transmission dates altered.

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A Brief Guide to the Publishing Process

Publishing is complex process with a lot of technical terms. To help you navigate the publishing process, I have written a brief guide to the key points in the publishing process. Starting with the manuscript, this little guide takes you through from the point where you, as an author, finish writing your book and begin the process of getting it edited and formatted for publication. Manuscript The book, as delivered by the author to the publisher (or editor), is called the manuscript, which roughly means ‘hand-written script’. Before the advent of typewriters and computers, books were often hand-written by the author. When authors began to deliver typed books, the ‘manuscript’ began to be referred to the ‘typescript’. However, in general, old habits die hard and publishers still refer to manuscripts rather than typescripts. Whatever form it comes in, the book that the author delivers to the publisher (or editor) is the finished book that is ready to go through the publication process. The first stage is copy-editing. Copy-editing Copy-editing, (sometimes referred to as line editing or content editing), is the first editorial stage the book goes through. Copy-editing is the process by which glitches in structure, spelling, heading levels and much more is made consistent and clear by the editor so the reader can concentrate on the information in the book rather than how it is delivered. The copy editor’s job is to polish the author’s work by checking details, establishing rules and styles, and adapting the structure (if necessary) so the book flows correctly and is easy for the reader to navigate and read. First page proofs When the editing has been done and the author’s amendments have been agreed and added to the manuscript, the book is sent to the designer so he or she can design the text. These days, the Word document is coded by the...

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Proof-reading – do you need it?

Proof-reading is one of those editorial jobs that you can definitely do yourself if you know what to do. That doesn’t mean it is an easy job for you to do yourself, but it is possible. Sometimes, publishing consultants suggest that you can use proof-reading as a substitute for editing, however, proof-reading is not editing and you will need to check with your proof-reader before you assume they will do the job of an editor while being hired (not to mention paid) as a proof-reader. What is proof-reading? Proof-reading is a detailed check of the text after it has been edited, formatted or designed. The proof-reader can do a number of jobs depending on the format of the book. If the book is for print or PDF, the proof-reader will check that the there are no spelling mistakes, that the style set by the editor has been applied throughout, that the headings are consistent in terms of capitalisation and that headings and other text styles are consistent in terms of font size and style. List styles will also be checked to avoid, for example, one bullet list having full-stops at the end of each line and another not. The proof-reader will also ‘fit’ the text to the page, ensuring that half-lines or single words do not run over from one page to another. They may also edit to remove single words at the end of paragraphs. Proof-readers and editors use a special set of short-hand marks that are understood by everyone in the publishing industry. They have been developed for speed, brevity and clarity. You don't need to use them all but some are worth learning as most pages are tight on space and the coding marks make it possible to record changes in an organised and neat way. If the book is to be published on Kindle...

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Editing – why, how much and when?

Editing – it divides publishing consultants – some think you need it, others don’t; some think you need a lot, others think you need a little – so how can you decide whether to hire an editor at all and if you do, how can you work out what kind of editor you need? First of all, you need to understand what editing is and what it isn’t. These days it is often confused with proof-reading because the consultants who don’t think you need an editor think that a proof-reader is more than enough.  In fact, proof-reading is an entirely different activity to copy editing and in this article, I plan to help you to distinguish one from another. If the distinction between copy-editing and proof-reading was not enough to contend with, you then have to work out what kind of copy-editing you need: line editing, content editing, editorial assessment…How can you possibly know what is the right kind of editing for you? A lot of the more confusing editorial descriptions come from America and have sprung up largely as a result of the emergence of self-publishing brought about by Print-on-Demand publishing and electronic publishing (specifically, on Amazon’s Kindle). This is because a self-published book does not go through the traditional commissioning process; there is no quality control. As with all activities, some of are good at them, and others are not. That means that the amount of editing a book needs is going to depend on the natural talent of the writer and the amount of work they have done on revising and polishing their book before they send it to an editor. My stance is that a book always needs to go to an editor, but I know that isn’t always possible and for some authors it is not desirable. There are tales...

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