Editing, formatting, typesetting, proofing, audio recording…
Yesterday, I got a message from my editor. It was simple:
Suddenly, it dawned on me that Debbie wasn’t just commenting on my lifestyle but also letting me know that she’d begun to edit the third and final book in the trilogy about Jason Mendez. I swallowed hard before being able to chat a bit about my eating habits pre and post-Reckoning. It’s funny how every time I end up in this situation, I end up being a nervous wreck.
My editor is the first person to read my stuff after I send it off to my publisher. And her judgment means everything to me. Not just that she could pull the plug on publishing it (“This is the biggest piece of shit I’ve read in a long time…”), but Debbie is a successful and acclaimed, award-winning author in her own right. For her to like my work means a lot. The coming weeks will be painful. The waiting game isn’t my forte. I want to talk to her about it, want to discuss why this was done that way or why the ending is the way it is and not done differently.
Writing a series is different than writing a stand-alone
Reckoning is my twentieth full-length book. But it’s also book three in the series, and unlike some series which are held together loosely by a common theme (e.g. playing out in the same town), the Golden One is actually one story, spanning across more than two hundred and ten thousand words. When you write a book and you know that there will be a continuation of it, the ending of the first book will always be more “open” than if it had been a stand-alone. When Blooming (book 1) came out, I hadn’t even begun writing book three. I had no idea where the story would take Jason at the end of book 2, let alone how it might end.
Blooming starts off nice and easy with a challenge that creates the bond between Jason and his friends, a local environmental crisis they need to solve. Yet already in book one, we realize that this cannot possibly be the biggest thing that’s in store for our heroes. For the longest time, I was wondering who Jason’s nemesis would be. Given previous challenges that Golden Ones had faced, a dictator or powerful president seemed close at hand, yet I did want to stay clear of the pitfalls of politics. I had to find an enemy as powerful as Alexander the Great or the emperor of China of old but within a contemporary setting.
About half-way through book two, things began to clarify, but I still had no idea how the series would end. That didn’t become clear until I finally got to it. At the beginning of book three, I had two different endings in mind, and they both had merit. As my writing progressed and I got closer and closer to the end, one of the endings faded into the background and only one remained. It’s epic, logical and just what the book needs in terms of what the message is. I’m sure it will have readers glued to their chairs reading and thinking about it for a long time. In hindsight, the series ends the only way it could end, staying true to the premises and canon established in Blooming. I’m very pleased with it, if I may say so.
Every book should be better than the last
I think you can ask just about any author with a few books under their belt and they’ll confirm that they try hard to make sure that their next book is just a little bit better than the previous one. Whether it is a grammar lesson we’ve learned, or whether we’ve become better at doing research, or if it’s just an extra round of self-editing before we send it off to our publishers. We may also strive to improve our literary aspirations, challenge ourselves to write in a new genre, etc.
It’s a never-ending challenge, and for every grammatical improvement I make, I seem to find new ways to screw things up. Debbie always says something along the lines of “this is this book’s repeat error.” I blush, ashamed of having found yet another thing to get wrong. Hopefully, I don’t make old mistakes again and again. Rookie mistakes like changing voices mid-paragraph or simple errors like mixing up virtually with literally. I’ve literally fallen for that! Clichés, silly metaphors, etc. are other ways to screw up a manuscript to the editor’s red pen’s delight. Then there are other things which we tend to forget: inclusivity, diversity or why not challenging our own preconceptions? We may use characteristics that are offensive or racist and sometimes, this is particularly true for non-native speakers like me, we use expressions which may be innocent in one of the languages we speak but not in the one we use to write in. A great example is the Swedish ex-chairman of BP who used the expression of “small people” during a press conference in the White House. Not offensive in Swedish but very much so in the US, especially in the context he used it, to describe “normal, average working-class people.” So yeah, words do matter.
Time table for Reckoning
Every manuscript goes through a bunch of stages with the publisher. There are rounds of editing, a ping-pong game between editor and author, followed by proofreading by a number of people, including the editor and author, but also external sets of eyes who are better equipped at seeing the trees in the forest. The publisher also formats the books for printing and distribution across e-platforms and typesets it accordingly. Each publisher uses their own fonts, have their own layouts, etc. Then there’s the cover design. We already have the cover for the ebook, but the paperback cover has to wait until we know exactly how thick the spine is going to be and what the back matter will look like. It’s down to the mm.
Then there’s the narration of the audiobook. Not only does it take time, but it has to hold off until the manuscript is “stable” enough that we’re down to pure proofing changes. Vance Bastian, my narrator for the Golden One may not be hindered by a typo, but ACX may not appreciate it if he narrates “desert” only for us to later change it to “The Gobi” or whatever. Also, the final quality review of an audiobook is a bit of a black box, hit and miss, and takes up to fourteen working days. Depending on how weekends fall, or public holidays, you might be in for quite a wait. And they don’t allow for set publication days, at least not for us small niche players. So we try to do the math backward from the publication date of the actual book to try and make sure the audio version is available on a specific date. Not easy. But by September 19, 2019, the paperback and the ebook of Reckoning will be available for global distribution. The audiobook should be ready within a few days thereof.
Jason’s journey will be complete. And I can’t wait for you to read and enjoy it.
Amazon universal link: http://mybook.to/tgo3