Join me today in my writing space for the inside process of the final steps of book editing – the galleys! Recently, the galleys for Daughters of Northern Shores landed on my porch. It’s always exciting to find one of those envelopes, to see the return address from my publisher, Thomas Nelson, and to know that inside the package are the pages of a book that took an immense amount of time and effort to write.
In the case of this novel, it was 9 months from the penning of the first word to the last, plus many more months for the various stages of editing and rewrites. This book also involved much research both on American and Norwegian soil, as well as the sailing trade. It was quite a task, but the hard work comes to fruition at this stage when for the first time, the manuscript itself is laid out as the actual book.
Come along as I show you inside the pages and how this process comes about! First, is the cover letter:
If the book is traditionally published, this comes from the editor who is handling final edits. An author typically works with a variety of editors for each of the stages from acquisition to proofing and everything in between. Lately, I’ve worked with about 2 to 3 editors for the various stages of a novel and each of them brings a wonderful expertise to turn what once was a glimmer of an idea into a printed and bound book.
This stage is not about making a lot of changes. In fact, they ask for changes to be less than 5% of the manuscript. This is because the book is typically typeset and designed with an exact page count, and if changes are extensive, it can alter that.
The galley pages are even laid out in the size that the book will be printed. If you note the little lines marking each corner, those represent where the page will be cut off to be the trim size of the book itself. Then comes the next page, which is always such a delight! To see the book’s title designed so beautifully alongside your name as the author and the company who has poured so much time and resources into making it all come to be – there’s just nothing like it.
Now comes the busy work! This involves reading each page carefully, making minor changes if they arise. Ideally, this is a word swap or a punctuation adjustment. At times, it’s the fixing of an error. I tend to get more involved with changes for different books. For Sons of Blackbird Mountain, I really pushed that 5% and made a fair number of changes, especially to the end scene of the final chapter. Nearly entirely rewriting it! If you read an ARC of SONS, you may be surprised to know it’s different than the final book!
This is also a time to do some last minute fact checking. It’s impossible to get everything absolutely perfect in a novel and some errors will slip through, but authors and editors, we do our best to eliminate this as much as possible and to make the final book as pristine as we can. It’s an exciting time reading through galleys, but as you might imagine, the process also holds that extra bit of pressure in knowing that this is the absolute final time I will have a book I wrote in the working-stages. Up next will be the whir of printing presses and the stamping of wet ink as the book is printed and bound.
Some “errors” will remain in the book intentionally. This happens occasionally with the various styling or “voice” of an author: their wish to phrase something a particular way even if it’s not grammatically correct. At times, an “error” remains in place due to the character’s voice themselves. The most quoted line from Sons of Blackbird Mountain has what looks like a typo, but is actually Aunt Cora’s unique way of speaking. I had considered editing it to be grammatically correct, but in the end, we left it to pay true homage to her character and the setting of rural Appalachia.
Simultaneously, this exact, uncorrected version of the manuscript is sent to a proof reader to do the same work that I am doing, and it’s also sent out to a few early readers. This involves authors who are reading the manuscript for endorsement as well as trade reviewers for publications like Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. As you might imagine, it’s a mix of excitement and nervousness for the author who is finally sending words out into the world to be read by critics and professionals.
But even though butterflies are always a part of this stage, it’s the wonder and joy of having a labor of love near to completion. Galleys are one of my favorite parts of the writing process and really bring a project into the home stretch.
Today, as I write this, I am nearly finished through my read of Daughters of Northern Shores and soon, I’ll be packaging the manuscript back up and mailing it across the US to my publisher in Tennessee. From there, the final changes will be made and soon, this book will be stocked on shelves, or delivered to front porches – just like the galleys were placed on mine!
If you have questions or thoughts about the book-making process, please share in the comments below! I always love hearing from you.