• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Brief Explanation of How Publishing Works

2020-01-04-GCarroll-bee-crop.jpgFor Those Kind People who keep urging me to “release the book!” (as though I’m keeping the manuscript in a cage in my office)… a Brief Explanation of How Publishing Works (on the purely mechanical side):

Well, as my husband (who has certainly had enough experience by now to Know) says, “To a writer, ‘finished’ is a relative term.” And it truly is. The first ‘finished’ is the most important <g>—when you have the Whole Thing in your hands. No feeling like it! (Though giving birth isn’t far off…)

[NO! I haven’t finished writing it. Dang close, though.]

After that though… I wrote up all the phases of production, some years ago, in a vain effort to explain to the many-headed just why the fact that I’d finished writing the book didn’t mean it would be on their bookshelves the next day/week/month. I won’t do the whole list here (I have work to do tonight), but in essence, the manuscript goes from me to two editors—one in the U.S., one in the U.K.—both of whom have been reading what chunks of the book I’ve finished already (so as to get a jump on things), but who will immediately start reading from the beginning, after which both of them will give me their separate comments and notes (there are always spots where a scene or part of a scene has been accidentally repeated, so that’s where we—because I’m also reading it from the beginning—catch that kind of stuff and resolve it). I’ll have been having my own thoughts as to anything I want to change, so will be messing with the manuscript with all three sets of input in hand.

2015-diana-workingAt right, I am at home in my yard, working, in 2015.

When that’s done, the book is ‘finished,’ again—that is, it’s ready to go to the copy-editor. This is a wonderful person (at least I hope she’s still in business and available to do it for me again; she’s done the last three or four books for me, plus several Lord John ones) whose thankless task is to read the manuscript One. Word. At. A. Time, and catch any difficulties along the way: typographical errors, inconsistencies (in names, ages, times, whatever—and there will be a number of them, owing to the size of the book and the way I write), incongruities (there’s still a page in OUTLANDER—which was copy-edited by a, um, person of somewhat lesser talent, let us charitably say—where a maid brings in the tea-cups but carries out the brandy glasses at the end of the scene. Fortunately no one has ever noticed this), logical holes (she checks the distances between actual places and will let me know if it’s really possible to get from point A to point B in three days or whatever), timeline issues (did the Siege of Savannah happen before or after the Siege of Charleston (only it was still being called “Charles Town” at that point, so we need to change all the “Charleston’s”), and imposes ‘house style’ (meaning that Penguin Random House has its own conventions regarding things like whether numbers are given in digital form or spelled out, whether we do or do not use Oxford commas, etc.) throughout. She’s usually doing this under hideous time-constraints and I sent her a bottle of Really Fine Whisky last time.

But then, I have to read the copy-edited version and ‘reply’ to it, i.e., there will be a number of marginal questions or comments that I need to answer and either address or dismiss. This is ungodly labor (and also being done under a major time-constrant), but Very Necessary.

THEN the manuscript goes back and is corrected according to my last-minute corrections and insertions (I almost always realize that two or three vital bits are missing, and hastily write those scenes and insert them with the copy-edit correx), and comes back to me (AGAIN!) as galley proofs. These are, as you doubtless know, the pages of the book, printed just as it will (we hope) appear on the shelf, but on loose, unbound sheets. This is where we catch disjunctions in the formatting (very rare, but they do happen), any (we hope) minor nits that everybody has so far missed (and there is no book in existence that goes to press without errors, believe me), misspellings of the Gaelic (compositors can not get a grasp on Gaelic words, no matter how carefully I print them, if they’re inserted as corrections or additions. This is not helped by the fact that I don’t speak Gaelic and don’t always know if something is misspelled), and any truly last-minute insertions (there’s a clause in my contract that says if I change more than 10% of the text during the galley phase, I have to pay for the extra type-setting. This contingency is Remote).

I’m not mentioning any of the book design or the messing-about-with-the-cover issues, because I mostly just have to give an opinion on those, not actually do the work. But it all takes time.

Let it be noted that we did ALL of the above within five weeks, for each of the last two books. This drove everyone to the verge of insanity (and was terribly expensive), and we Really Don’t Want to Do That Again (any of us!), which is why you aren’t getting a pub date until the manuscript is by-God Finished.

[NO, it isn’t finished yet. Don’t worry—I’ll tell you when it is!]

And thank you to Grace Carroll for the lovely bee photo!

Related Information: In August, 2013, I created a flow chart of what happens to a book after I write it and it goes to my publisher, titled “What ‘Finished’ Means To An Author.”

This blog was also posted on my official Facebook page on January 5, 2020.

33 Responses »

  1. I always wondered if the same copy editor did all the books (or several). She does deserve a medal! Challenging to remember everything…although there are tricks to the trade. Hope all goes smoothly.

  2. Hi Diana,

    I’m one of those annoying fans who notice something, have every good intention of noting the page number and writing to you immediately with a comment, and then fail to do so.

    That said, I’ve noticed a severalf times in different books where you talk about the moon, mentioning its phase, and the time of its rising/setting, and you suggest that the moon does something that unless something REALLY severe were to happen to the solar system, just isn’t possible.

    The full moon ALWAYS rises at sunset (give or take a few minutes, mostly because it may not be exactly full at the time of sunset, and because the moon’s orbit is slightly inclined relative to the orbit of the Earth around the sun) and it ALWAYS sets at sunrise. It rises 48 minutes later each night, meaning that at the new moon, it’s rising at sunrise, and setting at sunset which is why we don’t see it in the bright daylit sky.

    If I recall the error, I think you said something about a crescent new moon or waning moon being in the wrong place in the sky. You would first see the crescent waxing moon in the west, as its sinking, just after sunset, and as a crescent waning moon in the east, just before sunrise. You’d never see a crescent moon high in the night sky.

    I’m planning to do another read through of the 8 current books. I did one in 2018, in preparation for Book 9, but given my sieve of a memory, I’m going to do it again. This time I’ll make note where I find the error, though obviously it’s WAY too late to edit the scene.

    Thanks for writing these extraordinary books, and so many of them to boot. May your pen, and inspiration, never run dry.

    • To read all 8 books to look for mistake about moon?
      Who cares about bloody moon? And there is so many impressions about earth and moon, just being on another continent gives different picture in the sky..

  3. Dear Diana,
    As a fellow woman born in 1952, I will graciously volunteer to carefully read your manuscript for Bees. Yes, I know how ridiculous this sounds and am sending this ‘tongue in cheek’ response with little hope that you’ll take me up on my very sincere offer. However, I happen to believe that something magical can happen when one hopes. I can also honestly say that I’m really good at finding mistakes, both big and small. I’m a retired gifted education teacher and have read literally thousands of essays and creative writing assignments for the past thirty years. I also know how to keep my mouth shut. Last but not least, I’m a Campbell which I believe you know speaks volumes.

    • Hi, Teri,

      Diana’s Webmistress here, the nerd who does programming on her popular website, and helps keep it running as webmaster.

      Other fans of Diana’s books have also kindly offered to help her with copyediting BEES as well as her previous books.

      I know that Diana appreciates the offers very much, but unfortunately, due to copyright protection and legal issues, sharing an unpublished manuscript is not possible.

      Professional editors, copy editors and fact checkers are chosen and hired by Diana and her publishers, and become a team and closed circle working together. Like she said in this blog, it a grueling process to get a finished book ready for publication.

      It was sweet of you to offer to help!


      Diana’s Webmistress

    • Dear Outlander editors, Diana, or to whoever it may concern,
      As a McDonald (Hopefully Teri will excuse me here and research the history if she wants to – see “Glencoe Massacre”) I have to say “Never trust a Campbell.” However, I would most assuredly agree to read a copy of the Bees manuscript; providing feedback on any gramatical or literary issues if desired. I must admit to an ulterior motive here; I cannot wait another day and have been patient since 2017 when I was informed that it would be complete “VERY soon”. Apparently we have totally different expectations of what “Very soon” means.

      • Hi, Carol,

        Successful authors do not send out draft manuscripts to readers for any reason.

        Why? Because the authors are working on copyrighted material, and are under legal contract for the finished book with publishers, who spell out the terms.

        Publishers—and authors—also don’t want to take the chance of a highly anticipated book being leaked on the internet, especially in draft form! Plus publishers want their own pro editorial staff used through the publishing and typesetting process, once an author has finished writing a book.

        It is great you are looking forward to BEES. IMHO, three to six years for each of the major Outlander novels is not unreasonable for books that are 750+ pages in length, and chock full of historical detail. Quality takes time.

        It will be worth the wait, methinks.

        Diana’s Webmistress

  4. I love all of your books, and while I eagerly await BEES, I appreciate all the time it takes to get your books to where you are happy with them.

    Just one point of fact, while reading above, I noticed you referred to Charlestown as Charleston. I don’t know if this was an auto-correction error or what. In the 18th century I’m sure it was called Charles Town, but today it is spelled. I really only noticed because I lived there for a while in the late 70s. Perhaps fans from there have also pointed this out.

    In any case, I have just finished rereading the entire Outlander series a second time and have enjoyed it as much or more than the first time. Thank you for telling such a compelling story.

  5. Sweating out the last weeks until publication of Book 7 is like sweating out the last month of a pregnancy. May the Publishing Gods smile on you and all your readers; I’m running out of “methodone” and am re-reading the whole series in order as preparation. As I’ve read all of them at least four times, not to mention the Lord John books, its going too fast!

  6. Diana, I just want to thank you for all of your hard work on all of your books! I know you are extremely popular and with that comes schedules, appearances, etc. Plus we want you to churn out more books. It’s like my grandsons waiting for the next Harry Potter edition.

    Please do not exhaust yourself for us. We anxiously await your next book but it will be published when it is published. I am currently re-reading your first 8 books to get ready for #9. You are so creative and imaginative!

    I believe you (everyone) can be more creative when they are not rushed.

    Take care, Kathy W.

  7. Diana,
    I’ve been reading your books since 1992. I’ve been watching the TV series since the beginning. My Daughter turned me on to your books and now my 43 year old son comes & watches the series with me. (The love msking seens are a little awkward). He asks me all the time, is that how it happens in the book and we have a whole discussion. I tell him he should read them. I’m going to suggest he get the audiobook & listen on his commute. I’m impatiently waiting for bees, but know how long it takes you to write them. My daughter, Granddaughter & I went to Scotland a couple years ago and went to Culloden. It was a very moving place. I went to a book signing in 1995 in Pleasanton, CA and there were about 30 of us. Went to another one in 2017 and there were over 400 peoplw there. It was amazing!

  8. Hi Diana, I am also re-reading the series to prep for the next book. Thank you for the Wonderful stories, and for being so kind to your readers and fans. I emailed you many years ago, after #4 I think, and was amazed that you emailed me back. Your blog is a lovely alternative, and a special gift. Thank you again. Bonnie

  9. Dear Diana,

    For the third time I have been reading Outlander and I don’t get enough of it. I am awaiting BEES knowing I have to be very, very patient especially since I read your books in French, my mother tongue. It’s much easier for me although I think my English is not that bad.

    Being passionate about History (with a big H), I read your novels with great interest.

    So, dear Diana, thank you for your marvellous work, thank you for the time you spend for us, thank you to your family for letting you spend days, weeks, months and even years so we can enjoy living with Jamie and Claire and all the characters, just a big thank you.

    Françoise G.

  10. Dear Madame,

    It is already more than twenty years that I buy your books from “Outlander”. I took notice of al the work that most be done before the ninth book is definitely finished. But can you please tell me approximately how many weeks or months after the publication of “Go tell it to the Bees” the translation in Dutch will be in the bookstores in Belgium?

    Yours sincerely

    Jean Rans

    • Hi, Jean,

      Since I haven’t finished BEES, the publication release date for it in the U.S.A.–which occurs first since I am an American author–has not been determined yet. After I finish writing a book, including BEES, it takes at least several months for it to be typeset and published. My U.S. publisher will decide the publication date for the American edition of BEES.

      Some international editions come out within days of the U.S. edition release, such as Canada and Germany. Most take longer, especially if the book is translated into another language.

      The Dutch version available in Belgium of any of my books is entirely controlled by the publisher of that edition. International versions of my books always come out after my U.S.A. editions, in part due to the translation into other languages which typically takes a year. There are copyright issues to work out, as well as the typesetting, cover, etc., which is done again. International publishers do have publicity campaigns in most areas once a publication date has been set in a publishing area or country.


  11. Hi Diana,
    Just wanted to let you know that I’m so excited you are going to publish Soon. I loved every one of this series. I have read each one of them about five times. You are a very talented writer. I have read many books but have never read a series so many times. You are my go to writer when I just want to get away. So just so you know I am a big fan of you.

    Keep on writing.

  12. I’ve read everything that you have written Diana – all the Outlander books and the Lord John series after that. I’ve passed them all on to fellow readers so re-reading is not an option at this time. We are in the midst of the challenges of COVID 19 and housebound. “Bees” would be the PERFECT antidote to cabin fever. I know that I’m not alone. Here’s hoping that there has been meaningful progress since January.
    In the meantime, stay well and wash your hands.
    Take care Diana and thank you for your efforts.

  13. Dear Mrs. Gabaldon,
    I never understood all the cogs and gears that were working to drive the machine of writing and publishing my beloved Outlander series. I can’t wait for your next book to arrive. The great works you produce are well worth the wait.

    Michelle Terry

  14. Diana,

    I have truly enjoyed all of the Outlander and Lord John books. I want to thank you for giving us (fans & readers) insight to your writing and publishing process. While I will admit to being eager to dive into more life with the Fraser’s, I don’t want you to rush a process that has worked for your other books. The efforts to keep your characters true to themselves & accurate within history and time is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for sharing your story(ies) with us.



  15. Thank you, Diana, for filling many happy hours for me with the Heelands! I had to go see them and spent 15 glorious days there. Extraordinary country, wonderful people. But your books made much of it come alive for me. Thank you again. . .and I CAN’T WAIT FOR BEES!


  16. Dear Diana,
    I came to the party late having just discovered Outlander in Nov. 2019. I spent all the years you were writing with my head down, raising two daughters, going to school as an adult, then lost in my career. I retired and found you. You have given me a reason to immerse myself in books again and really relish the written word. I have learned much from you and am grateful to have discovered your work. I have written myself on and off over the years and it is because of your written words I have become inspired to pick up the pen again. Now when I think about a passage to write, I think about you and the beautiful way you weave the words into a fabric. There are paragraphs in your books that I go back and reread several times because of the enormity of the thought you have put into them. The excerpt of Claire sitting in a chapel saving Jamie’s soul made me weep…These are not just parts of a story but testimony to the details of humanity. You unify us. Thank you seems trite and even what I write here seems to lack to describe what you through your books have given me. I tired to describe it to a friend—what it means to me to have found you—and it was hard. She said to me, “It is clear this writer has had a profound influence on you.” Yes, yes you have Diana.

    So thank you and may God bless you and your family.


  17. I have read every book and enjoyed them. However I feel Dianna Gabaldon is getting just a bit full of herself. Her fans helped escalated her to star status, with her books and Starz show, then she lies to them and talks down to them (how publishing works-please!) You said it was done last year. Sure…If you don’t enjoy writing them anymore then stop. But please stop being so condescending to you fans or ex fans.
    Last book in series 4 years ago?!!

    • Jean P,

      As Diana’s friend for almost four decades, as well as her Webmaster for over ten years, I can tell you that you won’t find a nicer person than Diana Gabaldon anywhere, or a best-selling author who cares more for her readers. The celebrity of being a best-selling author hasn’t affected her personality one bit. She spends hours at events signing books and meeting with each and every reader in line.

      Does that behavior sound “condescending?” Obviously, no.

      Diana’s books are over 700 pages typically, and that’s a LOT of work to both write them and do the historical research for them. She will not release a book until she is happy with it. If you feel Diana doesn’t produce fast enough for your satisfaction, you’re the one that is “full of herself,” in my personal opinion.

      I hope you find some peace and happiness in your life.

      Diana’s Webmaster

    • I had the opposite reaction when I read this, amazed that the author took the time to explain in such detail about the process. It was basically what I imagined but with more details and humor. She also managed to convey the stress!

  18. Hi Diana
    I am a super fan of the Outlander series. Every time a new book is released I go back and read each book from the beginning. It helps to refresh my memory on what has already transpired, glean new facts that I may have missed in previous readings and, most importantly, heightens my anticipation at diving into a brand new chapter in the lives of Claire and Jamie! Looking forward with great anticipation to Bees.


  19. Hello Diana. I am sure you have been told this time and time again. I do enjoy reading your books. I have read your books from the very first time one was published and only available in hardbound. I was so excited when I came across your second book after it got released and down in the ages.

    At the end of 2015 I got diagnosed with cancer. It turned out to be stage IF and had metastasized to my bones. I had to read all my favorite books again. I couldn’t read enough. I really had hoped to hold on long enough to be able to read your 9th book. I still have hopes yet. Keep up the work. I love your creations.


    • Hi, Annette,

      So glad you enjoy my books!

      I’m so very sorry to hear about your cancer, and hope you are doing okay.

      I really do believe BEES will be finished soon, and am working hard on it. Once I have finished writing it, it will have to go through editing, typesetting, etc., and once my U.S. publisher sets a publication date, it will be posted prominently on my website.


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