• “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.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “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.

67 Responses »

  1. 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.

    Marianne

  2. 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.

      Cheers,
      Loretta
      Diana’s Webmaster

    • Jean,
      I’m glad that Dianna wrote about how publishing works. I’m a biologist and never gave a thought to how books were published. Thank you Dianna! I found it interesting. I just started to listen to the Outlander books during this quarantine period. I like listening while sewing masks and knitting.
      Cheers!
      Gail

    • 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!

  3. 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.

    Regards,
    June

  4. 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.

    Annette.

    • 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.

      Hugs,
      Diana

    • Dear Annette,

      Good luck and God Bless You! Keep fighting!!

      All My Best,

      Jenny

  5. I hope “Bee’s”completes questions raised in previous books.
    What happened to raymond? Jenny had a life in america? What about lord john and William. He ever come to terms with Jamie. What about Rogers great uncle. William B.
    So many thoughts and paths open. Have enjoyed your
    series.
    Thank you

  6. I find your style of writing amazing. I’ve heard you describe how you write a scene and it makes me wish I could write. Your books are a pleasure to get lost in when real life can be so exhausting. I have no desire for you to rush any book you write because the research and times are as important to me as the characters. One of your many, many fans, Thank You, Glenda

  7. Hello Diana,
    I discovered Outlander only recently, January, 2020. I binge watched the first season of the television program. I took a brief break, and then continued on committed to pacing myself a little more to stretch out this wonderful adventure with Jamie and Claire. I know I have sort of gone about this backward as now I have gone back to the beginning and I am reading all the books. I am currently in book 5. The books are fantastic! They are rich with details of the surroundings, the history, the passion, and the human conflict. And I am awestruck by the honesty, trust and commitment between Jamie and Claire. As they speak their truth to one another and respect each other’s thoughts, actions and feelings, I find myself saying, “life is messy but there are moments when it all works!” There is plenty that doesn’t go their way but their inner core is consistent and respectful. As a mental health therapist it is so gratifying to actually see and experience what a healthy loving relationship is and can be…and now on national television! I am looking forward to getting copies of the Companion books so I can delve into this even further!

    I keep wondering where oh where did you Diana, learn to have such wonderful insight into the human condition? And to be able to articulate it so eloquently.

    Thank you for writing this beautiful story to enrich our lives. Beautifully done. Truly inspiring!

    Brenda A. Tracy

  8. I cannot wait to read Bees. Your books have brought me so much joy over the past nearly 20 years (when I was turned on to them). I have reread the earlier ones probably 10 times, and all the rest several times over as well. I’m even reading them again now in anticipation of the next one. Your characters being so complex yet so relatable is really what sets them apart for me. That and a deep love of historical fiction. I love all the history you include and still keep the readers absorbed! I wish my teachers had been able to do that! I was hesitant when the series came out, of course there would be differences, but I have really become a fan and this last season has really given me an appreciation for the actors and the show (although the books will always be my favorite). I have had quite a few more downs than ups the past few years but your books have always been a welcome escape. I have the entire collection of Outlander books, LJ books, and short stories as well. I would really just like to say thank you. And I cannot wait for any future stories you have to share with us about these beloved characters.

  9. Diana,

    I started reading books 1 through 8 in January of this year (2020). It’s been incredible to move from book to book without waiting for the next release. I’m on chapter 135 in the eighth book so I’m hoping book 9 will be coming soon! I love your books, characters, writing style and historical context. Thank you for giving me so much reading enjoyment!!

    A huge fan,
    Laura

  10. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing and how much I enjoy the work you obviously put into your research and the passion you give the characters for each other. Take your time ….PLEASE ….on the new book, so it will be as good as the previous books….truly wonderful!

    I have read through all the Outlander books TWICE with so much enjoyment. Every time I find more lovely nuggets of gold I missed the first time. I know that I will read them “again” when you do release the next book “BEES” and probably discover more things that I missed. I love it that they are so lengthy also. Nothing is better than a GOOD book that is LONG!! So delightful!!

    I have watched the TV series twice, also, and usually when a new season is released go back for a refresher. The actors do such a wonderful job with how you wrote the books. I also loved it that you were able to be in a scene…what FUN!!

    I can’t help but hope that the characters will continue on in future books past ” Bees ” I would certainly love to have even more to read!

  11. I’m going to break my long silence to say that I first read Outlander in 2009, having borrowed a copy from the Erie Public Library. I did that because I was in medical school. Since then, I have purchased all of your novels. Lucky me!

    For years I’ve wanted to thank you for getting me through medical school. So now I’m doing it. Thank you!!! I slept every night like a babe, even while Claire was up doing midnight surgery. No matter what had happened during the day, I could pick up your novel–whichever one I happened to be reading at the time–and find surcease of my cares.

    Before graduating from medical school, I had other lives, including teaching bonehead English and related subjects to pilots and engineers, raising 5 kids, editing in a small publishing house (which meant I got to do lots of jobs, including manuscript acquisition, copy editorial, proofing, pitching ideas to authors, working directly with sales and marketing, and developing lots of different kinds of print products and software products), and teaching Chinese martial and wellness arts in the local community college.

    I’m saying all this because I want you to understand that–and why–I am not going to ask you when 9 will be published. I will accept it, when the time comes, as the miracle it is. A thousand thanks to you, dear Diana!

  12. Hi Diana,

    I found your work via my doctor. She prescribed your books to help reduce stress and suggested the audiobooks due to eye sight.

    Have you listened to them? It is a whole new experience. The narrator is amazing.

    Do you know if the audiobook for BEES will be released the same day? Or can you tell where to inquire?

    Thanks,
    Nicole

    PS
    I took a page from your writing process for a presentation at work. Little bits as they came…here and there…it was exiting and I didn’t feel confined and rigid in the creative part. I had no idea where it was going and some days it didn’t come at all. #More practice writing this way and more self trust!

    • Hi,

      Yes, Diana has listened to the audio versions of her books. And the narrator you are referring to is likely Davina Porter, who is very popular and talented.

      Like the printed version of the books, the release date of the audio versions are up to the company that produces and manufactures them. And this varies by country internationally.

      No dates for audio versions will be announced until after the release date is set for the print version in the U.S.A.

      So stay tuned! The release date for the printed first-edition hardcover of BEES in the U.S.A. will be posted by Diana here and on her social media accounts when known.

      Cheers,
      Loretta
      Diana’s Webmistress

  13. Hello from the bayou state! I am a huge fan like so many others. I’ve read the series 27 times. Nope I’m not lying. I just want to say, take all the time you need because the sooner you finish means the sooner we come to the end and I don’t want this adventure to end! Plus I love history so I totally appreciate the time, energy, and dedication it takes to do it right. Thank you so much for the gift of Outlander. It has brought so much joy into my life!

    • I may well be dead before this series finishes. I am waiting impatiently for Go Tell the Bees. I have already had my three score years and ten and more.

      • Hi, Brenda,

        Note that Diana will be 69 years old on January 11, 2021, and she isn’t talking about dying before BEES and Book Ten are done!

        Diana is working hard on BEES, and it’s taking longer than the average time it took to write the first eight in the Outlander series. Saying you are going to be dead and miss reading it if she doesn’t hurry up… how is that inspiring? Or helpful to Diana? (It isn’t. How could it be?)

        Folks, please, stop posting comments like this.

        Be thankful and glad for every day we have on this beautiful planet. BEES will be worth the wait.

        Cheers,
        Loretta
        Diana’s Webmistress
        (Will be 67 years old in 2021…)

      • Loretta,
        I love your comment! Stand up for our Lady Diana. I never post on these things but I loved what you wrote!!
        As for Ms. Brenda- any of us could be dead at anytime- that’s how time works. My mother-in-law who loved this series, from the beginning, and introduced it to me-sadly did die several years ago. She will never get a chance to hold Bee’s in her hands to smell it, read it and love it. But I can tell you that she would have a few choice words for anyone trying to make the author feel bad about that. It’s not Diana’s fault that my mother-in-law got sick and died. It’s our privilege that Diana has allowed us to experience these characters, stories, and her amazing mind. I can tell you that during the last year of her life- when she was very sick and in the hospital that entire year, some of the best memories I have of the two of us are watching, reading, or talking about Outlander. We became closer because of our love for this series and I would love to thank Diana for that. I will read the books when they come out and I know in my heart that my mother-in-law will be with me. I may be inpatient at times, like most of us but Art, true ART takes time. No one should ever rush the artist or you will be unhappy with the rushed product. Inspiration is not something you can buy off Amazon and it takes time to create worlds. I say thank you and please may I have another- whenever you can and if you so choose.
        Here’s to a better year and may we all have patience for each other!

    • Emily
      You must be a really fast reader to have read the series 27 times. I have read it twice and my family members think I am obsessed. These books allow one to easily feel they are part of the script. These characters are all my friends and I have concern for their future and well-being. …Diana their fate is in your hands.

  14. How’s the arm?

  15. Diana
    Thank you thank you thank you for Outlander. I read all the books again about once a year (not yet close to 27 times, but maybe 15) I’ve also bought and watched the first four seasons of the TV series. I enjoyed them, though not nearly as good as the books in my estimation. And I loved the Murtagh character, but not enough to have him instead of Duncan.
    Also -this is not likely to get, or need correction, but my son, who is just starting to read the books, pointed out that in the abbey when Jamie is recuperating, Claire uses the bible to find out what to do for him, but then doesn’t understand the Last Rites when they are given to him, because they are in Latin. It doesn’t account for how she understood the bible she was reading, though possibly I suppose there might have been one in French, which of course she speaks. As I said above, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the books by either myself or my son. Keep going! If you do any more short stories or novellas, I’d love to see one about Josh after he is taken away on the slave ship from Ocracoke. (Preferably with a happy ending).
    Cheers,
    Margi

  16. I am looking forward to the book. You are an amazing writer and I always love the journey (even when I am sad that beloved characters die).
    I just want to point out that “cannot” is one word; inserting a space between”can” and “not” changes the meaning of what is being said
    ……….”compositors can not get a grasp on Gaelic words, no matter how carefully I print…….”
    Thank you, Diana, for bringing Claire and Jamie into our lives!

  17. I am thoroughly delighted with every piece that Diana writes that finds its way through the extensive publication process which I now understand much better thanks again to Diana’s genius. No one rushed Einstein; can we not do that for dear Diana who feels the need to respond to our ignorant inquiries that simply take her time away from doing what we all want, Bees published! I’ve placed a preorder with her favorite Poison Pen Book book store and am patiently waiting for the arrival of Bees before I die. Currently disabled and homebound like everyone in a pandemic although makes little difference to me since I am mobility impaired anyway. At 73 in marginal health I feel no urgency to get a refund on my payment; if I should die before Bees or book ten I am happy for Diana to profit from my confidence in her ability to deliver when ready a masterpiece as only she can do. Keep your panties on friends; don’t demand a genius waste her time responding to your petty impatience!

  18. I started watching the series in June of 2020 in the midst of the COVID. I then started reading the books almost immediately. I’m on my third read through of the 8 books. I’ve got them on my Kindle and the audible and switch back and fourth between them. I’ve never been one to reread books before. I’m on book 5 of this read through. Love getting the sneak peaks into the Bees. I’ve also read all of the ancillary books, Lord John, etc. Can’t wait to see what is in store for the Fraser family. So much fun to read stories of lasting love and great character development as well as humor. The books have so much more depth than the series although I love the series and the casting too. Can’t even tell you how many times I have watched the series. I have watching parties with my neighbor which has been a great social activity during the lockdown. She and I sit in an empty farmhouse and watch together and discuss how great the actors, the casting, and the music are. Keep up the great work, I’ve already ordered book 9 from the Poison Pen and will also get the Kindle edition but I wanted at least one autographed book. I hope Starz picks up the show past season 6. It would be a shame if they didn’t go all the way through the books. I think so far the 8th book is my favorite. Keep up the good work and I will be waiting patiently for “Bees” and beyond.

  19. I, too, am a big fan of the books and the tv series. The books are, of course, so much better than the edited versions of the stories that we see, but once we’ve “seen” the characters as played on the tv series, I now visualize them when I read the books again, and they are perfect! Outlander has now become part of the culture and part of my life.
    Just as the Harry Potter novels were fabulous, the actors who portrayed those characters were perfect and in my mind when I re-read all those novels. If they try to change the characters on the series, it would absolutely ruin the images of the characters when I am reading the stories. My only disappointment in the tv series, aside from changing some of the events as they really happened in the novels, was that the tv characters were wearing wigs past the first season, and the clothes worn in the tv series were really too good to believe. The cabins, too, were a bit too well-built and well-furnished for that time and their circumstances. Reading Diana’s novels has made me realize how much we take for granted in our time, and how it must have really been for people living in those revolutionary times.
    I really don’t want the story to end!

  20. Diana,

    I really appreciate and enjoyed your explanation of the process of getting a book published. While I am not the person who thinks you “owe” me a book, and do not get upset about the wait, I am an information junkie and so LOVE to learn about how things are made/done. Yep, that’s right, I’m a serious nerd.

    So you will never see a post from me complaining about how long it is between books, or even asking when a book will come out. Because, you know, I will enjoy that book WHENEVER it comes out, be that next week or in 10 years (provided I’m still here in 10 years, of course).

    This doesn’t mean I’m patient. I remember once after waiting in a long line to buy a Christmas present (pre-online ordering): the sales clerk thanked me for my patience, as others before me in line had been loudly complaining. I laughed and told her that I’m not patient, I’m just quiet! She thought that was hilarious and thanked me for being quiet! We both got a laugh out of that.

    Because, you know, my emotional reactions to things are not someone else’s fault. It appears to me there are still a number of people in this world who have yet to learn this lesson, and maybe never will.

    In this virtual world, I am a BIG fan of the delete button or process. Unfollowing, banning, unfriending, all can make life less stressful.

    Some people forget that the First Amendment only pertains to the government not being able to suppress your speech. Nobody else has to listen if they don’t want to.

    While criticism has its place, one can do it politely and helpfully.

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