• “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

I’ve Finished Writing BEES…!

2021-03-29-what-finished-means-DGI’ve finished writing GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, as of March 27, 2021! Now this new book enters the publication process, outlined below, which will likely take months (a guesstimate only).

Please keep in mind that I do not set the publication date, the day when you can buy the book at a bookstore. That date will be decided by my publishers. Stay tuned!


What Finished Means To An Author

As my husband often remarks, "‘FINISHED’ is a relative term to a writer."

This is true! <g> I thought y’all might be interested in Just What Happens to a book after the writer is “finished” writing the manuscript:

(NB: This is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Owing to the tight Production schedule—such as there was for MOBY (Book 8) and THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2—a lot of these steps have been done concurrently, rather than sequentially, and a few repetitive steps have been skipped. But by and large, this is how it works.)

  1. Books don’t go directly from the author to the bookstore.
  2. Books go from the author to the editor, who
    1. reads the manuscript
    2. discusses the manuscript with the author, and
    3. suggests minor (we hope) revisions that may improve the book
  3. The book goes back to the author, who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. considers the editor’s comments, and
    3. makes whatever revisions, emendments, or clarifications seem right.
  4. The book goes back to the editor, who

    1. reads it again
    2. asks any questions that seem necessary, and
    3. Sends it to
  5. The copy-editor. This is a person whose thankless job is to

    1. read the manuscript one…word…at…a…time
    2. find typos or errors in grammar, punctuation, or continuity (one heck of a job, considering the size not only of the individual books, but of the overall series), and
    3. apply “house style” to things like numbers (e.g. do we write “two” or “2”?), and
    4. write queries to the author regarding anything questionable, whereupon
  6. The book comes back to the author—yes, again— who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. answers the copy-editor’s queries, and
    3. alters anything that the copy-editor has changed that the author disagrees with, and
    4. adds things inspired by the copy-editor’s comments that seem like a good idea. After which, the author sends it back to
  7. The editor—yes, again!—who

    1. re-re-reads it
    2. checks that all the copy-editor’s queries have been answered, and sends it to
  8. The Typesetter (aka Compositor, these days), who sets the manuscript in type, according to the format laid out by
  9. 2021-03-29-the-end

  10. The Book-Designer, who

    1. decides on the layout of the pages (margins, gutters, headers or footers, page-number placement)
    2. chooses a suitable and attractive typeface
    3. decides on the size of the font, leading and kerning
    4. chooses or commissions any incidental artwork (endpapers, maps, dingbats—these are the little gizmos that divide chunks of text, but that aren’t chapter or section headings)—or, for something like the OC II, a ton of miscellaneous illustrations, photographs, etc. that decorate or punctuate the text.
    5. Designs chapter and Section headings, with artwork, and consults with the

      (NB: People always want to know how many pages the book will be. This depends entirely on the Book Designer’s decisions, so there’s no telling ahead of time. The font, leading, kerning (leading and kerning are, respectively, the amount of space between lines and between letters) and page layout will all affect how many words fit on a page.)

  11. Cover Artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or PhotoShops the cover art (this often happens earlier in the process, but I put it here for convenience), which is then sent to
  12. The Printer, who prints the dust-jackets—which include not only the cover art and the author’s photograph and bio, but also "flap copy," which may be written by either the editor or the author (I usually write my own), but is then usually messed about with by
  13. The Marketing Department, whose thankless task is to try to figure out how best to sell a book that can’t reasonably be described in terms of any known genre <g>, to which end, they

    1. try to provide seductive and appealing cover copy to the book (which the author normally approves. I usually insist on writing it myself).
    2. compose advertisements for the book (author usually sees and approves these—or at least I normally do).
    3. decide where such advertisements might be most effective (periodicals, newspapers, book-review sections, radio, TV, Facebook, Web)
    4. try to think up novel and entertaining means of promotion, such as having the author appear on a cooking show to demonstrate recipes for unusual foods mentioned in the book.
    5. kill a pigeon in Times Square and examine the entrails in order to determine the most advantageous publishing date for the book.
  14. OK. The manuscript itself comes back from the typesetter, is looked at (again) by the editor, and sent back to the author (again!), who anxiously proof-reads the galleys (these are the typeset sheets of the book; they look just like the printed book’s pages, but are not bound. (NB: of recent years, galleys are often provided in electronic form)), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile

    (Somewhere in here, recording begins on the audiobook, which is normally released at the same time as the hardcover. Ideally, the narrator is given a version of the manuscript that’s pretty close to the ultimate printed form, but they may get earlier or partial versions from which to prepare their performance (choosing accents and pacing for different characters, for instance).)

  15. A number of copies of the galley-proofs are bound—in very cheap plain covers—and sent to (NB: This is SOP, but we haven’t been doing it for the last few books, owing to the fact that the book itself is coming out on the heels of Production; there’s no time to distribute ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies).) (NB: These days, it’s often PDFs, though paper ARCs are still used, too.))
  16. The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys (or PDFs) are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, blogs, websites, and to any specialty publication to whom this book might possibly appeal, in hopes of getting preliminary reviews, from which cover quotes can be culled, and/or drumming up name recognition and excitement prior to publication. Frankly, they don’t always bother with this step with my books, because they are in a rush to get them into the bookstores, and it takes several months’ lead-time to get reviews sufficiently prior to publication that they can be quoted on the cover.
  17. With luck, the author finds 99.99% of all errors in the galleys (you’re never going to find all of them; the process is asymptotic—vide the typo in the very last line of MOBY…), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to

    (The ebook coding happens somewhere in here.)

  18. The Printer, who prints lots of copies (“the print-run” means how many copies) of the “guts” of the book—the actual inside text—are printed. These are then shipped to
  19. The Bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to
  20. The Distributors. There are a number of companies—Amazon is the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones, and the large publishing houses have their own warehouse facilities, too—whose business is shipping, distributing, and warehousing books. The publisher also ships directly to

(1. Arrangements are made in this phase for ebook distribution through retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

  21. Bookstores, but bookstores can only house a limited number of books. Therefore, they draw on distributors’ warehouses to resupply a title that’s selling briskly, because it takes much longer to order directly from the publisher. And at this point, [sigh]… the book finally reaches
  22. You, the reader.

And we do hope you like it when you get it—because we sure-God went to a lot of trouble to make it for you. <g>

Click here to visit my Writer’s Corner (What I Do) webpage…

Images are by Diana Gabaldon. The top image shows printed book manuscripts. The bottom image shows a screen from her word processing software.

This blog post includes an updated version of “What Finished Means To An Author,” an essay that I have posted several times in the past. This new version was also posted on my official Facebook page on Monday, March 29, 2021.

74 Responses »

  1. Whew! That is a heck of a lot of work! I know it will all be well worth it though. Your books always are. You haven’t let me down yet! Thanks for all your hard work, Diana. Looking forward to getting this one in my hot little hands!

    Brenda P.

  2. My annual first of the yr re-listen to the books just wrapped up today…and what a lovely surprise to find this news when I searched to see if there was an update on Bees.

    Thank you ;)

    Now you don’t have time to respond you have the last bk to get busy with

    Ok fine a few days off won’t hurt ;)

    Thank you for helping me pass the days at a desk

  3. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!


  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you Diana!!! God bless and long may you continue to enchant us!

  6. I guess I better start my re reading of the whole series then! Thanks for all that info. I, like everyone else here, really look forward to these. This year it seems like a much awaited friend, after all we’ve been through. Thanks for all your hard work.

  7. YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. WOW – that was so interesting to find out about the book process. I am so looking forward to when this book finally get to me!!!

  9. Holy Moley! We had no idea of the work involved. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!
    You and your work, including all the sidelines going on, are amazing. Thank you for keeping your readers entertained for many years. Long live Claire and Jaime!

  10. Hallelujah! What a wonderful gift as we near the end of a dreadful year. I’ve always said the hardest part about walking my dog is taking the first step out the door. What a thrill to know Bees has taken that step at last.

  11. Yah, hooray, good to know.
    But what a lot of going backwards and forwards goes on after book is “finished” being written. Will not hold my breath quite yet, or rock up to book store expecting to see it on these shelf for a while.
    At the moment re-reading book 6. Even though season 5 had a good bit of book 6 in it. I presume season 6 will have some book 7 in it as well.
    Can not wait to be able to read “Bees”.

    • Hi, Sandra,

      That’s exactly my point… the editing and publication process takes time!

      As for season six of the TV series, STARZ says it will concentrate on book six, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. Doesn’t preclude them from including storylines and events from my other books in the OUTLANDER series. Adapting large novels to a tv series with limited episodes is complicated and a lot of work. :-)



  12. Wonderful! Congratulations, Diana!

  13. It feels wonderful to have something to look forward to. I love the richness and depth of your storytelling, the historical events woven into the lives of this family, along with your ability to paint each scene with such detail. Thank you for enriching my life.

  14. Love your books, of course. Not nearly as impressed with the show. But I am waiting eagerly for your next release. My only problem is, you are so dedicated and so accurate, that at my age, I may not not make it till the next book is finished!
    I promise to try really hard though. They are worth the wait.

  15. I have been a longtime follower of this series long before it became a television show. I read the first book no long after it was printed and have followed the series through the years. So thrilled to being able to read this latest continuation of Claire and Jamie

  16. So excited. Thank you for these books. They have been a blessing to read and reread and listen to and watching the tv series.

    This is bittersweet because I can’t wait to see how it all ends but I also don’t want it to end.

  17. too much work to be done!!! please at least print it in nice round letters because I grew old enough and I started to wear glasses and all I want is to have it in hard copy. To smell the ink on the pages and to hear the whisper of the paper when I turn a page.

    • Hi, Thalia,

      As I mention in the blog post, the publishers and their typesetters make all the choices in font faces, font sizes, and leading. Not me. Compositing is an art unto itself.

      But I do agree that the hardcover version of any book is a delight!


  18. I know it takes just about FOREVER in a reader (rabid fan)’s perspective, but it is all worth the wait to re-immerse oneself in the Outland story and “live” with the characters again!

    Am I the only one who starts grieving toward the end of the book, knowing that I will soon no longer be in that universe of Outlander???

  19. Can’t wait! Spent early 2020 watching all the seasons of Outlander. I was afraid they wouldn’t meet my expectations but they did. I spent the rest of the year rereading all the books. Loved them just as much the 2nd time around. Glad I re-read because I had forgotten so many things. Hope everything will still be fresh in my mind when the new book is released!

  20. Whew, what a ton of work you have put into “the Bees” and the whole Outlander series. I have so enjoyed reading all of the excerpts you have shared as you have been writing this final chapter in Jamie an Clair’s adventures. Thank you so so much for all of your efforts to create this wonderful and fantastic tale. Hang in there for all of the work you have yet to do before the book becomes available to us. I am so excited. Again, thank you and bless you for sharing Jamie and Clair with all of us.

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