• “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. YAY! I got tears when I checked and saw there was an update 2 days ago. I just decided to start the series again for the 3rd time, so I think my timing will line up nicely! Claire just went through the stones…she has no idea what possibilities await her. Thanks for all the info on what goes into creating these blessed works of art. Thank you for my favourite books ever!

  2. Yay! Loved the consultation of the pigeon entrails. As good a method as any, I suppose. Thanks for providing all of us with so many hours of entertainment and diversion.

  3. Wow…All well worth the wait! I too was so so surprised to check Diana’s website today and find “finished” as an unexpected pleasure! I have read all the books twice and have begun my collection of the video collection on DVD!

    I would like to CONGRATULATE YOU and hopefully we will see “Go Tell The Bees” for a summer read or at least we can look forward to Christmas!!!! Thank You soooo much!! Best series I have ever followed and it all started with Book One the my mom-in-law gave me just off-handedly in 2013!!!

  4. Thank you for this essay! Rather an impressive procedure a book has to go through till we can enjoy it. What I am missing: At which stage is Bees at present? Does you finished writing mean it is somewhere in „B“?

  5. Thank you for including info on availability of the audible book about same time as hard cover, having both helps when reading with dyslexia. Look forward to enjoying this new adventure. Congratulations.

    • The availability of the audio version of a book for purchase is up to the company that creates the audio version in a country or publication region, and their production schedules. Of course they work to have it available as soon as possible after the initial hardcover release, but that isn’t a given. It All Depends.

      And it takes time for a voice actor to record 700-plus pages! <g>


      • Thank you for the note about us Audio readers, I hope Davina is practicing up her lovely voice. She really brings each character to life with your wonderful writings. You’ve both helped me survive this Covid quarantine due to my own poor health. Running off to the Revolution has been my escape. I wish that someone would consider making a “Red Dead Redemption 2″ like game out of your novels so I could travel Scotland, Jamaica, and the Eastern Coast of the Americas. Too many places my wheelchair can’t go.
        Thank you also for your amazing portrayal of First Nations life and tribe world back then. Your writings are a blessing to all of us.

  6. Tedious, but I bet you feel like a proud Mama when your book is finished?!
    Thank you for sharing this – I am finishing up my own book at present and this gives me an idea of what to expect in the the near future:)
    Congrats and cheers to Bees!

  7. I had no idea. I was worn out just reading about the process. I am looking forward to the Bees. I have just finished another binge watch of the Outlander DVDs. I recently bought season 5, so that means I have to start at the beginning (again). I do the same with the books. When I get a copy of Bees, I will read Outlander from the beginning. I obviously love the series. Maybe I should start soon, as by the time I get to book 8, Bees will be published!! (LOL). FYI, It was a accident that I was introduced to your work. I was in the habit of checking out audio books for my ride to and from work. I checked out the Outlander audio book because it read good on the description. I was mesmerized! I am glad I listened to the audio first, because when I read the books, the accents were set in my mind. My interest in European History and our own has been awakened. Thank you. I have learned more history from your stories than I learned in 12 years of schooling!

  8. Congratulations Diana! Have been waiting for this fabulous news. Can’t wait for the finished product and to engross myself in Jamie and Claire’s lives once again.

  9. So excited, but most of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! And, thank you!

  10. MERCI Madame Gabaldon,
    Vous êtes en train de nous offrir une oeuvre d’une grande qualité, une fresque fabuleuse qui ouvre de nouvelles perspectives au fil des lectures et relectures.
    Vous êtes une personne généreuse, c’est pourquoi tant de lecteurs se sont attachés à TOUS vos personnages (en particulier Jamie et Claire).
    Comment attendre la traduction en français ou italien ou espagnol? Il faudra se lancer et lire votre tome 9 en langue originale dès la publication aux U.S.A. …avec un dictionnaire!
    De nouveau permettez-moi de vous exprimer toute ma gratitude et mon admiration pour votre talent littéraire et votre créativité qui ne s’épuise pas -bien au contraire- tout au long des années et des volumes que vous nous offrez.

    • Dear Francesca,

      Thank you for the kind words.

      And good luck with the language dictionary! Yes, translations from English to other languages for international editions do take time, and varies from publisher to publisher.


      • Talking about translations, how about some help with the Gaelic? My wife and I love the books – she read Book 2 first having found it in a book exchange in Benidorm while on holiday; we are both now hooked! I’ve just finished 6, she has just finished 7. And we are also watching the DVD series, but some way behind. So glad there is more to come.

  11. Thank you. I am very happy. I can’t wait for the book to be published in Poland.

  12. Profoundly thankful. As if we wouldn’t all buy your book with a brown paper sack cover and exactly zero reviews. But I’ll wait gratefully for the drop. Blessings. Much love.

  13. Wow, I had know Idea of all the work gone into the Books we love to read. Thanks Diana and all those involved in The process. Diana you are such a talented writer thanks again for sharing it with us . Love you and Outlander.

  14. It’s Time…I always take the time to re-read the entire series before the newest book comes out. This gives me an opportunity to reconnect with the characters in my mind plus I always seem to learn something new. Helps to build the excitement…Thank you Diana for everything you do.

  15. Your amazing writing shows off in everything that you put your pen to Diana — this post is no different. I just shared it with my friend to show off your calibre as a writer outside of the book’s universe alone (to which I am trying to get somebody introduced to). Not sure if, by being a mere reader of yours works, I earned the rights to be proud of you, but you continue to hold the mantle of being my favorite author and as such, there are requirements for the role that you have once again smashed out of the ballpark. :)

    Congratulations on completing the manuscript!!

  16. Boy I didn’t know all of the work that goes into getting your book published and into our hands to read.
    Thank you so much for Claire, Jaime, Family, and friends, I do enjoy reading your books, I can wait for this book to add to the rest of books.
    Thank you

  17. Have you finished book #10 yet ?? I wanted to be the 1st to ask. Can’t wait for “Bees” to hit the bookshelves.

  18. Yes, yes, yes!!! What good news!!
    Do you enjoy the editing process?
    A question out of curiosity, it’s true that you never know how many pages a book will have until the book designer finish his/her work, but with small printings, the number of pages has to be a multiple of 8 due to the paper format and size, for a bestseller author with printings so massive as yours, the multiple of 8 rule applies too?
    I hope it’s ready for my birthday! :-D

  19. Fascinating to read your account of the publishing process. I have just had a book self-published and have just sent a second revision of textual errors to the publishers (Balboa)! My own errors I must add. I did not write the book but did have to turn a typed script into electronic format for transmission to publishers. It is my (now-deceased) mother-in-law’s account of her experiences in the British Women’s Land Army in WW2. We call it June’s War (her name was June Stonebridge).

  20. Yaay! I am on my 4th run through of the books and was hoping to finish in time for Bees. It’s gonna be a photo finish! Please tell me that Davina Porter is doing the audiobook? Please, please!!!

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