• “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.

9 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.

  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

  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. 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.

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