Have you ever wandered through a book store and wondered about the process a manuscript goes through on its way to being a bound book? If so, you’re in luck because Debra Dixon, Publisher and CEO for BelleBooks, is here to give us the skinny on book production.
Take it away, Deb.
This gives me a chance to talk a bit about production, covers and how a writer gets from contract to “package.” Readers don’t always realize that most authors don’t have cover control if they are working with a larger publisher. They may have consultation, but they don’t make the final decisions. Covers are a part of the marketing package. Publishers want to be careful about the message they send, and they control covers to ensure the book targets the right market. A book’s cover has to appeal to a specific demographic. You can’t put a cutting edge tech look on an historical novel. You’d be surprised how often authors have tunnel vision about covers. Quite understandably, many authors see only the book and not the marketplace.
When books are bought, the editor begins prepping information for marketing such as a short synopsis, one-line book description, author backlist, and reader demographics for the book. Editor and author determine “read alikes” for the book, which helps marketing and the art department “see” where the book fits in the broad world of publishing. The “read alike” helps art see how other publishers are reaching out to that market. The art department, depending on the size can boast an Art Director in addition to graphic artists and designers who find, commission or prepare the cover art as well as handling the typography (text) of the cover. In Bell Bridge we handle 99% of our covers in house. (Click over to see our recent releases. www.BellBridgeBooks.com
Additionally, in Bell Bridge Books, we ask authors to come up with a list of covers they find appealing. The covers don’t even have to be in a particular genre. What we’re looking for is the aesthetic sense of the author. Despite being verbal creatures, authors don’t speak “graphic,” which makes a picture worth a thousand words in understanding what the author perceives as perfect and yummy. Next we employ the author’s verbal abilities and have them fill out an “Art Facts Sheet,” which is chock full of questions and information on the book such as setting, characters, important items/props from the book, key moments, moods and scenes. Emails with ideas go back and forth.
While the cover prep work is quietly percolating concepts in the minds of all concerned, the interior of the book is getting its share of attention. These days, most “typesetting” is done with a digital file. Most editing is done with a digital file using the most-excellent Word software feature called “Track Changes.” I am a WordPerfect girl, but I will admit that editing chores go much more smoothly in Word. The author is working on a live file until the copyedit phase. At that point the manuscript is “locked down” and only the editor or production personnel will work on the file. Dedications, acknowledgments, forewords or other front and back matter is typically added prior to the copyediting phase. There’s been an in-house legal review of the book as well. This sometimes necessitates a consultation with attorneys.
After the editing rounds (Revision, Line Editing, Copyedit) are done, the book’s final file is sent to an interior designer who is in charge of getting the book into shape for the printer, choosing a type face for the book, for the headings, creating title pages, tables of contents, etc. There can be consultations between the editor and the designer for books with special needs. WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING A CHEERLEADER is a book written entirely in diary entries. The editor and author discussed plans and strategies for the final book design. Then the designer and editor worked together to make final decisions.
You’d think the author and editor would be sick of the book by now, but when the interior designer has the book in shape, the author and editor get one last chance to proof/review the book before it is released to the printer. The Production Manager gives the book a final review as well.
Once the interior is designed, the Art Department jumps back into the process. They need the final number of pages to “pull a spine” for the book. (Sounds painful doesn’t it!) Once the width of the spine is known, the full cover front/spine/back can be finished or assembled into one file as if the cover of your book was laid flat on a table. That is…assuming the back cover has been done. You’ve got to have all three pieces and the back cover needs cover copy to lure the reader. The back cover copy can be created at anytime during the process, but for our publishing company the back cover copy tends to be one of the last bits needed. The art department is usually screaming for it. (Which, for us, sounds a lot like, “Dude. Where’s the copy?”)
Editors and authors work with the cover copy, usually bouncing the copy back and forth until everyone’s pleased. They’ll brainstorm titles in the same way.
This is really just the broadest overview of getting a book from purchase by us to purchase by you. We’ve got a checklist of about 85 steps, and some of those steps are really short hand for 3 or 5 sub-steps. There is no question that publishing books is a labor intensive process. It’s also a labor of love for most of us in the industry.
Thank you, Deb, for being with us today.
Join us on Monday when our own Heather Long talks about conquering nerves before an author appearance.
Bio: Debra Dixon is known as the Cult Leader of GMC due to her unintentional penning of a nonfiction book that has become a “must-have” accessory for every serious writer. For the last eleven years, she’s served as Publisher and CEO for BelleBooks and its imprint Bell Bridge Books. And before you ask, GMC is really easy to get. Just go to www.DebraDixon.com and use the link on the home page to jump to the publisher. For more information on BelleBooks: www.BellBridgeBooksBlog.com, www.BellBridgeBooks.com, www.BelleBooks.com
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