Book Report: The Red Pencil Stage

This past week the HarperCollins folks had meetings and made decisions, and on Friday I received the copyedited manuscript for IN THE EVENT OF MY UNTIMELY DEMISE, my book. This is a milestone of some sort: the writing part is essentially over. I merely need to look at the copyeditor’s grammatical tweaks such as whom not who and suggestions like maybe lose the third paragraph. If I disagree with anything I can write “stet” in red pencil. That’s power.
I thought I was pretty good at grammar and spelling, but Christy the copyediting lady is magical. She sees everything.
The process of actually writing a book has been really interesting. I’ve learned things I never knew or thought much about. In fact, I think my next book should be titled BOOK: The Making of a Book. The book would be about the book itself. Pure genius.
First of all, I had no idea it took so long between signing the publishing contract and the book actually appearing on a store shelf. On average you’re talking 12-18 months, unless you’re pooping out something timely like a character assault on a politician or brainless fluff like WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN NICOLE RICHIE’S EXPECTING.
The length of time makes sense now though. Even when the book is written there are still weeks of editing to be done. Marketing has to be planned. Covers have to be designed. The book has to be promoted to the retailers. And once they have an idea how many they’ll be printing, the Harper Lumberjacks have to be dispatched to Canada to fell trees.
Another thing I learned during this whole endeavor was that the publisher has final say on the title, subtitle and cover art. This is a fairly standard item in the contract unless you’re a big-time author and can call the shots. For all other authors it means holding your breath and hoping for the best. It’s a frightening prospect, especially when I think back to all the advertising campaigns I worked on that were destroyed by well-meaning committees of people in suits. I’d have cried and cried and cried if they changed the title to something like WACKY DADDY TALEZ! but in the end they left it alone. I am very happy about that. Now all that’s left is the cover art. I wait patiently for JPEGs to arrive while I torture myself with worst-case scenarios: We thought it would be funny to have an angry mime holding a tangerine.
At any rate, with the creative stage nearing completion the next step is working on endorsements. This is the fun part – seeking out appropriate authors and celebrities to offer blurbs for the back cover. Things like:
“Sack’s instructional memoir to his son is a heartfelt comedic juggernaut that assaults the senses with the same ferocity as the Rangers at Pont du Hoc. I laughed, I cried, and my thumb was numbed with joy.”
More on blurb-seeking later.