What Goes Into a Book (More Than Just Words!)

Sorry for my lame-o posting last week. I was completely ecstatic about being able to share the cover for PROMISE and receiving all the great feedback. What I didn’t share was that I received a proof copy of the book last week, too.

I. Went. Crazy.

If there were hidden cameras in my house, the video would be a huge hit on YouTube. I haven’t acted like that since…um, I don’t even know. I’d say when my kids were born, because it was nearly the same feeling, but I didn’t jump and dance around the room with them clutched to my chest, screaming like a madwoman. Yep, that’s what I did with my proof. And I cried. And laughed. And squee’d. Lots.

Then I started reading it, checking the proof as I’m supposed to, and found typos. Do you know how many times this baby has been combed through?!? Of course you don’t, but those close to me (and helped with that combing) do and none of us can believe we missed these things. So, next time I see a typo or two in a book, I’ll be less likely to criticize the author or editor or publisher. In our case, it’s not because we weren’t trying.

There’s a lot that goes into putting a book together and being that we’re all human, there are bound to be mistakes. If there’s 1 missing word among 95,000 of them or 2 juxtaposed characters when there are over half-a-million characters in the entire book, that’s pretty good quality control.

Writing, editing and proofreading are just part of the process – though I will be the first to tell you (when most publishers won’t admit it) that writing is the hugest part. What else goes into making a book? Here are a few things:

  • Selecting the size, type of paper and format(s) that will best serve the book, while being cost effective.
  • Determining the suggested list price for each format.
  • Obtaining ISBNs – one for each format, including hardcover, paperback, ebook, etc.
  • Designing the cover, ensuring the ISBN barcode is included, along with all other specs of the printer.
  • Creating the front matter – cover page, copyright page, acknowledgements, etc.
  • Creating the back matter – any excerpts from other books by the author, marketing for other books, etc.
  • Inserting front and back matter into the text file.
  • Formatting the interior for the printer, including page numbers, chapter headings, page headers/footers, alignment, any photos, etc.
  • Obtaining and reviewing a proof.
  • Ordering Advance Review Copies (ARCs).
  • Printing the final products.

This has nothing to do with marketing or sales. This is just putting the book together and it’s by no means comprehensive. When you self-publish, you may make all of these decisions. And guess who keeps all the revenues? Not you. Here’s who else gets a piece of your pie:

  • The printer – most printers create a web page where people can buy the book from them, as well, and take a percentage after they take their cut for printing the book.
  • Distributors and wholesalers – advertise your book to the buyers at retailers, libraries, etc.
  • Retailers – whether online or brick-and-mortar, they take a big percentage.

Who gets a piece of your pie when you publish mainstream? Everybody above, plus:

  • Publisher – they need to pay your editor, proofreader, cover designer, publicist, etc., and they’re in the business to make a profit, as well.
  • Agent

Why do we writers get so little when we did the majority of the work? Good question!!! If you’re in it for the money, you must be in it for the long haul and hope your books eventually make the best sellers’ lists and stay on there a long time. But most of us aren’t in it for the money. We write because we just can’t not write. If the money follows…B O N U S!!

Does any of this surprise you, readers and writers? What are your thoughts?

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One Response to What Goes Into a Book (More Than Just Words!)

  1. Elle Strauss says:

    Congratulations on getting your proof copy! Very informative post, a little overwhelming, but good to know.

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