Monday, 17 December 2007

Publication date woes

Heard today that, due to ‘technical difficulties’ in the ‘production department’ of MNW, the publication of Testament has had to be put back by two weeks. Drat!! So, instead of the New Year thrill of seeing it on the shelves and on the Internet on January the 4th, I’m going to have to wait until January the 18th. It’s only two weeks, I know, but is still a bit of a disappointment.
After all, it’s been almost a year since I had the fateful email from Will Atkins, the MNW commissioning editor, telling me that he really liked Testament and that MNW would like to publish it. On January 4th 2008.

It was more than slightly amazing to me that his email contained so much detail. Publication date, price, terms – all there in black and white. When I’d submitted the MS to MNW four months previously I had assumed that the best I could hope for, some time in the future, would be a carefully worded email expressing interest and asking me to come and talk to them about the book. My previous experience had led me to believe that that, in itself, would be a minor miracle. But no – we love your book and we want to publish it. It’s this, it’s that, it’s the other (sparing my own blushes by not directly quoting from v. complimentary email.) End of story.

Of course, it wasn’t the end of the story. There was some polishing and rewriting – though no radical structural editing of the kind I was expecting after brushes with other publishers (which were along the lines of ‘we really like the historical strand but aren’t sure about the contemporary, are you quite happy with it?’ I re-wrote the contemporary strand completely – characters, storyline, the lot – on the basis of that question alone. And the publisher still didn’t like it enough to publish…) Then there was copy-editing… Am I alone in finding the comments of copy-editors, their changing of punctuation and suggestions as to alternative words, infinitely more annoying than the more swingeing comments of commissioning editors? Perhaps I am – perhaps it was just because I had met Will, liked and trusted him and would, pretty much, have considered anything he said before deciding not to do it.

Editing was done entirely by computer without paper ever intervening. Will sent me a version of the book with his suggestions logged in the ‘track changes’ option in MS Word. I then changed or didn’t change things as suggested (or elsewhere if I suddenly realised I needed to change other stuff I hadn’t seen before) and my changes were also logged, in a different colour. So, we could see who’d suggested what and who had done what. And why - you can add comments to your own or somebody else’s changes. Amazing stuff! Doubtless all you pros out there are going ‘tchah, track changes, old news’ but for me it was a revolutionary piece of technological wizardry!

The copy editing was done on paper – not sure why but involved the familiar tons of typescript and the poor postman standing at the door before shoving it into my hands. At least it wasn’t like the old days when MS would come back with the familiar ‘Thank you for sending us your novel…’ letter to ruin your day.

Then came proof reading. Finally, I saw Testament as it would appear in print, each block of page-sized text sitting, looking slightly lost, in the middle of an A4 sheet. Somehow, a lot of errors seemed to have crept in at the typesetting stage so I had to keep my wits about me. Fortunately, as mentioned elsewhere, I read very slowly which is ideal for proofreading. I’d be really interested to know how many more errors the professional proofreader picked up than me.

As an unwelcome consequence of the proof-reading experience, I’ve become hyper-critical of typos and errors in published books. ‘Pah’ I cry, ‘somebody didn’t proof-read very carefully did they?’
You can all do the same to Testament when it comes out as I doubt very much whether I, at least, was able to spot 100% of the errors.

Proof reading finished in the middle of October and – as far as I can gather – the book was re-typeset and sent off to be printed and bound and have its jacket fitted cosily around itself ready to sit fatly on shelves.

Since I’ve been privy to all previous stages, I can only assume that it’s printing, binding, jacketing or getting the thing into warehouses which has gone awry. See, I don’t really know what ‘production’ entails apart from the bit of handwaving above.

Anyway, I shall remain in the dark and bide my time until the 18th of January when, all being well, Testament will finally see the light of bookshops (or at least the inside of an Amazon warehouse). I heard today that most Waterstones, Borders and Books Etc will be stocking it, along with lots of small independent bookshops which are MNW’s lifeblood.
THANK YOU SMALL INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS – THIS AUTHOR LOVES YOU! Some of you are even on my daily blog reading Simon and Tim down at the Big Green Bookshop.

So, if you have a local independent bookshop – sadly, we no longer do in Canterbury - please do order Testament from them, they (and all of us at MNW) need all the support you can give them (and us!)


Akasha Savage said...

Ahhh...another two weeks to wait. I bet it seems like a lifetime!

David Isaak said...

That's a disappointment indeed, Alis.

As to your initial letter from Will, I think the "yes, we want to publish this" is fairly common for MNW, and fairly uncommon for everyone else. Though Will definitely takes an important editorial hand once they have accepted a book, I think MNW can only function if they can get to a firm "yes" or "no" based on the manuscript they receive, without they usual to-and-fro.

No doubt that means they have to pass on some manuscripts with great promise that seem too speculative and unshaped. On the other hand, they don't seem to be running short of new manuscripts to say "yes" to.

Anyhow, sorry about your delay. It probably won't make any difference to when I receive my copy of Testament, though--Amazon UK delivers to the US based on some inscrutable formula based on phases of the Moon and the number of letters in the buyer's last name. I've had it take a week; I've had it take three months. Looking forward to it either way.

Alis said...

Thanks, guys for your kind comments - hope you both think it's worth waiting for when you finally get hold of a copy!