We’ve finally got the cover art for the new book, which is now up on Amazon for pre-order! It will not hurt our feelings a bit if you all order copies for your several thousand closest friends.
We’re in Wyoming right now, in Jackson Hole to be exact. We came out on a quick trip for a meeting and a little R & R while we’re here. Since we kind of left on short notice and aren’t really going to stay long (plus I didn’t know exactly what our accommodations would be), I didn’t bring my normal stack of medical papers. Hence, I’ll be blogging on some not so scientific stuff for the next couple of posts.
So many people have asked us why we didn’t include this or that in our various books, say, for example, a bibliography. I thought this would be a good time to go through the publishing process for those who might be interested. And to let people know why you can’t put everything including the kitchen sink in a book.
As you can see from the cover above, our book is for sale on Amazon, and it’s listed as having 288 pages. Most people would figure that the book is just about ready to go, otherwise how would the publisher know how many pages long it was. The truth of the matter – in this instance at least (and with every other book we’ve written) – the book is in its original manuscript form, i.e., typewritten and double-spaced with a whole lot of TKs in it (TK means to come as in, we’ll look it up and send it later.
A book is a long collaborative effort between an author (authors) and a publishing house. It starts with the contract, which specifies a delivery date for the manuscript and the number of pages in the book. (A standard trade hardback, which this book is, usually contains 288 pages.) While the author(s) are writing the book, the publishing house is readying the cover and establishing a price for the book. The covers are printed long before the book is ever ready. Since the cover lists the price of the book, and since the cover is of a size that will fit around a 288 page book, then the book needs to come in close to the 288 pages. If the book comes in too short or too long, there are problems.
As soon as the manuscript is finished the authors send it to their editor, the authors’ representative within the book house. The editor begins the process of line editing, which is going through the book and making suggestions. A major misconception among non-writers is that authors send a jumble of words to an editor, who then straightens it all out and makes sense of it. Nothing is further from the truth. Editors only suggest, they never change. They can’t change so much as a comma without the authors’ permission. All the content of the book is the authors’. The cover of the book – including the title – belongs to the publishing company. It is their advertising piece. They often ask the authors, but the decision as to what to call it and what art to put on the cover is all the province of the publisher. To give you an example, MD and I hated the title Protein Power. We thought it was kind of too cutesy and diet booky – we wanted something that had more scientific heft. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. We hated The Protein Power LifePlan even more, but, alas, to no avail. These titles have kind of grown on us over the years, but we weren’t happy campers at first.
After the editor makes suggestions, the manuscript (the actual manuscript filled with blue markings) is returned to the authors. The authors decide which of the many suggestions they agree with and which they don’t. There is then some give and take back and forth with the editor. Editors I know tell me they are delighted if their authors accept 50 percent of their changes. MD and I are usually easier to get along with than that, and probably accept about 75 percent. These suggestions are usually such things as: you need to expand on the introduction in chapter 2; you need to end chapter 4 so that it better leads into chapter 5. Those kinds of things. For a specific example, in the introduction to the chapter in The Protein Power LifePLan (I can’t tell you which chapter because I don’t have a copy here to look it up; I’m pretty sure it’s the one on fat.), I describe Australian Aborigines cleaning, cooking and eating a wallaby (I wrote that chapter). Our editor didn’t like it at all. In fact, she thought it was gross and wanted it removed. I held tough because it was in there to show that Aborigines, and by extension, early man, ate all the animal, not just the steaks. These are the kinds of discussions that go on during the line-editing phase. At this point, we haven’t seen the line-edited manuscript from our new book back yet.
Once the line-edited manuscript makes a couple of trips back and forth, and all the TKs get put in, the manuscript is ready for copy-editing, the part of the process that all authors hate. Copy editors are editors that make sure the book stylistically conforms to the particular publishing house’s requirement, which is really no big deal from the author’s perspective. Copy editors also put in instructions to the printing house, which is also no biggy to the authors. But the copy editors also go through and query the authors on anything and everything (it seems). If the authors put down that Joe Blow, a researcher at Harvard, says so and so, the copy editor tracks Joe Blow down to make sure he’s from Harvard. If not, you get a note about it. It might be that Joe Blow was at Harvard when he wrote the paper you quote, but not now. That has to be made clear in the book. Copy editors check each and every little fact, and whatever they come across the make a note that the authors have to respond to. Going through a copy-edited manuscript will send one to the bottle quickly.
Once the copy editing process is complete, the manuscript is sent to the printer, who prints it up as galleys, which are pages that are typeset as they will be in the book. Sometimes these galleys are loose pages, other times they are bound like a paperback book, and called, appropriately enough, bound galleys. The galleys are sent to the authors to go over once again, this time looking for typos and to make sure everything else is okay. At any of the above stages, including the galley stage, the authors can add or change content of the book. Once the book is in the galley stage, however, any major changes the authors have to pay for.
Once the book is in galley form, it may turn out that it is 296 pages. Which is a real problem if the book is supposed to be 288 pages. The book is priced based on 288 pages; the covers, which were printed while the book was being written, are sized for 288 pages; something has to be done. What is done is that the content is cut. In the case of Protein Power, we lost the bibliography, and we shoehorned an entire chapter on fiber into a two-page box within another chapter. Even then, the book was too long. The publisher changed the font, but the book was still too long. So MD and I went back through and trimmed paragraphs here and there and got rid of about 8 pages, which was what we had to do to get it down to size. That’s why we didn’t address everything and why we had no bibliography. We actually sent out bibliographies at our own expense to anyone who wrote for one. Now it can be downloaded from our website.
Once all these issues have been dealt with, the book is ready to be published. It’s an exciting but kind of anticlimactic moment when the first package of books arrives at the authors’ domicile. It’s great to actually handle the thing and flip through the pages and realize that just a year or so before it was nothing but an idea.
At any rate, that’s how publishing works. I’ve spent most of the time explaining it from the author’s perspective because that’s the perspective I have. But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that dozens of other people work on the book at the publisher’s end. The book sales force is making suggestions; the PR department is on top of things; the marketers are looking at all sorts of angles for sales; and the editor coordinates it all and tries to keep the authors happy at the same time. As I say, a book is a real collaborative effort.
As a reward for your slogging through all these dreary explanations of how publishing works, I’ll provide you with a couple of photos of the scenery where we’re staying.
This is the view of the Tetons right out the back window of our cabin. (Double click for full size view)
In case you don’t believe me, here is a photo I took while lying on the bed. You can see the Tetons right out the window just beyond the very laptop these words are written on. (Double click here also)