Friday, December 04, 2009

Wrestling a Manuscript into Final Layout

My science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, is going to the printer on Monday for the paperback version. Working with the small publisher, Virtual Tales, has given me a view of the final steps of of the production process that an author just doesn't see with a large publisher. The press is run by two folks, Sheri and Dave, who handle all the management, layout, production, promotion, and countless other tasks by themselves. Sheri does the final layout to put the book together, merging the manuscript text, author bio, cover art, table of contents, ads for future Virtual Tales books, and more into a final print-ready masterpiece.

Early last week, Sheri sent the draft of the final book in a PDF file to me, my editor, her partner Dave, the cover artist, and a couple of other staff to review and provide missing pieces. In my review, I discovered an extra piece: one scene was duplicated, at the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Fixing it required revising the table of contents, repaginating the book, and possibly even recalculating the price of the print run (though I didn't hear about that part). Sheri had some scrambling to do.

I also went through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and found a few typos, some that had been introduced since my last run-through with the editor and some that both of us had missed in all of our previous passes. This always happens, so I never turn down a chance to review a manuscript one more time. I'm sure there are still one or two typos that will make it into the printed book, but at least the dozen or so I found won't!

Sheri included me in the distribution of subsequent versions, so I saw the ads make it into the back, my bio enhanced with a frame around my headshot and wallpaper on the page, a blurb quote from Laura Reeve, a generous science fiction author friend, added to the back cover, and more. The book grew more beautiful and complete with each pass, like a young woman getting gussied up for a debut ball or her wedding.

I just sent Sheri my last email saying it looks great and good to go, from my viewpoint. I can't wait to hold the final version in my hands! To read an excerpt, go to The Epsilon Eridani Alternative Books page on my website. To order a trial subscription to the first few chapters and get a chance to order the novella at 40% off list price (hurry, the deal expires after the release date!), go to its page on the Virtual Tales website.


antgirl said...

How exciting! Looking forward to reading it.

Bob Sanchez said...

Impressive, Beth! Having your hands so deeply in the process is truly hard work.

Bob Sanchez

JournoMich said...

This book sounds really interesting. I was just reading about it on your website. I look forward to it! How great to be able to see the workings of publishing this way.

How was it delving into SciFi?


mail said...

Hi Beth,

I wanted to correct one small part of what you wrote. There are actually four Board members at Virtual Tales. Jake George and June Diehl are responsible for acquisitions and "final Board review." That means, we would not have made the decision to acquire EPSILON without them them, nor do we go to press without their final review report. Dave handles the contracts, pricing, royalties, eBook formatting and all that good stuff, and I do the marketing, as well as the print layout. Otherwise, you've nailed the process... but I cannot let Jake and June go unacknowledged. They are more "behind the scenes," but we truly could not function without them.

Now I'm off to roll out your "preorder" email list campaign. Everyone who sent/sends an email to "" will get to read the first four chapters of your book for free via email or RSS feed, starting tomorrow :o). Then, they'll get a 40% off coupon... followed by an invitation to review your book.

I'm so excited! It's always wonderful to see the fruit of all our labors in print and eBook -- and this one is such a compelling story. I absolutely loved it!

Sheri Gormley
Director, Marketing & Promotions
Virtual Tales

Beth Groundwater said...

Many thanks to Sheri for clearing up the roles of the mysterious, behind-the-scenes Jake and June! There's so much that goes on behind closed doors at a publishing house that we authors know nothing about. It's kind of fun to peek sometimes, though. :)

And Michele, I had a lot of fun writing this novella, but since it is "hard" science fiction, I knew I had to get the science right. Hard science fiction readers really check up on that stuff. So, I researched the physics of space travel and really delved into cell biology and the biology of aging, since those topics play such a major role in the story. It was a LOT of work! The side benefit is that I learned a lot.

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