My editor for Teddy’s War, my new novel about World War II, returned her edited version of my manuscript on Tuesday. Yea! She and I then talked (on the phone; stay-at-home rules plus our usual coffee shop meeting place is closed) for 3 hours on Tuesday afternoon, 5 hours on Wednesday, and an hour on Thursday morning, working through a list of questions that she had written down regarding specific words, sentences or paragraphs in the text. She also had some questions about the story itself, usually regarding how much a reader was going to understand or appreciate the information I was using.
Here's a survey: if I use the terms in the context of World War II, how many of you know what a grease gun is? What a deuce-and-a-half is? Who Sad Sack was? Who Willie and Joe were? Can I use those terms without explaining what they mean or who they reference?
When we were done, she created a pdf of the file and taught me how to use the “notes” feature in the pdf reader to indicate changes that I would like to see. Following this, I launched a marathon editing session of my own that eventually involved almost 25 hours over the next three days of my going word-by-word through the text, making changes for correctness, conciseness, smoothness, and completeness. I made three passes through everything, including one pass where I went backwards through the chapters.
I finished with about 100 changes to be made, which, using the “notes” feature, will take my editor less than an hour to put into her Word file. I deleted more words, phrases, and sentences than I added. In my mind, at least, the resulting manuscript will be near perfect in both content and structure. I am very happy with the effort that she put into it, her final result, and my final result. The book reads much better than what I had initially written. It is a helluva story.
The next step is the publisher transferring the final Word file into Quark, which is publishing software; reformat the text for appearance, including page size, text size, font type, pagination, page numbers, and special features (like italics, underlining, different margins); add in the front pieces – title page, copyright page, blank pages; and then put the cover on it, including the front page with title and author, and the back page, with the text, bar code, and pricing.
The next time I see the book, which may be a month or two, I will be able to hold it in my hand. That will be the “proof” of the novel and I will review it for any printing errors. I’ll return it to the publisher and he will incorporate it into his final publishing file and give it to the printer. He’ll then notify the distributor that it’s ready to sell.
The editor and publisher have asked that the book include two special, back-of-the-book features: an interview with the author (me!) about writing the novel and a list of questions that can be used for book clubs. This is exciting to me because it sounds like they consider my book worthy of the features and also that there will be an audience who will appreciate the features. I will work with my editor to create these.
The bad news for the month was the publishing schedule. The initial projection was that the book would be available on Amazon on November 1st. Whoa! This year is the 75th Anniversary of the end of the war in Europe (VE Day), the liberation of all the concentration camps, the end of the war in the Pacific (VJ Day), the Trinity Test, the dropping of the bombs, the Nuremburg Trials, the return of the soldiers, and a slew of other dates that celebrate the end of the war. Waiting until this year is over to publish a WWII-centered book seems like a disadvantage to me.
Ignoring the fact that COVID-19 may prevent many of the activities, I was expecting the book to be published by early summer so I could take advantage of the many military veteran activities, newspaper articles, magazine stories, and media reports that would occur. I don’t honestly expect to participate in these things, but I wanted to identify the people (especially the military) who were talking, hosting, or were heads of the organizations involved, and get them a copy of the book. I’m hoping that they will then talk about it to others who would be interested.
I wanted printed books to give them, not a sheet telling about a book that wouldn’t be available for several months.
The problem, by the way, is not the publisher or the printer, but the distributor. The book distributor is an organization that front-ends the publishers to the sellers. Amazon and Barnes&Noble, for example, don’t buy books from the publisher, but from the publisher’s distributor. Distributors work on their own schedules that define when books are released to the sellers.
I expressed my concerns with my publisher, who negotiated with the distributor, and the publisher has decided to print the book by sometime in July and have it available for preview, give-away, and selling-by-hand before the books become available from seller outlets on September 1st. That’s three months earlier and I can live with that. Given COVID-19 slowing down businesses everywhere, no one will be surprised.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.