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Author’s Role

This may seem like a very simple question, but what is the author’s role in the publishing process? To write the story. Yes, that’s a pretty important part. After all, without the author writing the story, there is no book. But it doesn’t stop there. The author is also responsible for working with the editors to take the manuscript and turn it into a published book.

During the creative process, the manuscript will go through several stages. Much of this happens before the publisher even sees the manuscript, let alone agrees to publish it. The author develops the plot, outlines the story, creates the characters, and writes the story, and then goes through various edits, rewrites, and proofreads. Once satisfied the manuscript is ready for a publisher to review, the author enters into the submission process. After a publisher accepts the manuscript and offers a publishing agreement, the editorial process begins. This usually involves three stages: content editing, line editing, and copyediting.

Content editing involves an editor looking at the structure of the story. This is the “big picture” of the story. Is the plot developed, or does additional work need to be done? Are the characters well-rounded and believable? Are there too many characters or too few? The author may be asked to rewrite sections of the manuscript, perhaps even a large amount. Yes, there will be changes, and the author shouldn’t look on the editor as an adversary. The editor is not trying to damage the author’s work; in fact, quite the opposite. Both author and editor have the same goal in mind, which is to publish the best work possible.

After the editor and author are happy with the content, the line edit begins. This is the “down in the weeds” part of the process. The editor will look at the sentence structure and word choice. This is the stage where the term author’s voice becomes key. The line edit is done to correct flaws in language, but the editor must be aware not to remove the author’s voice. What is the author’s voice? It’s quite simply how the author “speaks” on the printed page. The end result must look like it was written by the author, not the editor. Typically, an author will review the line edit changes and comment on them.

The final editing stage is the copyedit. This is when grammar and punctuation are examined. Corrections are made as needed, again with an eye toward maintaining the author’s voice. An author usually does not review the copyedited manuscript because changes are most often minor and the author will have a chance to review the manuscript after pages have been composed.

After editing, the manuscript enters the layout stage. This stage goes by many different names—layout, page composition, production, just to name a few—but what takes place is the same. The text is typeset and graphics are added as appropriate to create what will appear as the final published product. This is when the book begins to look like a book. The author will review the composed pages, called galley proofs, and be given one last opportunity to comment. At this stage, generally only errors are corrected, and subjective changes are generally not done. From this stage, the book goes to the printer or to be translated into an e-book, and then it becomes a published work.

However, the author’s responsibility does not end once the book is published. Often, the best marketer for the author’s book is...the author. It is the author who knows every detail of the story, how the characters came to be who they are, and all of the other developmental insights that the reader—or editor—never sees. The publisher will undertake various marketing schemes, and many of these will involve the author, such as book signings. However, the author should be willing to explore opportunities to promote the work beyond what the publisher undertakes. Readers want to personally connect with the author. Social media and author websites are common ways for an author to reach out directly to readers and to engage in marketing beyond what the publisher can do. As an author, be engaged in the marketing of your work. You’re proud of the book; show it and help sell the book.

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