In a post made earlier this week, I attempted to shed some light on the development editor’s role in the publishing process. I’m asking other members of our publishing team to do the same – you’ll see those posts in the not too distant future.
How about the author’s point of view? To get a good perspective, I thought it would be best to find an author who has worked for more than one publisher, has written at least a couple of books and has been in the industry for at least 5 years. Naba Barkakati was an easy choice. I’ve known Naba since his days as an author for The Waite Group. He’s written more than 25 books and is currently revising Red Hat Linux Secrets for Wiley. Naba also recently started his own blog: “Naba Tech, A New Light on Technology, Book Writing, and All That”. Here’s what he has to say about his role as an author:
While I focus primarily on the writing, I do get occasional glimpses of the publisher’s decision-making processes and I get to work with some of the professionals who take care of the behind-the-scenes details from manuscript review and copyediting to production and marketing.
I work with two key individuals - - the Acquisitions Editor (AE) and the Development Editor (DE). I start with the AE. We discuss ideas for the book and I submit a book proposal to the AE. The AE often wants some clarification or more details so that she can make the case for my book at editorial meetings. If all goes well and the book proposal is accepted, we sign the contract (I don’t have any agent, so it’s just myself and the publisher). The book is then launched and I start working with the DE, but we always keep the AE in the loop.
I write and submit chapters to the DE and the DE reminds me of submission deadlines and missing figures and so forth. The DE gets the manuscript reviewed by the Technical Editor (TE) and one or more copy editors (CE). I do the final author reviews and after a short while the book is in print. After the book is in print, I may sometimes participate in some online events such as chats that are aimed at promoting the book. Every so often I get email messages from readers with comments and corrections. I usually keep track of any corrections for the next revision of the book.
That’s a simplified view of my role in the publishing process. I do have a few lessons-learned from my years of experience with the publisher:
- Prepare a good outline, set up a writing and manuscript submission schedule, and follow it as much as possible.
- Give the DE and AE heads-up of any potential delays with the submissions or other problems with the software you are covering in the book.
- Respond to all queries from the editors - - DE, TE, CE. If a change makes sense, gracefully accept it; if not, explain why the change should not be made.
Naba’s final points about delays and queries are important, but his first one about preparing a good outline is always at the top of my list. Authors who rush the outline or don’t give it the consideration it deserves are only setting themselves up for failure. The outline is the structural foundation of the book – even the most insightful, entertaining writing can’t hide the flaws in a weak outline.
Think you’ve got a killer outline ready for submission? Put it to the test: Find a trusted colleague or other expert on the topic to review it. Or if you’re really brave, leverage the blogosphere like Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are doing on their book: Post the outline for public view and comments. Just be sure you’re thick-skinned and ready to hear constructive (and sometimes not so constructive) criticism.