Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Preparation process: getting ready to print

by Vivian Zabel 

          Most writers and illustrators know that a manuscript is edited, formatted, proofread, designed, copy-edited, and approved by the author and, if illustrated, by the illustrator. They know that they need to have all errors corrected and all revisions made before a final approval is given.

          Then why do so many want to add something or change something after the final approval? A message stating, "Since this hasn't been sent to the printer yet, please change my name to XYZ," or "I want to add a dedication. I realize I should have done this earlier, but ..." is not a message any designer or editor or publisher wants to receive. Each person seems to think his or her manuscript/book is the only one the designer or publisher has on the schedule, that anything else can wait until this person's additions or changes are made. Never mind that the staff has moved the files to the printer and begun working on the next item.

          So, what is the process leading to a book being print? Let's look at what happens.

1. The manuscript is accepted and a contract offered.
2. An editor is assigned, and editor and author work as a team to make the manuscript the best it can be. If an illustrated book, illustrations are finished.
3. The manuscript is proofed by the head of the editorial department or other editorial staff.
4. The designer formats the manuscript, including cover, illustrations if any, dedications, acknowledgements, author bio (and illustrator bio, if illustrated), and all other components.
5. A PDF proof is sent to the author and illustrator, if there is one.
6. Author and designer copy edit the PDF/proof.
7. After all corrections and revisions, a final PDF proof is sent to the author for a final approval.
8. Designer then prepares a distilled PDF of the interior and of the cover, which is sent to the person who uploads files to the printer. In the case of 4RV Publishing, that is the publisher.
9. After the approval by the author (who should have examined the proof PDFs very carefully before approving), changing anything is too late and is costly. 
10. IF an author decides changes are needed after the files go to the printer, the author must pay for time involved and fees to the printer.

          After files are sent by the designer to the person who uploads them to printer, the designer begins working on the next item or items on his/her schedule. Any changes to a project passed on results in the designer having to neglect someone else's project, disrupting a schedule already filled.

          Therefore, a note to writers: Be sure you send any wanted dedications, acknowledgments, short bio, and photo to the head of the art department and publisher at the beginning of the editing process. Illustrators need to send their short bio and photo in early in the process, also.

          Let's all work together without creating problems along the way, problems that can be avoided with a bit of forethought.

4RV Catalog



  1. Always good to know how much work goes into a book from start to finish. Thanks, Vivian.

  2. Aidana and I wondered how many people really realize how much work and time is involved.


  3. I knew it was a long process and involved much work, and this shows it well.

  4. I hope people will now realize that they must get needed material to us before the final design, or they will pay for time, work, and set ups. But that doesn't take care of the upset of other projects.

    *sigh* Time will tell if anyone really understands.

  5. Exactly! This happens to illustrators too. After final approval of a fully painted scene the last thing any illustrator wants to hear is that there needs to be a change in the composition.

    When I write a story I like to put it away for a while, come back to it and see what might need changing or tweaking. For the picture books I write I usually start out with something about 2000 words long. That is way too much and I will eventually cut it down to around 1000 or even as low as 300 depending upon what the illustrations can do for the story.

    I give myself very good advice but sometimes I forget to follow it....hopefully this article pinned to my bulletin board will remind me to make it right before I send it out. Sit on it a while, look at it in a month or a week later and give the whole thing time to "age."

  6. Vivian, this was very informative. I had no idea how long or involved the process was. This really helps me alot. Thanks for sharing.