the whole galleys/arcs/marketing thing

I’ve been getting some questions about what exactly ARCs are and how they’re different from galleys and how they’re connected to marketing. So I’ve made an executive decision to answer everyone here! Well, I’ll try to answer your questions the best I can. There are still lots of questions I have about this whole process, too.

After a manuscript has been copyedited (where every single detail is completely scrutinized), it’s ready to move on to the first step of the pre-finished-book printing process. Oh wait, I want to say something about copyediting. You don’t just submit a manuscript and revise it once and then it goes right to copyediting. Manuscripts shouldn’t be submitted to any publisher or agent for consideration unless you are submitting your best possible work. And by “best possible work,” I mean that you’ve revised the manuscript on your own several times – ideally, taking a few months off between revisions to let it sit. I’m always surprised by how much I want to change when I step away from a draft for a while. Time really does help to shape your story. Once an editor is working with your manuscript, it will likely go through several more revisions before it even gets to the copyediting stage.

After copyediting is done, first pass pages are printed. This is a layout of how the book will look on big paper. As with copyedits, I’m sure the first pass will evolve from its big paper format to paperless in the near future. Most publishers are doing copyedits in Word with track changes now. But I like being able to see the book pages on paper. For some reason, reading everything on paper makes me feel more secure about catching problems.

Here’s the first pass of So Much Closer:

So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti first pass

The first pass gives everyone (the editor, the author, and a few other editors with seriously sharp eyes) an opportunity to check the book for errors or other things that should be changed. We check for typos that inadvertently resulted from typesetting. We check for other typos that everyone missed in the previous drafts. You would not believe how many typos slip through the cracks! It shocks me every time, being an obsessive perfectionist and all. The first pass isn’t just about making sure the text is correct. I like using different handwriting fonts in my books for notes and stuff. These different fonts aren’t formatted until the first pass. So now I can check to make sure they’re believable handwriting fonts for the characters. Like if the book describes someone’s handwriting as round and loopy but the font is narrow and pointy, that’s not going to work. We also have to make sure that any symbols printed correctly. I like to use chapter break symbols and, unfortunately, they were forgotten in this first pass. Good thing there’s a second pass!

I’m the last person to see the first pass. By the time I get my copy, there are all these notes and marks and questions written on it by the friendly neighbors who analyzed it before me. Some authors just respond to their concerns, but I read the book over again. This is a lot harder to do than it sounds. By the time the book gets to this stage, I’ve already read it so many times that the last thing I want to do is read it again. But I do it because this is pretty much my last chance to make any last changes I want. There’s always stuff I want to change every time I read a book over. When I read the first pass, I try to focus on what my readers will see, what they’ll be asking themselves, and anything that wouldn’t seem clear to them.

Then the galleys are printed!* Galleys are very exciting because they’re in book form, bound with the cover art. There are several types of galleys. So far, my books have only been printed as two kinds of galleys: a kind I don’t know the name of and ARCs (advance readers’ copies). What’s the difference between these galleys? As far as I can tell, they both look pretty much the same except for the back covers. Here’s the back of a Something Like Fate galley (the kind I don’t know the name of) and the back of a So Much Closer ARC:

Something Like Fate galley and So Much Closer ARC

As you can see, the ARC has lots more marketing info on the back. I’ve been told that ARCs are the type of galleys printed for books with larger print runs that are getting a bigger push from marketing. So yay for the So Much Closer ARCs! The main purpose of the galleys is to give reviewers and media enough time to read the book before its release date. Galleys are usually distributed to them about six months before a book’s release date. So Much Closer comes out on May 3 and the ARCs were just printed a couple weeks ago. The ARCs will also be distributed at book conferences so that teachers and librarians can get in the loop.

Here’s a fun bit of info. See how the Something Like Fate galley mentions my Best Friends and Boyfriends tour? That’s how I found out I was going on my first tour! Which of course made that galley even more exciting.

Another marketing device that helps get the word out about upcoming book releases is the publisher’s catalogue. It has ordering information for booksellers and lets them know if things like floor displays will be available. I don’t think Penguin has printed the Summer 2011 catalogue yet, but here’s what the catalogue pages looked like for Something Like Fate:

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti catalog pages

So what happens after galleys? There’s a second pass. The second pass is like when Jack Bauer calls for backup. If anything was left out of the first pass or there are still a few stubborn typos determined to hang on, we will hopefully catch all that in the second pass. It’s also a chance to make sure that the changes we made to the first pass printed correctly. What I like to do is haul out my copy of the first pass, put it next to the second pass, and go through each page to make sure the changes I marked and others marked on the first pass were all made in the second pass. Sometimes there’s a third pass, but I don’t see that stage.

After everyone agrees that the book is ready, hardcover copies are finally printed (unless a book doesn’t have a hardcover edition). I’m not really sure when the actual printing takes place. I received author copies of my first two books about a month before their release dates. But my books have had strict on-sale dates since Waiting for You, which means that now I don’t receive my author copies until right around the release date. It’s a happy, happy day when FedEx delivers those boxes of books.

*Note: The ARCs of So Much Closer were actually printed before the first pass. I was really worried about that. Fortunately, I’m not seeing too many errors in the first pass.

I hope this helps to break down some of the confusion. Trust me, I’m still confused about a lot of things! Do you have more questions? Just let me know…