Expectations vs Reality in Publishing

A couple of big things happened this last week in the life of The Machinery. The cover of the novel was finally revealed, and I submitted my structural edits. Both of these turned out differently – but better – than I had expected, and got me thinking about the big difference between expectations and reality in producing a novel.

I absolutely love the cover. The guys at the HarperFiction Art Department did a fantastic job, not just with my cover but with all my fellow digital submissions authors – you can go see all of them and read a nice blog on the process here: http://harpercollins-design.tumblr.com/post/122495076560/the-maiden-voyage-designing-the-voyager-firsts

Please judge my book by its cover. Uh, unless you don't like the cover.
Please judge my book by its cover. Uh, unless you don’t like the cover.

Like every new author, I started thinking about the cover pretty much as soon as HarperVoyager told me they wanted to sign me up. We all know the old chestnut about not judging a book by its cover, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited about how it was going to turn out. I had all sorts of vague thoughts about what it might look like, none of which resembled the finished product. It wasn’t what I expected at all. It’s much better. The conceit of the book is that the Machinery Selects the leaders of the Overland, and could be about to break and Select a ruler who will bring ruin to the world; I think the cover really captures that, with the mysterious figure bathed in a strange light.

I had many more thoughts and expectations regarding the structural edits. The way it works is you send your manuscript in to the publisher, and they send you your edits in two waves. The first is structural, the second copy editing. The structural edits are the most daunting: the editor is scrutinising your narrative and looking for any inconsistencies, things that don’t make sense, characters that are underdone or overstay their welcome, etc. I had identified a whole host of potential problems, and while my editor saw most of these, she also pointed to a load of other issues that I never would have seen in a million years. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks going through these, cutting back some stuff, building up other stuff. By the time I sent it back in to her, I never wanted to see my book again.

But it was all for the better. I think the story and its general flow are so much stronger now, thanks to the things she identified. As for the things I was worried about that she hadn’t raised, I did mention these to her separately, and she didn’t see them as being much of a problem at all.

So there you go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of this book-publishing experience, it’s the importance of viewing your book as a collaborative effort. If I was publishing the book myself, had the ability to design my own cover (which I do not) and the ability to edit it dispassionately (ditto), I would probably have done things differently, and The Machinery would have suffered for it.

The next thing, then, is the copy edits. And then … it will be done. My book will be coming out. I wonder if everyone’s going to spot the problem on page …

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Author: gerrardcowan

I'm an author and freelance journalist. My fantasy trilogy, 'The Machinery', is being published by HarperCollins.

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