A couple of weeks ago I got a very chipper email that said:
Congratulations!!! We’ll be sending you the first pass manuscript on November 9!!!!
I am, if anything, understating the amount of exclamations that came bundled with this email. I wanted to be excited, but couldn’t, because my response was:
Oh! What’s first pass?
For all you who are interested in the publishing process, here’s how first pass manuscripts work, and what they are.
A little background
At this point I’ve gone through 8 drafts of the book. When I finished the final draft–final as in, I’m not going to create any new material beyond this point–the book went to a copyeditor. I thought a copyeditor was a proofreader, but that wasn’t true. The copyeditor took about 10 days going through the text, then I got the copyedited manuscript, which actually contained suggestions for arrangement, word choice, and I had to decide whether to approve the changes or override them.
It was things like, “Maybe use ____ instead of _____ for better parallelism?”
Then I turned that back in and realized, hmm…now I’m done writing, nobody wants to hear from me. So I started writing the next book. Which brings us up to speed and the exclamation-pointy email.
The first pass manuscript is the version that has actually been designed. Up until now, we’ve been working off of word documents, both on the computer and printed out. The first pass is printed out and the pages look the way they will look in the book. My name at the top of the left page, title at the top of the right page, ornaments for section breaks, table of contents and chapter headings all looking nice, title page demands that you continue reading, etc.
First Pass is my last chance to make changes. I am reading through it as a master proofreader does the same. It’s not my job to catch typos at this point, but I’m still doing it. Also, when I find a typo I’m putting a sticky note on the page so they can find it, and for some reason the only sticky notes I have are in the shape of an ice skate and they say “US figure skating!” on them.
The advance copies are being bound from the first pass manuscript, so there will be a final version to come later, once I’ve returned the first pass manuscript and the proofreader’s and my latest changes are put into the book.
If you want an example of a mistake I caught this time around, for some reason I had three apostrophes in the word “sailor’s” at one point. Three!
Any questions? Let me know and I’ll clarify what I can.