For Those Kind People who keep urging me to “release the book!” (as though I’m keeping the manuscript in a cage in my office)… a Brief Explanation of How Publishing Works (on the purely mechanical side):
Well, as my husband (who has certainly had enough experience by now to Know) says, “To a writer, ‘finished’ is a relative term.” And it truly is. The first ‘finished’ is the most important <g>—when you have the Whole Thing in your hands. No feeling like it! (Though giving birth isn’t far off…)
[NO! I haven’t finished writing it. Dang close, though.]
After that though… I wrote up all the phases of production, some years ago, in a vain effort to explain to the many-headed just why the fact that I’d finished writing the book didn’t mean it would be on their bookshelves the next day/week/month. I won’t do the whole list here (I have work to do tonight), but in essence, the manuscript goes from me to two editors—one in the U.S., one in the U.K.—both of whom have been reading what chunks of the book I’ve finished already (so as to get a jump on things), but who will immediately start reading from the beginning, after which both of them will give me their separate comments and notes (there are always spots where a scene or part of a scene has been accidentally repeated, so that’s where we—because I’m also reading it from the beginning—catch that kind of stuff and resolve it). I’ll have been having my own thoughts as to anything I want to change, so will be messing with the manuscript with all three sets of input in hand.
At right, I am at home in my yard, working, in 2015.
When that’s done, the book is ‘finished,’ again—that is, it’s ready to go to the copy-editor. This is a wonderful person (at least I hope she’s still in business and available to do it for me again; she’s done the last three or four books for me, plus several Lord John ones) whose thankless task is to read the manuscript One. Word. At. A. Time, and catch any difficulties along the way: typographical errors, inconsistencies (in names, ages, times, whatever—and there will be a number of them, owing to the size of the book and the way I write), incongruities (there’s still a page in OUTLANDER—which was copy-edited by a, um, person of somewhat lesser talent, let us charitably say—where a maid brings in the tea-cups but carries out the brandy glasses at the end of the scene. Fortunately no one has ever noticed this), logical holes (she checks the distances between actual places and will let me know if it’s really possible to get from point A to point B in three days or whatever), timeline issues (did the Siege of Savannah happen before or after the Siege of Charleston (only it was still being called “Charles Town” at that point, so we need to change all the “Charleston’s”), and imposes ‘house style’ (meaning that Penguin Random House has its own conventions regarding things like whether numbers are given in digital form or spelled out, whether we do or do not use Oxford commas, etc.) throughout. She’s usually doing this under hideous time-constraints and I sent her a bottle of Really Fine Whisky last time.
But then, I have to read the copy-edited version and ‘reply’ to it, i.e., there will be a number of marginal questions or comments that I need to answer and either address or dismiss. This is ungodly labor (and also being done under a major time-constrant), but Very Necessary.
THEN the manuscript goes back and is corrected according to my last-minute corrections and insertions (I almost always realize that two or three vital bits are missing, and hastily write those scenes and insert them with the copy-edit correx), and comes back to me (AGAIN!) as galley proofs. These are, as you doubtless know, the pages of the book, printed just as it will (we hope) appear on the shelf, but on loose, unbound sheets. This is where we catch disjunctions in the formatting (very rare, but they do happen), any (we hope) minor nits that everybody has so far missed (and there is no book in existence that goes to press without errors, believe me), misspellings of the Gaelic (compositors can not get a grasp on Gaelic words, no matter how carefully I print them, if they’re inserted as corrections or additions. This is not helped by the fact that I don’t speak Gaelic and don’t always know if something is misspelled), and any truly last-minute insertions (there’s a clause in my contract that says if I change more than 10% of the text during the galley phase, I have to pay for the extra type-setting. This contingency is Remote).
I’m not mentioning any of the book design or the messing-about-with-the-cover issues, because I mostly just have to give an opinion on those, not actually do the work. But it all takes time.
Let it be noted that we did ALL of the above within five weeks, for each of the last two books. This drove everyone to the verge of insanity (and was terribly expensive), and we Really Don’t Want to Do That Again (any of us!), which is why you aren’t getting a pub date until the manuscript is by-God Finished.
[NO, it isn’t finished yet. Don’t worry—I’ll tell you when it is!]
And thank you to Grace Carroll for the lovely bee photo!
Related Information: In August, 2013, I created a flow chart of what happens to a book after I write it and it goes to my publisher, titled “What ‘Finished’ Means To An Author.”
This blog was also posted on my official Facebook page on January 5, 2020.
Hi little lady. First off, I love all your books and and have been waiting for the conclusion of the Outlander series. The only discrepancy is that, in the south, Cicadas only come around every 17 year’s but we have Katydids that are a yearly occurrence.
I found your work via my doctor. She prescribed your books to help reduce stress and suggested the audiobooks due to eye sight.
Have you listened to them? It is a whole new experience. The narrator is amazing.
Do you know if the audiobook for BEES will be released the same day? Or can you tell where to inquire?
I took a page from your writing process for a presentation at work. Little bits as they came…here and there…it was exiting and I didn’t feel confined and rigid in the creative part. I had no idea where it was going and some days it didn’t come at all. #More practice writing this way and more self trust!
Yes, Diana has listened to the audio versions of her books. And the narrator you are referring to is likely Davina Porter, who is very popular and talented.
Like the printed version of the books, the release date of the audio versions are up to the company that produces and manufactures them. And this varies by country internationally.
No dates for audio versions will be announced until after the release date is set for the print version in the U.S.A.
So stay tuned! The release date for the printed first-edition hardcover of BEES in the U.S.A. will be posted by Diana here and on her social media accounts when known.
Hello from the bayou state! I am a huge fan like so many others. I’ve read the series 27 times. Nope I’m not lying. I just want to say, take all the time you need because the sooner you finish means the sooner we come to the end and I don’t want this adventure to end! Plus I love history so I totally appreciate the time, energy, and dedication it takes to do it right. Thank you so much for the gift of Outlander. It has brought so much joy into my life!
I may well be dead before this series finishes. I am waiting impatiently for Go Tell the Bees. I have already had my three score years and ten and more.
Note that Diana will be 69 years old on January 11, 2021, and she isn’t talking about dying before BEES and Book Ten are done!
Diana is working hard on BEES, and it’s taking longer than the average time it took to write the first eight in the Outlander series. Saying you are going to be dead and miss reading it if she doesn’t hurry up… how is that inspiring? Or helpful to Diana? (It isn’t. How could it be?)
Folks, please, stop posting comments like this.
Be thankful and glad for every day we have on this beautiful planet. BEES will be worth the wait.
(Will be 67 years old in 2021…)
I love your comment! Stand up for our Lady Diana. I never post on these things but I loved what you wrote!!
As for Ms. Brenda- any of us could be dead at anytime- that’s how time works. My mother-in-law who loved this series, from the beginning, and introduced it to me-sadly did die several years ago. She will never get a chance to hold Bee’s in her hands to smell it, read it and love it. But I can tell you that she would have a few choice words for anyone trying to make the author feel bad about that. It’s not Diana’s fault that my mother-in-law got sick and died. It’s our privilege that Diana has allowed us to experience these characters, stories, and her amazing mind. I can tell you that during the last year of her life- when she was very sick and in the hospital that entire year, some of the best memories I have of the two of us are watching, reading, or talking about Outlander. We became closer because of our love for this series and I would love to thank Diana for that. I will read the books when they come out and I know in my heart that my mother-in-law will be with me. I may be inpatient at times, like most of us but Art, true ART takes time. No one should ever rush the artist or you will be unhappy with the rushed product. Inspiration is not something you can buy off Amazon and it takes time to create worlds. I say thank you and please may I have another- whenever you can and if you so choose.
Here’s to a better year and may we all have patience for each other!
You must be a really fast reader to have read the series 27 times. I have read it twice and my family members think I am obsessed. These books allow one to easily feel they are part of the script. These characters are all my friends and I have concern for their future and well-being. …Diana their fate is in your hands.
How’s the arm?
Thank you thank you thank you for Outlander. I read all the books again about once a year (not yet close to 27 times, but maybe 15) I’ve also bought and watched the first four seasons of the TV series. I enjoyed them, though not nearly as good as the books in my estimation. And I loved the Murtagh character, but not enough to have him instead of Duncan.
Also -this is not likely to get, or need correction, but my son, who is just starting to read the books, pointed out that in the abbey when Jamie is recuperating, Claire uses the bible to find out what to do for him, but then doesn’t understand the Last Rites when they are given to him, because they are in Latin. It doesn’t account for how she understood the bible she was reading, though possibly I suppose there might have been one in French, which of course she speaks. As I said above, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the books by either myself or my son. Keep going! If you do any more short stories or novellas, I’d love to see one about Josh after he is taken away on the slave ship from Ocracoke. (Preferably with a happy ending).
I am looking forward to the book. You are an amazing writer and I always love the journey (even when I am sad that beloved characters die).
I just want to point out that “cannot” is one word; inserting a space between”can” and “not” changes the meaning of what is being said
……….”compositors can not get a grasp on Gaelic words, no matter how carefully I print…….”
Thank you, Diana, for bringing Claire and Jamie into our lives!
I am thoroughly delighted with every piece that Diana writes that finds its way through the extensive publication process which I now understand much better thanks again to Diana’s genius. No one rushed Einstein; can we not do that for dear Diana who feels the need to respond to our ignorant inquiries that simply take her time away from doing what we all want, Bees published! I’ve placed a preorder with her favorite Poison Pen Book book store and am patiently waiting for the arrival of Bees before I die. Currently disabled and homebound like everyone in a pandemic although makes little difference to me since I am mobility impaired anyway. At 73 in marginal health I feel no urgency to get a refund on my payment; if I should die before Bees or book ten I am happy for Diana to profit from my confidence in her ability to deliver when ready a masterpiece as only she can do. Keep your panties on friends; don’t demand a genius waste her time responding to your petty impatience!
I started watching the series in June of 2020 in the midst of the COVID. I then started reading the books almost immediately. I’m on my third read through of the 8 books. I’ve got them on my Kindle and the audible and switch back and fourth between them. I’ve never been one to reread books before. I’m on book 5 of this read through. Love getting the sneak peaks into the Bees. I’ve also read all of the ancillary books, Lord John, etc. Can’t wait to see what is in store for the Fraser family. So much fun to read stories of lasting love and great character development as well as humor. The books have so much more depth than the series although I love the series and the casting too. Can’t even tell you how many times I have watched the series. I have watching parties with my neighbor which has been a great social activity during the lockdown. She and I sit in an empty farmhouse and watch together and discuss how great the actors, the casting, and the music are. Keep up the great work, I’ve already ordered book 9 from the Poison Pen and will also get the Kindle edition but I wanted at least one autographed book. I hope Starz picks up the show past season 6. It would be a shame if they didn’t go all the way through the books. I think so far the 8th book is my favorite. Keep up the good work and I will be waiting patiently for “Bees” and beyond.
I, too, am a big fan of the books and the tv series. The books are, of course, so much better than the edited versions of the stories that we see, but once we’ve “seen” the characters as played on the tv series, I now visualize them when I read the books again, and they are perfect! Outlander has now become part of the culture and part of my life.
Just as the Harry Potter novels were fabulous, the actors who portrayed those characters were perfect and in my mind when I re-read all those novels. If they try to change the characters on the series, it would absolutely ruin the images of the characters when I am reading the stories. My only disappointment in the tv series, aside from changing some of the events as they really happened in the novels, was that the tv characters were wearing wigs past the first season, and the clothes worn in the tv series were really too good to believe. The cabins, too, were a bit too well-built and well-furnished for that time and their circumstances. Reading Diana’s novels has made me realize how much we take for granted in our time, and how it must have really been for people living in those revolutionary times.
I really don’t want the story to end!
I really appreciate and enjoyed your explanation of the process of getting a book published. While I am not the person who thinks you “owe” me a book, and do not get upset about the wait, I am an information junkie and so LOVE to learn about how things are made/done. Yep, that’s right, I’m a serious nerd.
So you will never see a post from me complaining about how long it is between books, or even asking when a book will come out. Because, you know, I will enjoy that book WHENEVER it comes out, be that next week or in 10 years (provided I’m still here in 10 years, of course).
This doesn’t mean I’m patient. I remember once after waiting in a long line to buy a Christmas present (pre-online ordering): the sales clerk thanked me for my patience, as others before me in line had been loudly complaining. I laughed and told her that I’m not patient, I’m just quiet! She thought that was hilarious and thanked me for being quiet! We both got a laugh out of that.
Because, you know, my emotional reactions to things are not someone else’s fault. It appears to me there are still a number of people in this world who have yet to learn this lesson, and maybe never will.
In this virtual world, I am a BIG fan of the delete button or process. Unfollowing, banning, unfriending, all can make life less stressful.
Some people forget that the First Amendment only pertains to the government not being able to suppress your speech. Nobody else has to listen if they don’t want to.
While criticism has its place, one can do it politely and helpfully.
Is it true that you are also in the process of writing a book based on the character Raymond that appeared in the book 2 Dragonfly in Amber when Jamie and Claire were in France? He is also mentioned in book 7.
Diana has mentioned that she would like to write a book about Master Raymond as one of her projects after she finishes Book Ten of the OUTLANDER series of major novels. She is also planning a prequel novel about Jamie’s parents.
Is it true that Diana is writing a book based on the character Raymond who appeared in book 2 “Dragonfly in Amber and later got a minor mention in book 7?
After Book Ten, the final one in the Outlander series of novels about Jamie and Claire, Diana has said she would like to write a book about Master Raymond, as well as a prequel novel about Jamie’s parents. But that will be a while…
OK, so have really enjoyed the books – finished entire series in eight weeks. But, more importantly, what’s your favorite single malt scotch?
Just wanted to say that I started reading the series when I was 16..I am now 37 with a mortgage and baby! To say this series has been a part of my life is an understatement and I CANNOT wait for the next book. Please tell us it’s coming soon! COVID would have/ will be much easier to handle with a little Jamie & Claire in our lives. Thanks a million.