• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

What “Finished” Means To An Author

The delightful Karen Henry suggested to me that this might be a Good Time to repost this informative little flow-chart, so on August 2, 2015, I posted this information on my Facebook page:

As my husband often remarks, "’FINISHED’ is a relative term to a writer." This is true! <g> I thought y’all might be interested in Just What Happens to a book after the writer is "finished" writing the manuscript:

(NB: This is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Owing to the tight Production schedule for MOBY (and now for THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2, aka "OC II",) a lot of these steps have been done concurrently, rather than sequentially, and a few repetitive steps have been skipped. But by and large, this is how it works. FWIW, I’m presently at step "M" for OC II…)

  1. Books don’t go directly from the author to the bookstore.
  2. Books go from the author to the Editor, who
    1. reads the manuscript
    2. discusses the manuscript with the author, and
    3. suggests minor revisions that may improve the book
  3. The book goes back to the author, who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. considers the editor’s comments, and
    3. makes whatever revisions, emendments, or clarifications seem right.
  4. The book goes back to the editor, who

    1. reads it again
    2. asks any questions that seem necessary, and
    3. Sends it to
  5. The copy-editor. This is a person whose thankless job is to

    1. read the manuscript one…word…at…a…time
    2. find typos or errors in grammar, punctuation, or continuity (one heck of a job, considering the size not only of the individual books, but of the overall series), and
    3. write queries to the author regarding anything questionable, whereupon
  6. The book comes back to the author—yes, again— who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. answers the copy-editor’s queries, and
    3. alters anything that the copy-editor has changed that the author disagrees with. After which, the author sends it back to
  7. The editor—yes, again!—who

    1. re-re-reads it
    2. checks that all the copy-editor’s queries have been answered, and sends it to
  8. The Typesetter (aka Compositor, these days), who sets the manuscript in type, according to the format laid out by
  9. The Book-Designer, who

    1. decides on the layout of the pages (margins, gutters, headers or footers, page number placement)
    2. chooses a suitable and attractive typeface
    3. decides on the size of the font
    4. chooses or commissions any incidental artwork (endpapers, maps, dingbats—these are the little gizmos that divide chunks of text, but that aren’t chapter or section headings)—or, for something like the OC II, a ton of miscellaneous illustrations, photographs, etc. that decorate or punctuate the text.
    5. Designs chapter and Section headings, with artwork, and consults with the
  10. Cover Artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or PhotoShops the cover art, which is then sent to
  11. The Printer, who prints the dust-jackets—which include not only the cover art and the author’s photograph and bio, but also "flap copy," which may be written by either the editor or the author, but is then usually messed about with by
  12. The Marketing Department, whose thankless task is to try to figure out how best to sell a book that can’t reasonably be described in terms of any known genre <g>, to which end, they

    1. try to provide seductive and appealing cover copy to the book (which the author has to approve. I usually insist on writing it myself).
    2. compose advertisements for the book (author usually sees and approves these—or at least I normally do).
    3. decide where such advertisements might be most effective (periodicals, newspapers, book-review sections, radio, TV, Facebook, Web)
    4. try to think up novel and entertaining means of promotion, such as having the author appear on a cooking show to demonstrate recipes for unusual foods mentioned in the book.
    5. kill a pigeon in Times Square and examine the entrails in order to determine the most advantageous publishing date for the book.
  13. OK. The manuscript itself comes back from the typesetter, is looked at (again) by the editor, and sent back to the author (again!), who anxiously proof-reads the galleys (these are the typeset sheets of the book; they look just like the printed book’s pages, but are not bound), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile
  14. A number of copies of the galley-proofs are bound—in very cheap plain covers—and sent to (NB: This is SOP, but we haven’t been doing it for the last few books, owing to the fact that the book itself is coming out on the heels of Production; there’s no time to distribute ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies).)
  15. The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, and to any specialty publication to whom this book might possibly appeal, in hopes of getting preliminary reviews, from which cover quotes can be culled, and/or drumming up name recognition and excitement prior to publication. Frankly, they don’t always bother with this step with my books, because they are in a rush to get them into the bookstores, and it takes several months’ lead-time to get reviews sufficiently prior to publication that they can be quoted on the cover.
  16. With luck, the author finds 99.99% of all errors in the galleys (you’re never going to find all of them; the process is asymptotic), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to

    (1. The ebook coding happens somewhere in here.)

  17. The Printer, who prints lots of copies (“the print-run” means how many copies) of the “guts” of the book—the actual inside text—are printed. These are then shipped to
  18. The Bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to
  19. The Distributors. There are a number of companies—Ingram, and Baker and Taylor, are the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones—whose business is shipping, distributing, and warehousing books. The publisher also ships directly to
(1) Arrangements are made in this phase for ebook distribution through retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)
  20. The Bookstores, but bookstores can only house a limited number of books. Therefore, they draw on distributors’ warehouses to resupply a title that’s selling briskly, because it takes much longer to order directly from the publisher. And at this point, [sigh]…the book finally reaches
  21. You, the reader.

And we do hope you like it when you get it—because we sure-God went to a lot of trouble to make it for you. <g>

This essay is also available under "What I Do" under the Resources menu:


34 Responses »

  1. I started reading these wonderful books before I retired back before 2000. The first one wasn’t Outlander but it caught my heart and I began to collect them one by one. In one of the books I found Jamie called “Nunke” and finally had an answer as to where the name for my great uncle, “Unke” came from. It answered I had had since I was 8 years old.

    I was 80 this past April and am hopeful that I will survive to read the Bees! Love the characters and love that you stay true to historical facts and times. Loving history I appreciate the detail you use in each instance. My great grandfather was Irish and we have some scotch on the other side so I have learned a lot that was missing in my genealogical knowledge.

    You are a great writer and provide so many of us with wonderful hours of pleasure where we are lost in that wonderful place where words take us into other realms and times. Your characters live and breathe in our imaginations and become as real to us as our own friends and families. Thank you for all of the hard work you do to provide this great pleasure. Only another reader truly understands the pleasure one finds in a book. I have seen some of the series and they are well done but I prefer the books. The pictures in my brain will suffice and nothing gets changed. Thank you for this great series. I have never enjoyed a series as I have this one and it has become a part of my life that I greatly enjoy.


    Waiting patiently. . . .

    really. . . . . .

    I’ve read all of the Outlander books and most of the novellas and am. . . . blah- blah – blah. Sorry. I know you’ve never heard that before but. . . . . one more time from all of us poor, pitiful fans out here P – U – L =E =A = S =E release “Bees”.

  3. And ha!! You forgot

    V: Everything from B – U happens again, when the book got translated into another language until an Austrian, German, French, ….. finally hold it in his hands *hahahaha*

  4. Thanks for making the whole process transparent – it might not be appealing to fans to have to wait long to hold your new book in hands, but I know from my own experience as a very bookish person that nothing is as disappointing as reading books which exhibit some or many handicraft mistakes, which are def. avoidable through such a process. Can’t wait to read novel no. 9 in the Outlander Series, though!

    • That’s true – the wait is agonizing, but all that editing is what makes the difference between A Good Book and mere fan-fiction. I appreciate it. Anyway, I tell myself, one Big Novel is about equivalent to ten “normal” novels, so I should be patient… and re-read the series… and read all the historical novels mentioned in the series… and read the Methadone list… and be patient…

  5. Diana: Many thanks for all the books you have written over the years. Also for the posts that explain more about the writing and publishing process. My admiration for authors has grown! As time has marched on with my mind and body aging and the pandemic arrived with mostly stay-at-home, I have been slowly re-reading your books. I look forward to whenever “Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone” is published. Until then, please stay sane and safe and know that your books are treasured.

  6. As is Katherine, above, i am savoring the series as i wait for book nine. But when i finished the series, again, for the zillionth time. (I am retired, so i have oogobs of time, especially in the winter.) there was some event in book three i wanted to reread, and you guessed it, here i am still reading at Fiery Cross, again, again…..
    Thank you for such an addictive story, so stuffed with interesting characters and plot and activities, and events. I am amazed if you aren’t exhausted!

  7. Thank you Diana for Jamie & Claire. Reading your novels over and over again has allowed me to escape from my now hum-drum life (since I retired last year). Your books have been a blessing to me. I can’t read anything else after yours, they seem so uninvolved and impersonal. So again I thank you


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