• “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

Brief Explanation of How Publishing Works

2020-01-04-GCarroll-bee-crop.jpgFor 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.

2015-diana-workingAt 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.

77 Responses »

  1. Bonjour Diana, je voulais vous dire combien j’apprécie vos livres! Je suis une francophone du Québec pas 100% bilingue, mais j’achète vos livres en anglais quand ils sortent et ensuite en français! Je dois être rendue à ma huitième lecture de la série au moins! Autant vous dire combien j’attend le neuvième avec impatience!

    Merci pour ces merveilleux romans.

    Translation from http://translate.google.com:

    Hi Diana, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your books! I am a francophone from Quebec not 100% bilingual, but I buy your books in English when they come out and then in French! I must be at my eighth reading of the series at least! As much to tell you how much I look forward to the ninth!

    Thank you for these wonderful novels.

  2. I’ve read everything that you have written Diana – all the Outlander books and the Lord John series after that. I’ve passed them all on to fellow readers so re-reading is not an option at this time. We are in the midst of the challenges of COVID 19 and housebound. “Bees” would be the PERFECT antidote to cabin fever. I know that I’m not alone. Here’s hoping that there has been meaningful progress since January.
    In the meantime, stay well and wash your hands.
    Take care Diana and thank you for your efforts.

  3. I like your books very much – I am presently re-reading all the Big Ones while waiting for the next.

    Alas, one thing makes me … nervous/desappointed/sometimes irritated.

    I’m reading in English but I’m French, living in France and have been teaching French during 35 years. I’m very sad to see that almost all the sentences in French in your books are NOT in good French. I could forgive Jamie or Claire or others not-French characters but Fergus!! No, he at least MUST speak idiomatic French. Germain as well, I think.

    If you want someone to correct the French, I do volunteer (for free).

    • Hi,

      The company who receives the rights to publish Diana’s books in France is who selects the English-to-French translator. It’s a paid profession, and as far as I know, they don’t use volunteers. Any comments you have about the translation or the editing of that version should be sent to the French publisher. And if you like, directly to Diana’s email address, too, which is listed under the Resources menu.

      Diana’s Webmistress

  4. Dear Mrs. Gabaldon,
    I never understood all the cogs and gears that were working to drive the machine of writing and publishing my beloved Outlander series. I can’t wait for your next book to arrive. The great works you produce are well worth the wait.

    Michelle Terry

  5. Diana,

    I have truly enjoyed all of the Outlander and Lord John books. I want to thank you for giving us (fans & readers) insight to your writing and publishing process. While I will admit to being eager to dive into more life with the Fraser’s, I don’t want you to rush a process that has worked for your other books. The efforts to keep your characters true to themselves & accurate within history and time is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for sharing your story(ies) with us.



  6. Thank you, Diana, for filling many happy hours for me with the Heelands! I had to go see them and spent 15 glorious days there. Extraordinary country, wonderful people. But your books made much of it come alive for me. Thank you again. . .and I CAN’T WAIT FOR BEES!


  7. I just want to express my thanks for this gloriously rich and detailed world you have created. I read the first seven books in one omnibus, before moving on to Book 8 and all the “short” stories, and remember feeling deliriously happy when my Kindle estimated I had “120 reading hours” to go. What luxury! I think the last two books, with their madcap reunions of all our favorite characters, were my favorite so far. I have read and read so many historical novels, both modern and those written in their own day, and yours are among the finest. (I am putting them up there with Jane Austen Herself and the Aubrey-Maturin series, and you can’t say fairer than that!)

    Now I am taking advantage of this wonderful stay-at-home time to binge-watch the TV series as well. I’m really pleased with how well they’ve remained faithful to the spirit of your books. So far I have been able to binge-read and binge-watch, because I came late to the fandom, and it has been wonderful to have so much already created. But soon I will be waiting in real time for the next installment, the next book, and I am already dreading the agony. It helps to read these posts and know that you are as hard-working as your bees – I can trust that you won’t stop until the series reaches its conclusion. Thank you!

    But just now a disquieting thought occurred – do you think the TV series might go the way of Game of Thrones, and finish before the books do? I guess I just want to say that only your book could possibly be the final word for me, so no matter what the TV series does, I will still be waiting.

  8. Dear Diana,
    I came to the party late having just discovered Outlander in Nov. 2019. I spent all the years you were writing with my head down, raising two daughters, going to school as an adult, then lost in my career. I retired and found you. You have given me a reason to immerse myself in books again and really relish the written word. I have learned much from you and am grateful to have discovered your work. I have written myself on and off over the years and it is because of your written words I have become inspired to pick up the pen again. Now when I think about a passage to write, I think about you and the beautiful way you weave the words into a fabric. There are paragraphs in your books that I go back and reread several times because of the enormity of the thought you have put into them. The excerpt of Claire sitting in a chapel saving Jamie’s soul made me weep…These are not just parts of a story but testimony to the details of humanity. You unify us. Thank you seems trite and even what I write here seems to lack to describe what you through your books have given me. I tired to describe it to a friend—what it means to me to have found you—and it was hard. She said to me, “It is clear this writer has had a profound influence on you.” Yes, yes you have Diana.

    So thank you and may God bless you and your family.


  9. I have read every book and enjoyed them. However I feel Dianna Gabaldon is getting just a bit full of herself. Her fans helped escalated her to star status, with her books and Starz show, then she lies to them and talks down to them (how publishing works-please!) You said it was done last year. Sure…If you don’t enjoy writing them anymore then stop. But please stop being so condescending to you fans or ex fans.
    Last book in series 4 years ago?!!

    • Jean P,

      As Diana’s friend for almost four decades, as well as her Webmaster for over ten years, I can tell you that you won’t find a nicer person than Diana Gabaldon anywhere, or a best-selling author who cares more for her readers. The celebrity of being a best-selling author hasn’t affected her personality one bit. She spends hours at events signing books and meeting with each and every reader in line.

      Does that behavior sound “condescending?” Obviously, no.

      Diana’s books are over 700 pages typically, and that’s a LOT of work to both write them and do the historical research for them. She will not release a book until she is happy with it. If you feel Diana doesn’t produce fast enough for your satisfaction, you’re the one that is “full of herself,” in my personal opinion.

      I hope you find some peace and happiness in your life.

      Diana’s Webmaster

    • Jean,
      I’m glad that Dianna wrote about how publishing works. I’m a biologist and never gave a thought to how books were published. Thank you Dianna! I found it interesting. I just started to listen to the Outlander books during this quarantine period. I like listening while sewing masks and knitting.

    • I had the opposite reaction when I read this, amazed that the author took the time to explain in such detail about the process. It was basically what I imagined but with more details and humor. She also managed to convey the stress!

  10. Hi Diana
    I am a super fan of the Outlander series. Every time a new book is released I go back and read each book from the beginning. It helps to refresh my memory on what has already transpired, glean new facts that I may have missed in previous readings and, most importantly, heightens my anticipation at diving into a brand new chapter in the lives of Claire and Jamie! Looking forward with great anticipation to Bees.


  11. Hello Diana. I am sure you have been told this time and time again. I do enjoy reading your books. I have read your books from the very first time one was published and only available in hardbound. I was so excited when I came across your second book after it got released and down in the ages.

    At the end of 2015 I got diagnosed with cancer. It turned out to be stage IF and had metastasized to my bones. I had to read all my favorite books again. I couldn’t read enough. I really had hoped to hold on long enough to be able to read your 9th book. I still have hopes yet. Keep up the work. I love your creations.


    • Hi, Annette,

      So glad you enjoy my books!

      I’m so very sorry to hear about your cancer, and hope you are doing okay.

      I really do believe BEES will be finished soon, and am working hard on it. Once I have finished writing it, it will have to go through editing, typesetting, etc., and once my U.S. publisher sets a publication date, it will be posted prominently on my website.


    • Dear Annette,

      Good luck and God Bless You! Keep fighting!!

      All My Best,


  12. I hope “Bee’s”completes questions raised in previous books.
    What happened to raymond? Jenny had a life in america? What about lord john and William. He ever come to terms with Jamie. What about Rogers great uncle. William B.
    So many thoughts and paths open. Have enjoyed your
    Thank you

  13. Dear Diana, I read with GREAT interest all that happens to your books once you submit them for editing, then copy-editing.. and here I’m a bit stunned that you think the one you’ve used a lot should be retained .., then back to you, then back to them….. and yet I have sent you PAGES of inconsistencies (dates, language – both French and King’s English – behaviour, timelines, anomalies etc.etc.) unfortunately always after the fact, i.e. after the book has been published and I have eagerly bought it. After the first couple, I doubt they got past your well-meaning but ultimately-unhelpful assistants, who mistakenly think a criticism equals dislike or is ‘petty’. For me, it is perfecting a story that so many of us dive into, and live and breathe what Jamie and Claire are going through.

    For me, also, it is pure frustration that these well-paid people are simply not.doing.their.job! I note someone else has offered to proof-read for you – probably because she has come across some, if not all, of the anomalies that I have! But I don’t bother to note the mistakes now; there’s no point, is there! My admiration for you is unchanged; my contempt for your vaunted proof-readers remains. They spoil the perfection of the narrative and don’t deserve their privileged positions.
    You used to send me a friendly ‘how are you’ when I was in France; I’m back in NZ now, which I never thought would happen… and waiting patiently for this book to come out – despite the above. I wonder if you will actually receive this note from me……!
    Your fan

  14. I find your style of writing amazing. I’ve heard you describe how you write a scene and it makes me wish I could write. Your books are a pleasure to get lost in when real life can be so exhausting. I have no desire for you to rush any book you write because the research and times are as important to me as the characters. One of your many, many fans, Thank You, Glenda

  15. Hello Diana,
    I discovered Outlander only recently, January, 2020. I binge watched the first season of the television program. I took a brief break, and then continued on committed to pacing myself a little more to stretch out this wonderful adventure with Jamie and Claire. I know I have sort of gone about this backward as now I have gone back to the beginning and I am reading all the books. I am currently in book 5. The books are fantastic! They are rich with details of the surroundings, the history, the passion, and the human conflict. And I am awestruck by the honesty, trust and commitment between Jamie and Claire. As they speak their truth to one another and respect each other’s thoughts, actions and feelings, I find myself saying, “life is messy but there are moments when it all works!” There is plenty that doesn’t go their way but their inner core is consistent and respectful. As a mental health therapist it is so gratifying to actually see and experience what a healthy loving relationship is and can be…and now on national television! I am looking forward to getting copies of the Companion books so I can delve into this even further!

    I keep wondering where oh where did you Diana, learn to have such wonderful insight into the human condition? And to be able to articulate it so eloquently.

    Thank you for writing this beautiful story to enrich our lives. Beautifully done. Truly inspiring!

    Brenda A. Tracy

  16. I cannot wait to read Bees. Your books have brought me so much joy over the past nearly 20 years (when I was turned on to them). I have reread the earlier ones probably 10 times, and all the rest several times over as well. I’m even reading them again now in anticipation of the next one. Your characters being so complex yet so relatable is really what sets them apart for me. That and a deep love of historical fiction. I love all the history you include and still keep the readers absorbed! I wish my teachers had been able to do that! I was hesitant when the series came out, of course there would be differences, but I have really become a fan and this last season has really given me an appreciation for the actors and the show (although the books will always be my favorite). I have had quite a few more downs than ups the past few years but your books have always been a welcome escape. I have the entire collection of Outlander books, LJ books, and short stories as well. I would really just like to say thank you. And I cannot wait for any future stories you have to share with us about these beloved characters.

  17. Diana,

    I started reading books 1 through 8 in January of this year (2020). It’s been incredible to move from book to book without waiting for the next release. I’m on chapter 135 in the eighth book so I’m hoping book 9 will be coming soon! I love your books, characters, writing style and historical context. Thank you for giving me so much reading enjoyment!!

    A huge fan,

  18. I read that there will be a series about travels in Scotland with Jamie Frazier’s actor. It’s called something like “Kilts and ??” When will that be aired? Will it be on Starz only?
    Thank you.

    I have enjoyed Outlander enormously. Thank you so much for all the books.
    Can’t wait for “Bees”

  19. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing and how much I enjoy the work you obviously put into your research and the passion you give the characters for each other. Take your time ….PLEASE ….on the new book, so it will be as good as the previous books….truly wonderful!

    I have read through all the Outlander books TWICE with so much enjoyment. Every time I find more lovely nuggets of gold I missed the first time. I know that I will read them “again” when you do release the next book “BEES” and probably discover more things that I missed. I love it that they are so lengthy also. Nothing is better than a GOOD book that is LONG!! So delightful!!

    I have watched the TV series twice, also, and usually when a new season is released go back for a refresher. The actors do such a wonderful job with how you wrote the books. I also loved it that you were able to be in a scene…what FUN!!

    I can’t help but hope that the characters will continue on in future books past ” Bees ” I would certainly love to have even more to read!

  20. I’m going to break my long silence to say that I first read Outlander in 2009, having borrowed a copy from the Erie Public Library. I did that because I was in medical school. Since then, I have purchased all of your novels. Lucky me!

    For years I’ve wanted to thank you for getting me through medical school. So now I’m doing it. Thank you!!! I slept every night like a babe, even while Claire was up doing midnight surgery. No matter what had happened during the day, I could pick up your novel–whichever one I happened to be reading at the time–and find surcease of my cares.

    Before graduating from medical school, I had other lives, including teaching bonehead English and related subjects to pilots and engineers, raising 5 kids, editing in a small publishing house (which meant I got to do lots of jobs, including manuscript acquisition, copy editorial, proofing, pitching ideas to authors, working directly with sales and marketing, and developing lots of different kinds of print products and software products), and teaching Chinese martial and wellness arts in the local community college.

    I’m saying all this because I want you to understand that–and why–I am not going to ask you when 9 will be published. I will accept it, when the time comes, as the miracle it is. A thousand thanks to you, dear Diana!

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