• “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

I’ve Finished Writing BEES…!

Important Update: Just a few weeks after I posted this blog entry below, a publication date of November 23, 2021, was announced for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by my publisher, Penguin Random House.

Please read my newer blog entry about the publication date announcement, or visit my BEES webpage for current information about this new book.

2021-03-29-what-finished-means-DGI’ve finished writing GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, as of March 27, 2021! Now this new book enters the publication process, outlined below, which will likely take months (a guesstimate only).

Please keep in mind that I do not set the publication date, the day when you can buy the book at a bookstore. That date will be decided by my publishers. Stay tuned!


What Finished Means To An Author

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—such as there was for MOBY (Book 8) and THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2—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.)

  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 (we hope) 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. apply “house style” to things like numbers (e.g. do we write “two” or “2”?), and
    4. 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, and
    4. adds things inspired by the copy-editor’s comments that seem like a good idea. 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. 2021-03-29-the-end

  10. 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, leading and kerning
    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

      (NB: People always want to know how many pages the book will be. This depends entirely on the Book Designer’s decisions, so there’s no telling ahead of time. The font, leading, kerning (leading and kerning are, respectively, the amount of space between lines and between letters) and page layout will all affect how many words fit on a page.)

  11. Cover Artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or PhotoShops the cover art (this often happens earlier in the process, but I put it here for convenience), which is then sent to
  12. 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 (I usually write my own), but is then usually messed about with by
  13. 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 normally approves. 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.
  14. 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. (NB: of recent years, galleys are often provided in electronic form)), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile

    (Somewhere in here, recording begins on the audiobook, which is normally released at the same time as the hardcover. Ideally, the narrator is given a version of the manuscript that’s pretty close to the ultimate printed form, but they may get earlier or partial versions from which to prepare their performance (choosing accents and pacing for different characters, for instance).)

  15. 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).) (NB: These days, it’s often PDFs, though paper ARCs are still used, too.))
  16. The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys (or PDFs) are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, blogs, websites, 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.
  17. 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—vide the typo in the very last line of MOBY…), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to

    (The ebook coding happens somewhere in here.)

  18. 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
  19. The Bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to
  20. The Distributors. There are a number of companies—Amazon is the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones, and the large publishing houses have their own warehouse facilities, too—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 & Noble.)

  21. 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
  22. 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>

Click here to visit my Writer’s Corner (What I Do) webpage…

Images are by Diana Gabaldon. The top image shows printed book manuscripts. The bottom image shows a screen from her word processing software.

This blog post includes an updated version of “What Finished Means To An Author,” an essay that I have posted several times in the past. This new version was also posted on my official Facebook page on Monday, March 29, 2021.

123 Responses »

  1. What an awesome 30th birthday (03/29) present to me! I love your style of writing and storytelling, I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

  2. So happy to hear your initial writing is complete! I’m sure you were tired of all of us asking…kind of like kids on a road trip asking “Are we there yet” lol

  3. Hooray!!! I’ve just finished listening to the series again. I’ll buy the book first and wait impatiently for the audio version. Can’t wait for another visit with my old friends Claire and Jamie.

  4. Woohoo! Congratulations! I am excited to buy your amazing (I am sure) new novel “Bees.” You have captured quite the following. I started with you on your first publication of the Outlander series and have recommended your book and CD series to my friends (who are hooked, too). What a process to publish a book; however, the end product is worth the wait. Neil, thank for asking about book 10 in the series! :)

  5. Congratulation on “finishing” Bees. All of your avid readers have long awaited this day. And thank you for all the detail you incorporate into every book. Love your writing!

  6. Congratulations!
    Oh! The pigeons, the pigeons… I’d go with sea shells meself… =)

  7. It is an amazing process to get a book published. I can’t wait for that pre-order notification!

    • Hi,

      You can pre-order and reserve a copy of BEES right now that will be signed by Diana! Her hometown bookstore, the Poisoned Pen, provides signed copies of her books, and they ship anywhere in the world. You pay the list price of the book and shipping. There is no charge for Diana’s signature. See Diana’s dedicated page on the Pen’s online store at:


      In the book covers near the bottom of that page, click on the one that says GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.

      Any questions, send an email to sales@poisonedpen.com

      A signed hardcover is always heavenly. :-)

      Diana’s Webmistress

  8. Love the story. So excited for “Bees”!

    Here’s another thing about the publishing process…

    It’s heartbreaking when you own books 1-8 in mass-market paperback format and want the whole series to match on your shelf. Then you have to wait even longer. :(

  9. So so pleased that ‘BEES’ is finished. Thank you. Looking forward very much to reading it. As I am no spring chicken I now have the incentive to make sure that I stay healthy and keep my wits about me long enough to read book 10 when it is published. No pressure then. —)

  10. Thank you so much. I remember my daughter at one time was looking for something new to read. I suggested Outlander, which I think at the time had maybe 6 books to the series. When I explained the general premise she very politely told me it didn’t sound like her cup of tea but would give it a start. She has never again questioned a suggestion from me! Bees coming have me a reason to reread the series again. It’s amazing that every time I reread its like seeing an old friend and I’m wrapped up in the story like it’s new. Thank you again.

  11. Hi Diana from Australia.

    I love your writing style. I spend a lot of time giggling at your ‘text’.

    I too am eagerly awaiting ‘Bees’.

    In the meantime I have found and read all your Novella’s and short stories relating to the Outlander series.

    I picked the first book up because I noted the comment about your Writers Club: Janny Wurtz, Raymond Fiest, Ann McCaffrey and George RR Martin. I have read lots if their books.

    I have been impressed.. Thank you for great reads..

  12. Congratulations Diana,
    Many are looking forward to the publication in Australia.
    I’m just wondering if we’ll continue have “daily lines” released as the publishing process goes ahead. I’d really like to see some more.
    All the best
    From Australia

  13. It’s such a pleasure to read all of the commentary about your divine writing.
    I thought that I was the only one who has reread the Outlander series multiple times.
    Each reading feels like I’m discovering a whole new point of view.
    How does one pack that much exciting detail into eight 700-900 page books.
    You are one brilliant writer. ( I just splurged on all of the Outlander DVD’s.
    We cannot get enough of your writing.
    I truly believe, that you are the best author I have ever read in my lifetime.
    I would not have missed these books for anything in the world.
    Take your time. We will gladly wait for more of your talented writing.

  14. Thank You!Thank You!Thank You!
    I have been patiently monitoring this site for years now and this has made my day (April 5th, 2021).



  15. Congratulations! I shall toast you with a wee dram tonight! It must be kismet that your announcement came the day I became an Arizonan! Now I have to dig out your books and start again at the beginning. BTW your books get stored in the bookcase with the glass doors!

  16. I am so happy to read that you are finished.

    Thank you so much for your excerpts. I have trouble sleeping. Often when I awaken in the middle of the night, I look to see if you have added any excerpts. I reread the ones you have added over the years and enjoy the new ones. It will be so much fun to find the excerpts in the final copy.

    I reread for the 4th time my whole set of the Outlander tale at the beginning of the Covid movement limitations.

    It will be quite interesting to see how long the process is from your finish to the final publication. I know you will let us know when to reserve our copies.

    Please know that I always find delightful your choices of titles of the books.

    I love to recommend the series to anyone who asks for book ideas.

    What joy you have given your readers over the years! Thank you again,


  17. If you find an error too late for the hard copy, does it get fixed on the electronic version?

    Thank you!


  18. BEST series I’ve ever read! I’ve read the series multiple times (I’ve had to replace copies) & have hooked others. Twenty years ago a friend gave me a copy of “Outlander” and I was transported! Can’t wait until “Bees” hits the shelves!

  19. Diana, Wow, I never expected a response. So happy I could make you laugh as you’ve brought us so much pleasure over the years.


  20. I do look forward to follow Claire and Jamie, I miss them. Like others say, every new book makes me read the whole series again. I have found a few minor discrepansies in the writing, but with the years that it has taken to come this far I think we can excuse those. I do love your story. I would like to know how long it will take before there is a end to the story!

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