Proposal to Publication – Part 3 of 5

The Writing & Editing Stage

* Now that the contract is finished, you should have some interaction with an editor who will outline your writing/editing schedule and expectations.

* You also should receive some kind of “welcome packet” from the publisher, a written set of author-instructions telling you about style requirements, permissions, and other aspects of the manuscript. They’ll probably give you an overview of their process (similar to what I’m telling you in this series).

* You will be given a period of time in which to finish writing and deliver your manuscript. This can vary from a couple of months to six months or more, depending on the project. If it’s complete and you aren’t planning on revising until you receive editorial notes, then you will deliver your manuscript immediately.

* Once you’ve delivered the manuscript, there’s normally another period of time for editing. This varies widely between publishers but might be a few weeks to a few months. There may be a developmental (or substantive) edit. This is where your editor gives you an editorial memo detailing big-picture issues that need to be fixed. Some editorial memos are five pages long; others run to 20 pages or more. This is normal for published authors so don’t freak out! You will be expected to revise your manuscript according to the editor’s notes. (Just a warning: Most authors find this stage, when they get their editorial memo, to be difficult emotionally. They’ve already slaved over their book for months or years, only to feel like it’s being torn apart. This is normal, even for multi-published authors. Allow yourself some time to feel the pain. Then get to work.)

* Once you’ve completed your revision, there should be a bit more time for a line edit. This time, your editor will be working in your manuscript itself. They’ll make changes in your document, offering suggestions and comments about wording, sentences, grammar, inconsistencies, POV, believability… you name it, they’ll comment on it. You’ll receive your manuscript back electronically with the notes and changes embedded (most editors use Track Changes in Word). You’ll go through and make revisions accordingly. There may be a back-and-forth process between you and your editor until the manuscript is polished and complete.

* You’ll want to make sure you make all the changes you want during this time; it’s most likely your last chance, except for typos.

* Congratulations, the hard part is finished!

Next up: Pre-Production

I’m taking a blogging break this week, so I’m featuring a series I originally posted in January of 2008. Hope you find it helpful!

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Colleen Coble on August 3, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    >I looove getting the editorial letter! It's my favorite part of the process. I'm suddenly no longer pulling a very heavy wagon by myself, but another pair of oxen are pulling with me. This is where the whole writing process gets exciting. I can see new possibilities and new direction. And yes it's work but oh it's so worth it!

  2. Rachelle on July 23, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    >If you’re a writer, you MUST be completely comfortable working in MS Word and using Track Changes and Comments. If you don’t know how to use those functions, team up with a writing buddy, pass manuscripts back and forth via email, and LEARN.

  3. Beth on July 23, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    >I echo everyone’s comments. I just finished my women’s fiction MS and am working with a professional editor in Sept. Hopefully, it will be in great shape before I send it to agents (you’re on my list, of course). Good to know about that loooong editorial memo. That would have scared me, too. Deep breath.On the electronic tracking, for those of us who aren’t familiar with that, is there a how-to anywhere on the web so we can get up to speed beforehand?Thanks for all the great info!

  4. Heidi Willis on July 22, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    >This is so timely… it is exactly where I am in the process, so I am soaking all this up!Thanks for rerunning this for those of us who weren’t around – or weren’t at this stage – when you wrote it the first time!

  5. Jody Hedlund on July 22, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    >Thanks for running this series again, Rachelle. I’m learning so much!

  6. Dara on July 22, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    >Just reading about the editorial memo or editor’s letter is enough to freak me out! 😛 But it’s a part of the process, so it’s just something I’m going to have to work through when I get there 🙂

  7. thespectacleblog on July 22, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    >I’ve also never heard of the “welcome packet.” Sounds nice!I think you forgot to mention the best part of signing with a publisher: free books! I’ll take a “welcome box of books” over a “welcome packet” any day.Parker P

  8. Jenni Saake (a.k.a. InfertilityMom) on July 22, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    >I was one who freaked out over the editorial memo! LOL But it is such a needed step! I think just knowing what to expect is valuable. Loving your advice to “feel the pain” then move on to the work. 🙂

  9. Nicola Morgan on July 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM

    >Very clear and helpful as always – and I’m just adding my comment because though I’m in the UK, (like Bookmaven), I DO recognise every bit of the process you described – including the “welcome package”! When my editor and I are going through the electronic editing stage, we tend to use different colours, and the idea is that when we’re both happy with a bit it get s to go back to black, but meanwhile every colour in the rainbow is used as we argue about things!Word verification: coloric!

  10. Eric on July 22, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >Another interesting aspect you’ve uncovered for us. I’m glad you told us about the length of editorial memos, since I’m probably one of those ones who would have freaked out. This series is really well written, and I’m glad you’re putting it out there for us to go through. Thanks alot.

  11. Angie Ledbetter on July 22, 2009 at 7:49 AM

    >Hope your time off is wonderful and relaxing!

  12. Book Maven on July 22, 2009 at 4:53 AM

    >I have had over ninety books published with a wide variety of houses and have NEVER received any kind of “welcome packet”! Is this some kind of US procedure? (Though I’m published there too).I think new writers would really benefit from learning something about the editing methods preferred by their editor. I was at a writers’ retreat last week and there was a wide variety, from oral discussion only to mauscripts covered in red pen, of editing styles.Again maybe this is a UK thing but we agreed that every time you have a new editor you should have a discussion with them about how to make this often fraught relationship work best for the two of you.