I write this assuming you are a writer whose book has sold to a publisher and now you are working with your manuscript—writing, researching, gathering facts, honing your key concepts, and all the other necessary goodies that make for a best-selling book.
This post may not apply to the author who was well-coached and managed by a fantastic agent, where everything on my list below was presented at the time of initial query.
But for everyone else...
This is the stage between contract and submission of your final manuscript. What I find when I am wearing my editorial hat (and not my acquisitions hat) is many times I receive a manuscript from an author that is missing quite a few vital components. These components should be part of the writing phase as the author prepares his or her manuscript for publication. I realize that some authors may not be aware of what is part of their manuscript prep and what the editor does during the editorial phase. So often, the things I mention below are overlooked and, by default, land on the editor's plate. (For a refresher of what an editor does, see a previous post.)
Now if you're an author who values a good editor, this should be very disturbing, because what you want is for your editor to spend as much quality time with your content as the editorial schedule will allow. An editor is an expert at making sure the author is all neat and tucked in, but should they also be responsible for doing things the author should have prepared beforehand?
That's a rhetorical question.
But here's another angle. With the whirlwind of trying to get published in the first place and then negotiating the best contract terms, deciphering publishing agreement jargon, working with marketing and sales on best strategies, and fighting through writer's block while working a nine-to-five job, maybe authors are just ready to get that all-consuming thing off of their desk, collect their advance, and are not going back to see what their publisher needs from them to count their manuscript as complete.
Well I'd like to help authors and editors everywhere by providing a little checklist of items and tasks that need to be completed before an author submits their final manuscript to their publisher. Not all of these elements will apply to all projects.
Here's what you need to turn in with your manuscript:
- Table of contents
- List of tables, charts, graphs, or images
- Photographs, graphics, or other images
- Print licenses for song or poetry lyrics; long quotes from books, websites, and news articles; use of charts, graphs, or photographs; or any other copyrighted material
- Full sourcing (or citation) information for all borrowed and quoted material including author, title, publisher's city and state, publisher's name, publishing date, page number, and/or web link
- Signed releases from subjects mentioned by name or likeness in your book (changing a subject's name is not enough)
- Endnotes or footnotes
- Index list
- About the author page
Many times, and maybe other editors can relate, chasing down and completing this information impose on my edit time—especially signed releases, print licenses, and sourcing. While I love the thrill of a chase, my time could be better spent really homing in on the author's message or story and helping them make it shiny and life-changing for their readers. It's for the readers that publishers and authors do any of it, right?
Those are just my thoughts as they occurred to me today. What do you think? Did I miss anything? If so, please add them to the comments. Also if you need clarification on what any of the items on the list mean and how to go about getting them, let me know. I'll blog about it for you.