How To Write a Historical Novel in Seven Easy Steps: Step Six
6. Gaze Upon the Efforts of the Designer and Typesetter
This is one of the easiest stages for authors, because it mostly consists of us watching other people work really hard.
Firstly, there's the cover design to admire. In the case of Australian edition of The FitzOsbornes at War, the designer had already come up with beautiful designs for the first two books in the Montmaray Journals series, which looked like this:
NOT that creating those two covers was a quick and easy process. The designer came up with FOURTEEN possible covers for the first two books. Some were hand-drawn portraits, some were based on photos. Each had its own individual design for the title of the book, the title of the series and the author name. Then a lot of people at Random House Australia sat down to discuss which covers would best show what the book was about and would most appeal to readers. I also added my opinions, and my publishers were polite enough to listen (in general, authors don't get much say in how their book covers look). Then my editor wrote the blurb on the back, and organised for legal permission to use the photographs, and looked for some flattering review quotes to add to the cover.
By the way, all the cover photographs for the Australian editions of the Montmaray Journals were taken by an extremely talented teenager, Nikoline Rasmussen. Cool, huh?
Anyhow, as you can see, the third book cover used the same model as the first two books, with a different background. The cover designer made some changes to the original photograph to add colour to the sky, so that it would look a bit more cheerful (and, as it happens, to fit a scene in the book more closely). If you click on the Nikoline Rasmussen interview linked above, you'll also see the original photograph that was used for the cover of A Brief History of Montmaray. (And if you've read the book, you can probably figure out why the cover designer made some changes to the image.)
Meanwhile, the typesetters had turned my Word document into five hundred pages of typeset book pages, using a special font and chapter heading designs to match the first two books in the series. But mistakes happen during typesetting. There are weird typos. The spacing looks wrong in some places. And authors, being the contrary creatures they are, often have last-minute changes they need to make. (Especially when they've just finished copy-editing the American edition of their book and their American copy-editor has pointed out a glaring historical error. Cough. Not that that would happen to me or anything.)
This is why proofreading is really important. In the case of The FitzOsbornes at War, the typeset pages (called proofs, or galleys, or first pages, depending on whom you ask) were read by a proofreader who hadn't seen the manuscript, plus an editor who was familiar with the first two books, as well as by myself. (You can see a tiny section of my typeset manuscript below, with some of my corrections.) Then my editor had a long meeting with me at the Random House Sydney office and we went through all the combined changes and argued about commas again. But it was polite arguing.
By the way, if you've heard about 'ARCs' (or 'bound proofs' or 'galleys') and wondered what they are – they're the typeset pages bound into book form, with a rough version of the cover art. That is, they are the book BEFORE it's been proofread, complete with weird typos, factual errors, etc. So if you read an ARC, you're not reading the final book. You're reading a very early, flawed version of the book. ARCs are only printed so that people reviewing the book can read it and write their review before the book is published – although they need to check the final version of the book if they're going to use quotes from the book or complain about 'errors' in the book.
Next: The finished book.