I’m in the thick of things this week: I’m working on new chapters for the upcoming Creating Cool Web Sites book (from Wiley), nitpicking through the page proofs of Wicked Cool Shell Scripts and tomorrow morning picking up a FedEx package from O’Reilly & Associates that’s the first page proof set of Learning Unix for Mac OS X, The Panther Edition. I think I’m starting to go cross-eyed along the way here!
But for those of you that don’t know about how books are produced, it’s actually quite interesting. Using a complex template supplied by the publisher, I write the chapters in Microsoft Word. I then submit them to the publisher who has a copy editor, development editor and technical editor all go through them. Their feedback is (usually) consolidated and sent back to me as a heavily edited and marked up file. I then have to step through that and address each and every issue, problem, structural suggestion, query, clarification, etc. Sometimes the response is “no, it’s okay as is” but many times the comments really help produce a better book.
Once that cycle is done, the edited chapter is sent back to the publisher, who ensures all the edits are correct, pours it into a page layout program, and sends back PDF files that are the ‘first proof’ or ‘page proof’ of the final layout of the book. At this point errors in figure commentary versus figure content become obvious, typos can be caught, etc. O’Reilly calls this phase “QC1”.
As I step through the page proofs, I note any and all things that can improve the book at that point – though nothing major or structural unless it’s a complete crisis – and send back very detailed commentary to the publisher.
With some publishers, that’s applied and the next time I see the book is bound and printed, in a box. With others, there’s a second round of page proofs – O’Reilly calls this “QC2” – that are intended to catch typos and other miniscule problems. Nothing that’ll cause the pages to ‘repour’ or otherwise have different breaks.
Finally, along the way, the graphics and marketing department work with me to come up with a cover design and the words and graphical elements that appear on the final book. That’s always a fun process too… and with the Wicked Cool Shell Scripts book, for example, I can tell you that we have the phrase “We don�t care if you use these scripts to save time managing your system, or to find new ways to goof off. We just hope you�ll agree that they�re Wicked Cool and worth every last cent.”
So stay tuned… pretty soon these books will be beyond page proofs and will be available at a bookstore near you. And they’re pretty darn good so far, if I say so myself. 🙂