With the release of our book on the Gettysburg Retreat just around the corner (May 1) now is the time when the logistical proceedings go forward for both publisher and author. Ted Savas and his crew at Savas Beatie LLC are putting together what are called the “galleys” of the book – soft-cover printed versions of the book that are used to make final edits. To that end, the past couple weeks we’ve been making sure that the book itself (chapters, sections, bibliography, notes, etc.) is laid out correctly in the computer files. I did, in fact, catch one major boo-boo last week – somehow, we had gotten the footnotes doubled up for one chapter. There were two sets of Chapter 4 footnotes for both 4 and 5. Chapter 5’s notes were missing.
How does that happen? Well, when we write the manuscript originally in Word, the footnotes are printed at the end of each chapter. Then, the publisher has us create a separate file of just the footnotes, divided by each chapter and, of course, in proper order. It’s basically a cut and paste job. But if you make a brain fart somewhere between cutting and pasting, a mistake can happen. Good thing we caught that early enough. (All of which makes me wonder that if we wrote a manuscript in the same software that is used for publishing, the chance of similar oopsies might be reduced – but what author is going to spend that kind of coin for the software!)
Anyway, at the moment I’m engrossed in one of the final logistical exercises that we do – setting the placements of both the illustrations (photos) and the maps for the book. Ted knows that no one knows a book like the author, so he leaves it up to us to place them. Many publishers do that themselves, but I like Ted’s thinking that only we really know where they should be. Then, when the final book is printed, the author won’t be questioning why such-and-such a map appears on page 100 instead of page 90 (where the author would have preferred it, for example).
And a lot of thought goes into it. For instance, in such a book as this one on the Gettysburg retreat, Union General George Meade is mentioned throughout it. Should his picture appear at the beginning of the book – alongside Lee’s picture? Or, should it appear after the first chapter – wherein we discuss in detail the Confederate wagon train retreat – and be placed in a later chapter wherein we introduce Meade’s actual pursuit? Same with other major players. Pleasonton, the commander of the Federal cavalry, could simply appear up in front of the book. Or, he could appear several chapters later when he and his decisions are actually discussed in detail. Do we want to place maps of actions right at the beginning of texts when that action is first mentioned, or a couple pages later when we get into the heart of the action?
All of these are the questions that an author has to ask himself when doing these placements. Most readers of a book probably don’t give them much thought, but they’re just as important as the printed word on each page. Subconsciously, the photo and map placements admittedly make an impact on the reader’s experience. If it’s better that a map appear 3 pages earlier than it actually does – so the reader gets an earlier visual of an action being described – it can make the reading experience a bit less pleasurable. Some publishers probably don’t appreciate these kinds of nuances like writers and readers do, so I think it’s very important that the author be involved in the process.
We will be seeing the galleys soon, so that I, Eric, and Mike Nugent can comb through them for any mistakes or any last-minute important adjustments. Then, boo-boos or no boo-boos, it’s off to the printer!