I have been asked to prepare a draft proposal for a manuscript submission and editing process for Untimely Books, the book publishing unit being developed in association with Infinite Conversations/Cosmos Coop/Metapsychosis (IC/CC/MP). Here is the result of my reflections about this. I have posted it on the general Infinite Commons, as it could be potentially of interest to all members of Infinite Conversations, not only those currently active in the Writers Underground.
Who will be responsable for overseeing manuscripts?
I suggest a (very) small executive who will make go-nogo decisions about whether to proceed with publication or, indeed, any stage of editing of the manuscript, and who will coordinate who may be involved with the various editing stages and how many UB resources will be allocated to this work.
I also suggest that each manuscript accepted for publication be assigned a manuscript steward or shepherd, who will work with the author to determine the different steps that the manuscript will pass through. The steward does not do the work, but ensures it gets done.
Who may submit manuscripts?
Preferentially these will be active participants on the Infinite Conversations site. We may not want to exclude manuscripts submitted by non participants, but given our limited resources, we may choose to be prudent in whether such submissions are accepted.
What pre-conditions might apply to acceptance of a manuscript?
I propose that, in addition to the manuscript itself, which should be submitted in electronic form, that a kind of « editing history » be submitted as well, detailing how many versions the manuscript has been through, start and end dates for each version (at least roughly if not known precisely), and any outside editors who may have interacted with the manuscript before its submission to Untimely Books. Any beta readers who may have provided feedback, and so on.
What would be the acceptance process?
A Manuscript Evaluation must first be undertaken. This will provide feedback both to the editorial committee and to the writer about how much work needs to be carried out before the green light can be given to publish. This evaluation will determine what kind of editing work needs to be carried out and how much. For example,
a) Developmental or Substantive Editing
b) Style (Line) Editing
c) Copy Editing
If the editing effort needed to get the manuscript into publishable form is excessive, or if the manuscript is not acceptable for other reasons, the manuscript should be refused, and the writer encouraged to either rewrite or hire a freelance editor to bring the manuscript to an acceptable form. If only a modicum of substantive editing is still required, UB may either find an editor in-house to assist in this process, or work with the writer to hire a freelance editor to do the work. If the only editing required is Copy Editing and Proofreading, this will be assumed in-house.
At the completion of the Manuscript Evaluation phase, the executive committee will decide on a green, an amber or a red light. A green light means the only editing required is Copy Editing and/or Proofreading. An amber light means that the writer will need to work with an editor to do a modicum of Style or Line Editing. A red light means the manuscript will be returned to the writer.
Among the people involved in IC/MP/CC, we will identify those with competencies, availability and willingness to do (a) substantive editing and manuscript evalution ; (b) style or line editing ; © copy editing and (d) proofreading. Question, will we be able to find any resources to pay these people, maybe not going rates but something?
Publication Process (post green light)
The manuscript will pass a series of steps :
- A decision concerning which publication modalities will be support (e.g. hardback, paperback, electronic)
- Some sort of contractual arrangement ;
- Securing a budget for the publication process ;
- Determine Book Title (in collaboration with author)
- Determine whether illustrations are appropriate, and manage the process of securing rights to publish any for which copyright is not owned by author/publisher
- For each approved publication modality :
- Copy editing and proofreading ;
- Securing cover art
- designing the book layout ;
- Designing page layout ;
- Securing a publisher/printer (e.g. offset or Print On Demand for hardback or paperback; Amazon or other for electronic) ;
- Determine keywords and genre category (categories) as appropriate for marketing purposes
- Apply for ISBN, Copyright and other rights as necessary ;
- Set the cover price for the book ;
- Develop press materials for the book ;
- Develop summaries for book (e.g. for back or inside cover, etc.)
- Formatting the copy ;
- Typesetting the copy ;
- Finalizing the copy ;
- Identifying advertising modalities (budget?)
- Fixing the publication dates ;
- Initiate pre-selling practices (list book with online retailers, send out press materials,
- Publishing the book ;
- Ship hardback or paperback book to bookstores and other retailers, etc.
- Follow-up on publishing (e.g. submit title to contests, etc. where appropriate);
Regarding marketing : Note that marketing will be largely in the hands of the writer, although UB may be able to offer suggestions and tips on how to proceed. There are resources for this (Bublish, AuthorU, etc.)
Regarding costs : One way to handle this, at least to begin with, would be that the writer assume the costs for the initial publication, with privileged payback on sales until the initial costs are recovered. Once UB generates some operating capital, this may no longer be necessary. The costs of paying in-house editors might be covered in this way as well.
Another addendum : Not all participants in this site will know that, as part of the effort of bringing my first novel to publication by Untimely Books, we ran a Reading Group within the Writers Underground to provide feedback from the readers’ perspective about the novel. One can think of this as kind of a Beta Readers Group, or even as a kind of Focus Group concerning the manuscript’s likelihood to be of interest to a broader readership. This was, from my point of view as a writer, a superb way to get feedback about the manuscript . However, I don’t think it is appropriate to include this possibility as an implicit stage within the manuscript editing process. The Readers’ Group we organized was the result of manifest interest on the part of several people about this particular manuscript. While we could propose such an initiative for other manuscripts that may be submitted, the voluntary nature of participation within Infinite Conversations precludes, I think, making this an obligatory stage.
Furthermore, I wondered whether it might not be appropriate to make any manuscript “in the hopper” for publication by Untimely Books available to the general readership of the site for comments. Again, I am unsure about whether such a wider consultation is either necessary or desirable. Perhaps manuscripts could be made available “pre-publication” for those participants that request to read the manuscript, rather than simply for anyone… again, I am not sure what makes sense here.