I’m about to embark on a strange journey. My first novel in 14 years is about to be published as an e-book original from Random House’s new Alibi imprint, and I’ve just been sent the typeset copy for final review. I’m supposed to make any final changes/edits/etc. on this copy and return it to the publisher so they can make the ebooks.
So far, so good, right? But.
I used the phrase “typeset copy” to describe what was once called “galley proofs,” those long sheets of printout the publishers would send to authors for their final approval. The process has been updated, and now it’s all done electronically. The most widely used system for current editing is Microsoft Word, which has a file-share editing setup that involves balloons and arrows and various colors of text. Editing notes appear in clumps down the right side of the page, with arrows pointing to the appropriate text. This may sound simple and straightforward, and I suppose it is.
Unless you’re me.
When I first dreamed of becoming a writer, I imagined stacks of typewritten paper bound with rubber bands. Editors would mark them up with blue pencils, and I would make changes in red pencil, and the process would be repeated, with the stack being sent back and forth each time, until everyone was satisfied. Then they would make books on paper, bound in thick cardboard, with pretty dust jackets that had my name on them. That was the dream, and for the first phase of my publishing career, it was the reality.
Not anymore. Now, my first book in 14 years isn’t a book at all. It’s an ebook–a series of electronic impulses bundled together in an electronic document that can be downloaded from electronic “bookstores” such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is an ethereal thing, and it must be prepared ethereally. No stacks of typewritten pages, just a “doc” that is accessed by clicking a “mouse.” And the editing itself is now done on a screen. In order to do this, I must first activate “Track Changes” from my Toolbar’s drop-down menu.
Things have certainly changed in the publishing industry. Well, they’ve changed everywhere. Everyone under thirty has grown up in this Almighty Megabyte universe, and everyone over thirty has struggled to become familiar with it. Laptops. Cell phones. Social networks. Texting. Online dating. Online shopping. Online advertising. And, of course, online reading.
I’m closer to sixty than thirty, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get used to it. Maybe I’ll buy a “pad” or a “pod” and start buying groceries online. Or I’ll join Facebook and Twitter and whatever. I might even buy a cell phone and toss my land line. But for now, all I have to do is prepare the final copy of my electronic novel with this electronic editing app. I’m braced and ready, fully prepared to do this, just as soon as I can find “Track Changes” in the drop-down menu on my Toolbar. Hmm. Toolbar–that’s the thingy at the top of my Word window thingy, right? I sure hope so.
I’ll let you know how it goes.