Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On the magic of proof copies...

If you have ever read a book, you have experienced the closest thing we have to actual magic. Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, book making today is a lot closer to magic than it used to be.

Allow me to explain.

Two years ago, a few months after I published Blade's Edge, the thoughts in my head started to coalesce around the story of "and then what happened?" This was partially due to the number of readers who got to the end of Blade's Edge and asked for more, and partially because my brain wanted to spend more time with the characters I had come to know and love during the process of writing Blade's Edge. 

Those thoughts, which started out vague and questioning, eventually solidified into notes, which transformed into an outline, which then spread into a first draft (fun fact--I created the file for Traitor's Hope on September 10th of 2015). The first draft was then chopped up and rearranged into a second draft, which was then refined into a third draft which was then chiseled and polished multiple times to emerge as a book.

In an interesting, 21st century twist, not a single word of Traitor's Hope or the notes that comprised its first stages existed anywhere outside of my head or a computer file until a week ago. Seriously. I wrote the first notes in my notes app between my phone and my laptop. I did the rough outline in my notes app as well (more phone, more laptop), and then a more detailed one in Scrivener. I did all the drafts in Scrivener right up until the very last bit of formatting, which I then did in Word. Not a word on paper. Just thoughts in my head and then words on a screen. So fleeting.

Furthermore, the artwork for Traitor's Hope--created by the wonderfully talented Juan Carlos Barquet--was similarly limited to a thoughts and binary existence. The artwork took form in Juan Carlos' mind and then was brought to life on a computer. I don't know if he sketched any of it on paper before he created the final product, but certainly the sketches he sent me, and the final results were all purely digital.

In addition, the graphic design applied to that artwork was purely digital.

In other words Traitor's Hope didn't exist in any physical sense, AT ALL, until the proof copies were printed. In a magical moment that I wish I could have been present for (though it probably seems less magical in a giant printing facility where hundreds of thousands of books are produced daily) Traitor's Hope went from being an idea, to being a thing. A book. Something one can hold in one's hands.

If the shipping docket it to be believed, this happened on September 4th.

It was in my hands on September 6th.

And the moment was fairly magical...

As clearly evidenced by the ridiculous faces I made.

Of course, not all books only begin existing on paper when they've been printed and bound. Indeed, the first draft of Blade's Edge was composed almost entirely by hand, and I still have the notebooks lying around somewhere to prove it. In truth, that made touching the physical book for the first time only slightly less magical. There is still, and I imagine there always will be, something thrilling about finally seeing years of work transition into book form, no matter how much of it was on paper beforehand.

Opening a proof copy and holding it is mind blowing no matter how you slice it. Here is this thing. Anyone could just pick it up and read it. It's there...just waiting to transfer my thoughts into someone else's head. And if that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Sadly, proof copies are not to be quietly revered from afar, and I soon was faced with the daunting task of marking mine up with a pen in order to make sure that the final copies would be pristine.

I have not intentionally marked up a printed book since grade school. Even when I was supposed to do annotated notes I used sticky notes. Writing in books feels like a small crime to me. But, it really is the best way to be sure you catch all the little things that try to sneak their way into print books.

Here's what Traitor's Hope looked like after I took a pen to it: 

And now, after making various corrections, resubmitting all the files a couple of times, and picking over it all with a fine toothed comb, it's ready. Or, is it's as ready as it's going to be. Blade's Edge went to print with 10 tiny mistakes spread out over 310 pages. I'm hopeful that Traitor's Hope will have even fewer mistakes in its 284 pages, preferably none. But, hey, I've found typos in all the Harry Potter books, and every other print book I've read, so I'm not going to beat myself up too much if I missed one or two. 

Alright, after a week full of late nights staying up to review files and clean copy, it's time to get to bed. There are currently 75 copies of Traitor's Hope heading my way for the book launch. Exciting times! You can pre-order the ebook from this link: and the paperback from this one:

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