Monday, October 20, 2008

When to Put the Finishing Touches on Your Book

I recently received a question from an author about indexing. This particular author is working on her book and would like to include an index. Her question was at what point she should do that.

Indexing is a tedious and difficult process and is one of those things you shouldn’t even begin to think about until the book has been sold, edited, and finished, and, frankly, it’s typically not something the author does herself unless she has previous indexing experience. While a publisher’s contract will sometimes say that the author is responsible for the index, it usually doesn’t mean that the author is responsible for doing the index, but simply for paying for it. Keep in mind, frequently we can make this the publisher’s responsibility. Either way, the publisher will usually hire an indexer to create the index, and this can’t be done until the book is fully edited and laid out in pages because it doesn’t make sense to do an index until you actually have the page numbers to match the references to.

This question also brought to mind other things I frequently see in the early stages of the submission process that I think should never be included, and that’s a cover, a title page, acknowledgments, and a dedication. Let me discuss each of these things individually.

1. As any published author will tell you, it’s rare that a publisher will keep the original title, let alone cover. And while it’s great to have an idea or a vision of what your cover will be, the publisher is the ultimate decision maker. So I don’t suggest spending time creating artwork to submit with your manuscript. Just send in the book, but do include a great title, because even if the publisher ultimately decides to change the title, a great title can catch an editor’s attention.

2. Including acknowledgments in an unpublished manuscript is the true sign of an amateur to me. While many people may have helped you create the manuscript you’re submitting, you’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg in the work that’s needed to be done. Does that mean that I’m mad my name isn’t going to go in? Nah, I don’t care about that. It means I wonder if you have any idea of what an editor might still make you do to this book.

3. While a dedication is unlikely to change I just don’t suggest you include it. Wait until you turn in the full manuscript to your editor.



Kimber Li said...

None of these occurred to me, but I don't write non-fiction. I thought 'finishing touches' meant going over the manuscript one last time with a high-powered editorial microscope before sending it out on a request.

Jake Nantz said...

I kind of thought the same thing. Who on earth would send in acknowledgements with an unpublished manuscript? Most agents (from what research I've been able to glean) don't even want the prologue. You want to include a dedication and COVER??

On second thought, keep it up...just makes my manuscript look more professional by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the copyright notice. That's a sure mark of an amateur as well.

Julie Weathers said...

Good Hannah, and I thought I was obsessing. At least I'm obsessing about that dirty, rotten, stinking, lousy query letter.

Ummm, don't suppose there's a chance those are not needed also?

Yeah, thought not.

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice the Query Shark has gone missing. I love keeping up with these posts. The more info the more confused I become.

Marian Perera said...

With my first fantasy manuscript, I got one request for a full. I was inexperienced back then, and sent three copies of maps as well. Drawn with Adobe Illustrator, I think.

Even for a fantasy, that's usually a no-no. The manuscript has to stand alone. My only consolation is that I didn't draw well enough to send sketches of the characters (yes, I've heard of some fantasy writers doing that).

NerdSnark said...

I've heard of writers doing this. I just thought it was a myth.


Nayuleska said...

Dedications/sketches/maps never crossed my mind...not for querying anyway! Yes I have a few people who I'd like to acknowledge, but I didn't think agents would want that. They want my work (hopefully!), not my thankyous. Will put it on my list of things 'not to include' when I query.

James said...

Okay, so I'm a little late commenting on this post, but a relevant question just occurred to me: what about quotes?

There's a fair few books these days that have some sort of a relevant quotation at the beginning - should these be included in the MS?