Publishing Insider: When Is a Book Really Finished?

The many steps in bringing a manuscript to the bookstore.

Posted Mar 17, 2014

I turned in the manuscript for Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked in mid-October. My wife, Elizabeth, and I celebrated. The book was done!


It's been 10 years since the publication of my last book, Acquainted with the Night, about raising children with depression and bipolar disorder. And I'd forgotten how involved the process of publishing a book can be. Not that that's a bad thing: The more attention a publisher gives a book, the more likely it is to be "published well," as book people sometimes say. 

Not long after I turned in my manuscript, I heard from my editor, Amanda Moon at Scientific American/FSG, that I should expect to receive a copy edited manuscript, which I would have to review line-by-line. Copy editors are sainted people who look for every misplaced comma, every detail, check page numbers of references, and determine whether the name of a gene should be in upper-case letters or lower-case. No reward in this world can recompense them for what they do. (If you don't believe in and afterlife, you probably shouldn't be a copy editor.) Mine was Annie Gottlieb, and she had help from FSG Production Editor Mareike Grover and Managing Editor Debra Helfand.

Once I'd reviewed the copy edits, a job that took several weeks (not full-time, but a lot of the time), I finally thought I was done. Elizabeth and I had a second, smaller celebration.

Then I had to review first-pass pages--a first draft at making all the fixes and moving all the commas. Then second-pass pages. (Third-pass pages are looming out there somewhere even now.) And in the midst of this, I had to review the cover (which I like very much), write Acknowledgments, send out parts of the manuscript for review by people I'd quoted, and other things that have already become a bit of a blur.

It's been tough to find the time with my work as chief critic for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, but it's been a pleasure, and it's been gratifying to have smart people at FSG helping to assure that Do Fathers Matter? will be well published.