Understanding the Publishing Process – An FFP Guide for Authors

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    DMA
    DMA
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    This guide is a basic A to Z of what to expect when your short story, novella, or novel is being edited by Fantastic Fiction Publishing (FFP). We have a clear, linear process as what will—and will not—happen to your story all the way through. All stories at FFP go through this process.

    Submission & Acceptance

    When you submit your story—even before it’s accepted—the first person to look at it is our Managing Editor. The Managing Editor checks your email for compliance to our Submission Guidelines, checks the document to make sure it opens, sends a confirmation email to you, the author, then forwards it to the Submissions Editor.

    If your story is accepted, here’s how it happens: the Submissions Editor reads your story. They take notes on particular issues, then send a recommendation and decision to the Managing Editor and the Publisher. If your story is rejected, the Submissions Editor will send you an email at that point, probably with a few notes as to why we didn’t accept it. The Publisher makes the final decision based on an evaluation of your story’s potential to sell.

    If accepted, the Managing Editor then prepares your story to move forward in the process. You are assigned an Author Code and added to our database. Similarly, your story is assigned a Story Code. The Publisher creates the contract, which is sent to you along with necessary financial paperwork.

    At that point, the ball is in your court. If you accept, you print, sign, and send us the contract, tax documents, copy of photo identification to verify name and address, and payment preferences. You revise the manuscript to fit the “FFP Manuscript Style Guide,” adding things like a title page and appropriate chapter lengths. You also need to create an account on ForbiddenFiction.com and Fantastic FantasticFictionPublishing.com websites.

    When your contract gets back to us, the Managing Editor gets the Publisher’s signature and files the contract. The Managing Editor emails you the completed contract for your records. All author records are updated. You are upgraded to an Author User Account on our sites.

    Development (Editing & Proofreading)

    Next comes the actual editing. There are three levels of editors, including Development Editors (who are also called Story Editors) who work with you to perfect your plot, characters, and narrative voice. There are Line Editors, who will go through the manuscript line by line, editing the use of language and fine points of continuity. Lastly, there are Copy Editors, who are the final check for spelling, grammar, and compliance with our style guide. Depending on the length of your story, sometimes Development Editors and Line Editors are the same person, especially with shorter pieces. Novels are always edited by at least three people (often more).

    The Development Editor is assigned by the Managing Editor to work with you to make sure your story is compatible with the Publisher’s style and content requirements as understood by the Development Editor. The Development Editor completes a read-through, writes notes, and emails you, the author, with the first edits. Typically, the first round of editing is focused on overarching story elements like plot, storyline, characters, setting, and theme. You complete requisite edits and send it back.

    It is critically important that before you make any edits, you always turn on “Track Changes” in Word before you make any changes. (And the editor will do the same for you.) If you do not follow directions here, the editor will send the work back to you to fix by backtracking and doing it right. It costs the editor too much time if you don’t. There are tutorials linked on our site if you need more information about Track Changes or other MS Word applications. (Check the Author Resources section of the Forums.)

    Sometimes authors disagree with edits. It happens. We all have different points of view and priorities. You as the author are always free to disagree with edits. This should be a conversation with your editor. Hopefully, all such conflicts can be resolved quickly in a professional manner. Refusing to make changes or discuss them with your editor may prevent your story from being published, but it will not release you from your contract. The story will not go to the Publisher until the Development Editor and Line Editor are satisfied with it; the Publisher has the final word on what version of your story will make it to publication. Everyone has a stake in seeing this story be successful, including all editors. They want your story to do well, too.

    Along the same lines, we appreciate authors who are able to be professional and flexible during the editing process. Similarly, we love authors who are able to both say what they mean and mean what they say; being direct yet polite is a mark of a professional writer. We realize this can seem like an adversarial process at times, but our goal is to produce the best story we can. A positive, professional attitude usually makes us be happy to work with you again (if you submit another story to FFP) and makes the entire process better for everyone involved, including you.

    Each time the story comes back to you for changes or approval, you will be given a “goal date” by which to have the work back to FFP. If you need to change this date, make sure to notify the editor/staff as soon as possible. Every staff member is working on multiple projects and will have to shift their schedule to another one if yours is not back on time. While we try to pace our work, these types of delays often mean that the editor has had to turn to a work that is ready in the meantime and may still be working on that when your story comes back in. They will have to finish the edits in process before they can turn back to yours. This is not punitive, but simply part of the challenge of a publishing business. The best way to insure your work stays a priority in the timeline is to keep to your agreements with staff on goal dates.

    In any case, the editorial process continues back and forth until all issues with the story have been resolved. In the meantime, authors are sent a copy of the Cover Creation Questionnaire (CCQ) once the story has a complete beginning, middle, and end. When you complete and return the CCQ to the editor, you are welcome to attach reference photos if you have them. These will be passed on to the Cover Designer. Remember that the Cover Designer rarely has time to read the story and will rely on the information you provide as part of the CCQ when choosing character representations.

    Around this time, you are also sent the link for the Content Labels (CL) sheet. Once you’ve filled this out, the Editor(s) will read through the Content Labels to make sure all appropriate categories are checked. We find that authors sometimes hold back when labeling their stories. Some authors are frightened their stories won’t sell because of whatever taboo issue is present in their story. At FFP, we believe your story will sell because of the taboo issues: readers who are interested in incest, non-consent, etc., are looking for that very label, and mislabeling a story can result in reader backlash. We want to be as accurate as possible in any case. We believe in letting the reader decide which content they can and cannot handle.

    If this is a short story or a novella, the Development Editor will often do the line editing, asking you to revise continuity issues, grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the manuscript. If it’s a novel, your story will often be sent to a separate Line Editor once the Development Editor is done.

    Once the Development Editor and/or the Line Editor are satisfied with your piece, they will send it on to the Managing Editor with notes, story blurb, the CCQ, the CL, and a completed manuscript. Throughout this entire process, the Development Editor and/or Line Editors will update your information in our database.

    The Managing Editor does another read-through; they have the final say on whether or not your story is ready to go to the next step. If it is not ready, the Managing Editor will reassign you to another Development Editor. This happens to even our best authors; again, we appreciate your willingness and professional attitude if you have to sit down and revise again.

    When the Managing Editor is satisfied your story is in good shape, they will list it for Proofreading. A Copy Editor (proofreader) reads through your story and makes notes and changes as necessary, focusing on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Basically, they are looking for anything missed by the Development and Line Editors; plus, they are a fresh pair of eyes vetting the story. They send the results directly to the Managing Editor, who checks it and then forwards it back to you, the author. You approve any changes and address any comments in the document. Remember, this is the time to make sure your story is exactly the way you want to see it in print. Re-read your entire story, not just the changes. Be very sure this is the final product before sending it back to the Managing Editor.

    Production & Promotions

    Next comes cover, promotions texts, and book production. This stage actually starts while your story has gone off to the proofreading phase of Development. It’s only when we have an approved manuscript than we can get a realistic idea of when a work will be ready for release.

    Much of post-editing time is devoted to getting all the right promotions support as well as producing quality formatted ebooks and print. So, while it might seem like nothing is happening for a while after the story leaves your hands, there is actually a lot of behind work going on with the staff as the prepare you work for sale.

    The turn-around time post-editing to release averages around three month. The actual time varies widely not only due to the length of the story, but the number of people involved. It only takes one person (author, proofreader, artist, etc.) to miss their deadline for the entire process to slow down. And since there are other works in process alongside yours, if your release date is delays, that means a lot of shuffling of other project and their deadlines. (Imagine an air traffic controller with the stories as planes.) If your story is late coming back to us, then the staff will work on another project in the meantime and may not be able to switch back to yours until the other one that was ready on time is done. If significantly delayed, another story will need to fill that release dates and yours moved to the next available spot in the calendar.

    So when the story is sent to proofreading, the Managing Editor creates a Dropbox folder with the complete story for the review of the Cover Designer and the Production Editor. The Cover Designer discusses the story with the Managing Editor and reads the CCQ. If it’s a short story, it will most likely be assigned one of our template covers that reflect the primary sexual pairing in the picture and use text to covey the genre and/or mood of the story. If it is a novella or novel, it will most likely be given a unique cover.

    If it’s a novel or a novella that is part of a series, we might commission a separate cover artist to create original art. Otherwise, we purchase rights to use photographs already in existence and Photoshop as needed. Please note that the Cover Designer does their best, always referring to what you wrote in the CCQ. Covers are promotional material. The function of the cover is to help sell the book to potential buyers, not illustrate the details of the story.

    The promotions team will also begin work on the key aspects that go with the cover including: story title, series title (when applicable), story blurbs, genres, keywords and so on. It’s important to have titles that not only fit the story, but that will also appeal to the readers who would most likely buy it. For longer works, there are sometimes multiple blurbs, with different lengths and focus.

    Once we have a good idea when all the pieces will come together, the Publisher will work with the Promotions department to set a release date.

    The Production Editor creates an ISBN listing and creates Ebooks in three different formats: Mobi, PDF and EPub. You are then sent each format of the Ebook to approve. At this time, you are looking for mistakes that happened during the production process. (When you are sent copies of the Ebooks, this is not the time to do major editorial changes… or even clear up all the little grammatical issues. Please take care of this when you are working with the Copy Editor. See above.)

    Audio books are currently in development. We’ll provide more information in that process when we have it.

    The Production Editor produces the book in formats for AllRomanceEbooks, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Smashwords. (They may also be subcontract to places like Kobo, ibooks, and books stores.) Similarly, the Managing Editor sends the Ebook to Distribution. We currently have a tiered distribution system depending on the length of the story. See publisher’s blog post A Long Tale of Short Stories for more information.) Though it may sound like the easiest part, it actually requires several days per story to complete. If your story is novel length, we will produce the work in print-on-demand format as well.

    At this stage, the Distribution Manager will also make sure you have copies of the final formats. You should receive a set of the ebook formats as part of the proof process. If somehow you don’t receive final versions, contact production and we will send them. If your story is produced in print form either as a novel or as part of an anthology, you will need to contact the sales department directly and request a print version be mailed to you. You will need to send email with your current mailing address and the number of print copies you wish sent. One is provided as part of your contract, additional copies are provided for 25% off the list price. If you have royalties on file, the cost can be taken from your royalties account. Any email regarding print copies should be sent to: sales@forbidden-fiction.com.

    While we are still working on a document to explain the promotions process, it is at this time that we work with authors to see what types of promotional support we can offer from providing promo art and text, to finding reviewers, author interviews & chats, guest blogs, print ad cards for novels & anthologies, and more. We do promote all of our works, yet the amount of promotions is in proportion to the type of works. Novels and anthologies get more attention as they are the bulk of our sales. As a rule, the more involved authors are in promotions, the better their sales are. Blogging about your story on our site is a good way to help us as well, and we can then promote that blog to a wider audience.

    Once your story has completed its first release and sales, it will get put on the schedule for serialization. At that time, we will go through and pick a pull quote from each chapter to use as a teaser when it’s posted. If you wish to help with this, you can also attach a list of suggested pull quotes for each chapter. Once the story is loaded into our system and begins releasing chapters, you will be expected to read and reply to comments on the story. In addition, it will help promotions if you also update your social media and other lists for each chapter released. See Promotions for more information on this process.

    And ta-da! Congratulations, you have been officially published. What’s the next story?

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