After months and months of editing, the bulk of it done in a kind of vacuum, the last few weeks have been a kind of giddy adventure. A couple of days each week I'll wake up and find new messages from my editor, or her assistant, or my agent, inviting me to weigh in on some decision that's being made, or to review some new piece of art.
In the last few weeks those messages have been about Eleanor's new cover art (beautiful and almost complete), Eleanor's interior layout (which is simply stunning), the cover copy for the ARC, the copy for my publisher's seasonal catalog. We're also looking for notable authors who might consider reading an early copy of the book, and further consider providing a kind quote or gesture of support for it, which is an interesting and ongoing process. There's something kind of remarkable about emailing your literary heroes to ask if they would consider reading your own book, then receiving a warm reply agreeing to do so. Since the ARCs are not yet complete, these generous authors get beautiful bound versions of the manuscript, complete with the current cover design affixed.
I'm fairly fascinated by all of this, my first trip through a large publisher's mechanisms of preparing and ultimately publishing a novel. The artifacts are all precious to me: the bound manuscripts, the book summaries, the exceptionally unique cover art. There are many more people involved than I'd expected to be, and that's kind of amazing as well, since they all seem to work in a sort of fluid harmony. As Eleanor comes together, I feel like a kid watching Sesame Street, in particular those little interludes where they show how a printing press works, or how crayons are made. Except in this case, the outcome has a certain meaning to me.
Copyedits have begun, and are due back to my publisher in less than ten days. This is also a new adventure, witnessing a copyeditor and production editor journey through my manuscript, collecting unnecessary commas and setting them ablaze, or pointing out contradictions—"Jack just gave his sweatshirt to Eleanor, so how can he be wearing it now?"—and absurdities ("I find it very difficult to believe that the authorities would release her into his care if they suspect she's in danger") galore. The manuscript continues to improve.
And yet there are still months ahead before the book is in the world, so much left to be done. This is a slower process than self-publishing, of course, but I'm confident that at the end of it, what's been produced is a novel that will endure for some time.
Also, I hope that pretty soon I'll get to share the new cover with you, in one way or another. It could not be more different from the self-published cover, and yet, it's a perfect realization of the story and its weight. Soon!