I’ve been intensely creating syllabi for the last month. Spring semester begins February 1 and I have three classes to prep. (I never appreciated my class syllabi for my classes in college. But now that I’ve had to be creating them, wow. What a lot of work and planning!)
One class I’m particularly excited about is a new one I’m creating called “From Manuscript to Book: How It Happens.” I did a version of it during a May term at Houghton College back in 2009, but I’m refashioning it to fill a full semester. Five local authors have entrusted us with their complete manuscripts (all fiction), and my class will become a publishing company (name to be determined) that will walk these manuscripts through the entire publishing process.
My students will work in groups. Each group will receive a manuscript and they’ll first work as content editors. They’ll consider all the things fiction editors have to — pacing and characterization and plot and dialog. We’ll Skype with a fiction editor who will talk us through her process. At the end of the first few weeks, they’ll prepare a detailed letter back to their author with advice for the manuscript. In the meantime, class periods will include a behind-the-scenes look at how a publishing company works. We’ll create schedules and budgets and P&Ls and sales projections. From this information, they’ll also begin a title information sheet.
From the title sheet and their P&Ls, they’ll prepare a sales presentation for their book to bring to the publishing board (us) that will determine if we’ll publish these books (which, of course, we will). We’ll Skype with a fiction agent who will clue us in on the types of proposals that sell. This will give my students practice in understanding the how and why of decisions in a publishing house. We’ll hear from publishing professionals currently working in the field.
When the manuscripts come back from the authors, each will go to a new group who will become the copyeditors. They’ll put the manuscript on a template, create style tags, and add front matter. Then I’ll probably have them transfer the work to a Google doc to make the copyediting process easier for group work. They’ll copyedit the manuscript and create a style sheet before preparing the manuscript for typesetting.
We’ve got a plan to meet with a layout and design class. I’ve worked it out with the instructor to include an assignment for his class that involves creating book covers for our books. My students will fill out design acquisition forms and then present the stories of their manuscripts, audience, and other information to these designers so they have the information they need to create the covers.
They will then work as teams to typeset the books and prepare final pdfs. The pdfs will then come back to our class and move to the next group that will then proofread.
Final exam? We’ll learn how to take the manuscript and create an e-book.
Will it work? I don’t know — my class will need to offer me some grace as we move through the process. The bottom line is that I hope they learn about the book publishing process, start to finish.
I will keep you posted.
16 thoughts on “From Manuscript to Book: How It Happens”
What a great idea and a fun class! Makes me wish I was back in college. 🙂
Ha! I hope my students feel that way.
Sounds Awesome, Linda!
Oh, boy, that should be an eye-opener for these people! It looks so easy until the fussing and fiddling and formatting and fixing look you right in the eye, and sneer at you.
As an indie author, I know quite well the entire business, including the editing. (Nothing worse than being your own worst critic as an editor, either.)
I’m glad to see that you include creating the cover art, too, but there is a necessary little item called ‘the blurb’, which shows up on the back cover of the book. It can summarize the story, or just be a catchy sentence or two, and the cover art has to convey something about the story itself, as any romance novelist knows.
I do wish your students good luck with this project.
Oh yes, for sure! The blurbs! I’ll have to task them with writing those. Thanks for the reminder.
Reblogged this on Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch and commented:
Linda, what a wonderfully practical exercise for your students. This is good stuff and will benefit them as they move forward. Great stuff.
Thanks for the reblog! Glad you liked it!
This is exciting! Real-world experience before being handed a diploma and setting out into the real world. I can’t wait to hear how it all goes. 😀
What a concept, right? Will keep you posted.
What a wonderful plan, Linda! What a blessing for your students!
Thanks Rachael. We’re actually using two manuscripts from our Writer’s Bloc!
I agree with everyone. What great, practical application!
I hope so! All those years at Livingstone taught me a lot! Miss you!
Wow, what a great learning experience for your students!