After the Editorial Letter: a peek at pass pages and beyond

A while back I pulled aside the publishing curtain to discuss the process of revising under contract. That “After the Editorial Letter” post ended with Step 4, Copy Edits, or, as I like to call it, The last step where your book still looks like a word doc. Today we’ll take a peek at what happens next…

STEP FIVE: First Pass Pages

This is the first time the book will actually look bookish. The author will receive a hard copy or PDF of the typeset manuscript. This just means the text has been laid out as it will appear when finally printed. The title page will be there! And the copyright page! And chapter headings and margins and the final font treatment(s), etc. For me, this was an incredibly emotional step. I could see the book taking shape, imagine it being a real live book in the near future. (I may have shed a few tears.) It is also, in most cases, the author’s last chance to make any changes to the text. Turnaround is usually pretty quick. Anywhere from one day to one week.

Tips for getting through this round:

  • Read the manuscript out loud. And s l o w l y. You’re more likely to catch errors this way.
  • If your copy edits were done on paper (instead of digitally), be sure to double check that all your changes made it into the typeset manuscript. (Even for digital copy edits you should double check, but there’s naturally more of a chance that handwritten copy edits could be misread and entered incorrectly.)

STEP SIX: Second/Third/Fourth/And so on Pass Pages

This is the step where the process starts to vary. Depending on the imprint, some authors will get to see a second pass of the pages. Other imprints will complete additional pages in-house, meaning that the team working on the author’s book  (editorial, copyediting, design, etc) will work together to assure that all the author’s edits are input, and that everything looks shiny and polished. This includes getting rid of widows (one line of copy left alone on the opposite side of a page break) and orphans (one word left on its own line at the end of a paragraph) when possible, and watching out for funky kerning (the spacing between individual characters). Because most novels are justified there are times where letters can appear crammed together or far too spread out.

Tips for getting through this round:

  • Same as above if you get a chance to see them. If not, sit back and relax. Know that there are plenty of eyes on your story, working tirelessly to make sure the final product is error free.

STEP SEVEN: Dedication, Acknowledgements, and Other Fun Stuff

Somewhere in here, the author will be asked to turn in the book’s dedication and acknowledgements. Author bio and flap copy may also be worked on. (Again timing for these steps all varies depending on the imprint.)

Tips for getting through this round:

  • Writing acknowledgements should be fun, but it’s easy to worry that you’re forgetting someone or that stress that Aunt So-And-So will be upset if left out. Shut out those voices and write from the heart. Then proof it once or twice and send it in. There is no wrong way to write acknowledgements. (Or dedications for that matter.) However you want to do it is the right way.


Somewhere during pass pages, ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) will be printed. Again, timing depends on the publisher/imprint, but this is why ARCs have errors and typos in them. All those round of pass pages–the actually proofing of the book–has yet to happen. After ARCs are printed a few will typically be sent to the author and the publisher will then distribute the rest accordingly (to book reviewers, sellers, bloggers, teachers, librarians, etc) when the time is right.

Tips for getting through this round:

  • Celebrate. Your story is finally in book form. Hug it. Relish it. It’s a freaking awesome step.
  • Come up with a distribution plan. Depending on the number of you receive, decide if you want to host ARC giveaways, drop a few at your local indie/library, or send a copy on tour between writer friends. (A combination of all three worked well for me, but if you have one to spare, I highly suggest the ARC tour from a sentimental standpoint. Having friends read your ARC and scribble notes in the margins is the equivilant of a publishing yearbook.)

And that’s pretty much it for revising under contract. The hands-on editing and polishing is done. Next comes marketing (ads, book trailers, blog tours, etc), which helps build buzz in the 1-2 months leading up to the book’s publication and continues after on-sale. Perhaps more on that in a future post. 🙂


17 Responses to After the Editorial Letter: a peek at pass pages and beyond

  1. eliza Tilton Mar 26 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I just wrote my acknowledgements. Very emotional!

  2. Natalie Aguirre Mar 26 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks for sharing all the tips. Hope I get to the point of being able to use them someday.

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Not at all, Natalie! And I hope you’re one day reviewing pass pages as well. 😉

  3. Peggy Eddleman Mar 26 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Great info, Erin! My favorite were the tips for getting through acknowledgements (maybe because it made me feel so much better about the process) and first pass pages (because that’s something I haven’t tackled yet). Fabulous post!

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      I was SO stressed about writing acknowledgements. And then I realized it was really my only chance to say exactly what I wanted, from the heart, and they were much easier after that. Can’t wait for you to get pass pages!! Such a fun step 🙂

  4. Michelle Schusterman Mar 26 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    I’m at this step right now! So fun. 🙂

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      At which one? Pass pages? Either way: good luck!! 🙂

  5. Sorcha Mar 26 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I missed the first post but I’m off to read now. This was such an interesting insight, thank you! I love that it’s never even crossed my mind why there aren’t random lines and words hanging out on their own pages! So many little deets. 🙂

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Oh, yes. The devil is totally in the details. 😉

  6. Kim Mar 26 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks for all this information! It’s really interesting to see behind the publishing’s curtain. When you’re reading and enjoying a book, you never stop to think about how much work goes behind it. All the steps must be exciting/terrifying/fun at the same time.

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      “exciting/terrifying/fun at the same time” <-- Yes. I have felt all these things and then some! Putting a book into the world really is a myriad of emotions. 😉

  7. Alexa (Loves Books) Mar 26 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Someday, one day, I will be at this particular point in my writing career. Thanks for sharing though! I thought it was really informative, and it’s great to have your tips about what to do with each step.

    (P.S. Taken is almost out!)

    • Erin Bowman Mar 26 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      I can’t *wait* for you to be at these steps. 😉

      And yes — release date approaches. I’m excited/thrilled/anxious/the works!

  8. http:// Jul 14 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    What’s up, I read your blog regularly. Your writing style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

  9. Jessica Vealitzek Jul 15 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I’m taking your advice–ever since I turned in my acknowledgements last week, I’ve been worrying over who I left out and, literally, whether one of my aunts will be mad. I’m going to let it go…

  10. Kara Terzis Feb 16 2016 at 1:52 am #

    I’ve literally just started my pass pages, and I’m this weird mixture of excitement and utter TERROR.

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