Creating a Book

Cover art by Jessica Perlstein

City of Refuge by Starhawk

(Yikes–just realized how long it’s been since I updated this blog!  We made our goal, and far beyond it, and I will soon write another blog to update you all on the whole, roller-coaster process as we officially launch the book this month–February, 2016!)

First, I want to share the exciting news that we’re over 80 per cent of the way to our first funding goal for City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. This is all thanks to each of you who has supported our Kickstarter campaign!

I thought I would take a moment to share with you more about what really goes into making a book.  What does it take to produce a book like City of Refuge, the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing?

First, you have to write it.  For me, the first draft is always the hardest, the one where you take that blank page and formulate a story, characters, plot elements, dialogue.  The first draft is generally rough— while the second draft is where I take all the scattered fragments and pull them into a structure, weave the various story lines together, and decide what goes with what.  The third draft is where I look at the actual writing, the language and metaphors and cadence of the dialogue, revisit the structure, and polish it up.

In the case of City of Refuge, I wrote three full drafts and then sent it out to a few select people for feedback.

After that, I wrote two more drafts, adding some new structural elements, removing some, rearranging some sections and adjusting the flow.

There!  The work is done—but actually, it’s not.

After that, it goes to an editor who does what’s called ‘developmental editing’.  She looks at the flow, the structure, the length, the pace, and makes suggestions.  We have phone calls.  She reads the whole book through, then reads it again, making notes and also doing ‘line editing’—looking at the language and making suggestions.

Generally, I resist them.  But in this case, now that I’m paying the editor myself, I accept most of them, if only to get my money’s worth out of the process.  I reread the entire manuscript, with her comments, and make changes.  Maybe I reread it again, to see how it all flows once the changes are made.

She rereads the entire manuscript, and again makes comments and suggestions that again I wrestle with.  I make more changes.

I then send the manuscript to the copy editor—a second person who looks at it in terms of grammar, spelling, and continuity.  We wrestle with deep questions such as, “Should we capitalize Madonna in Madonna Lily?”   And, “Do I really need to start every second sentence with ‘And’.”

She sends it back to me.  I look at all of her suggestions, take out about 80 per cent of the exclamation points I’d put in, send it back to the original editor for a final read-through, read it again myself—all epic 250,000 words of it!—and then send it to the proofreader, who checks for typos, spelling errors and mistakes.

The proofreader sends it to the designer, who creates templates for it and formats it for print and Ebooks.

The designer sends it back to the proofreader, who checks for new errors that may have crept in.

And then it goes to press.  Or upload, as the case may be.

The progression of a cover; from sketch to final. Art by Jessica Perlstein.

The progression of a cover; from sketch to final. Art by Jessica Perlstein.

There’s a few other aspects in there—getting a cover illustration made, getting an ISBN number and copyright etc. etc. Not to mention promoting the book, sending out review copies, working out questions around distribution, etc.  But that’s the basic process.

And that’s why I decided to go with a Kickstarter campaign to help pay all of these wonderful people who are helping me.  Until we transform our economy to a gift economy, I believe in paying people fairly for their work.  Even me—I aspire, at least, to paying myself something for the four years of work I’ve put into this.  But that will happen only if we exceed our original goal.

Oh yes, and I would like to get the roof fixed before it rains!

I’m so tremendously grateful for the response the Kickstarter campaign has already garnered.  We’re over 80 per cent there.  Thank you, everyone! If you would like to pre-order a special edition copy of City of Refuge for yourself, you can do that before August 31st HERE– after that you will have to wait for the public release!  We plan to have books available to our Kickstarter supporters well in time for the holidays!


5 comments to Creating a Book

  • Peggy Girshman

    Hello Starhawk,
    I’m Beth Girshman’s sister Peggy. Happy to meet you via this page.
    I am contributing to your project but also wanted to comment on your jacket design. I was surprised to see that it is so traditionally sci-fi sexist. The man has a shirt and pants on. She’s barely covered, her butt showing. Why doesn’t she get to wear pants too? Maybe the design is to attract men/boy readers. It seems to me that since you’re self-publishing, you can be the exception to the cliche that all women in the future, post-apocalyptic or not, are slender with unnaturally big boobs and few clothes (or tight uncomfortable clothes) to protect them from the elements. Maybe you need it for sales? But surely, can’t you not fall into that trap, especially because you’re writing about creating a new world?
    Thanks for listening,
    Peggy Girshman

    • Hi Peggy, you’re not the only person who has had that comment, and I’ve talked to the designer and she’s toned down the butt a bit for the actual cover. Thanks for your feedback,

  • Jon Waterlow

    Hi Starhawk!
    I’m so glad I found out about the Kickstarter in time to contribute. I read ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ only last year and was deeply moved and affected by it; it challenged a lot of my cynicism by finally – unlike so much work that challenges the present status quo – offering a coherent and compelling picture of what another world could be like. Thank you so much for your work and all the time and effort that goes into it; I wish I could afford to chip in more!
    Jon x

  • Will there by another opportunity to contribute to publishing CoR? I have worn our several copies of the first novel and love it, want to be part of the CoR project – I don’t have a lot of piastres but want to contribute anyway.

    • We will shortly have a way people can still pre-order the book. That, buying it when it becomes available, and if you like it, telling your friends, posting reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, etc. are all really helpful and much, much appreciated! Thanks–and I will be posting information about pre-ordering on my blog very soon.

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