Saturday, August 16, 2014

How a Book Baby is Birthed

On August 1st, I had the privilege of seeing something a lot of authors don't get to see--I got to see Rites of Passage, my fall 2014 Harper Teen title, get printed.

I swear, I'm going to try to keep the references to the process of printing a book as a birthing to a minimum, because if I don't then this blog post would be awkward and filled with goop and you don't want that. Believe me, I'd end up telling you what happened in the room next to mine that made the husband violently puke in the bathroom and scared/distracted my doctor while I was in labor with Thing One.

See? Told you you didn't want that.

No this post is full of pretty pictures, pretty thoughts, and lots of shiny looks at Rites of Passage that comes out in just a few short weeks!

As a writer, I know all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens before a book gets to this point. As someone who worked in a book printing factory, I know how the printing part of this works, too, but a lot of you don't, so I thought I'd share.

(A quick note here: I'm not allowed to mention where the factory is or what the company's name is--I had to sign a paper and everything--that's why it's kind of vague-ish on those details. I also had to get special permission to take pictures and there were rules about where to aim the camera and what I couldn't get in the background. There was also a dress code. I felt REALLY SPECIAL this day!).

So, after we writers create, revise, edit, copyedit, and sign off on first pass pages, the book is out of our hands. Then, it goes onto the hands of many other people who do amazingly magical things to our thoughts and words. Look:

The first step is to get the computer document onto metal plates so that it can be printed on these huge rolls of paper--omg, you guys, think, like, a three-thousand pound roll of paper--that's what we're talking about. On the first machine we saw, these huge rolls of blank paper became huge rolls of paper with MY WORDS ON THEM. I wanted to hug them, seriously, but can you imagine the paper cut that might involve?? Ouch!

After the book gets printed on these huge rolls, the magic machines cut and fold the paper so that all the pages are in the right order--thank goodness, right? Otherwise page 12 could come right after page 3 and you would be so confused!
Here's a picture of this crazy folding of which I speak. In printing terms, this is called a "sig"--a signature.
At this point, I cried. Because I could totally see that this was actually happening. A silly dream when I was in third grade--a dream that I couldn't shake and couldn't give up on--was coming true. My book was about to become a real book. So I cried a little more because whoa. Emotion. Then I started taking pictures. And other people started taking pictures. Lots of pictures. (Here's me with my baby sig and Jodi Meadows with copies of Incarnate and Asunder which were printed here, too! Our books are siblings...or cousins...or something!)
And then I realized there were MORE sigs with MORE of my words and if I stacked them all together, they looked like this and THAT IS MY BOOK OMG!
After all the sigs are printed and stacked in some way that only book printers understand, they get taken to a second machine. A machine full of arms that lovingly carry little baby sigs until they are all stacked together in the proper order. Then they add a little warmth, making sure the little book babies are not too chilled in the factory air. (Note: I am almost positive that this is not the way book printers think about our books, writers. But it's nice to imagine that they might think about our books this way.) This warmth is also called glue, but it's okay. The book babies will NOT be hurt by this. It will make all its little book arms and book legs stay together. It, too, is magical. Basically, everything here is magical and Hogwarts has nothing on this place.
Once the glue dries and my little book baby is held together so lovingly, it's time to trim it--to make sure it's pretty and acceptable to the masses. And then--out pops the book baby, all wrapped in a jacket and looking beautiful.

Then, pictures. Pictures with EVERYONE.
My critique partners.
My 5th cousin by marriage, Jodi Meadows.

Blurry spirit fingers with my friend, Lora!

Sometimes I would be having conversations and realize my book baby (after a year and a half + of nurturing and growing inside my mind) was actually in my hands and I held it protectively so no one could hurt it.
Once, I had to wait for the tears to stop so I could take a picture with my daddy. See--when I was in third grade and first came on a tour of this factory, I promised him that one day we'd watch my book come off the line here. This picture is a snapshot of a dream come true. Literally, a dream 27 years in the making. But I wanted a picture which didn't make me look like I was Claire Danes ugly-crying over Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life  (because I totally could have been).

 And then--people asked me to sign books. Ah! The pressure!

This is the first book I've EVER signed.
And then: more pictures. (And thank goodness because I was so excited I didn't remember ANY of this!)
And then Jodi signed her books for the amazing people who led this magic-filled tour.

Then, suddenly--there were more book babies. And more book babies. And they were put in boxes and the boxes stack up and then I realized that HOLY COW I HAVE A LOT OF BOOK BABIES!
And then I took more pictures, with dad and mom and grandma (who is the one who spent the money to send me to that revision workshop that got me my agent in the first place--Thanks, Nan!).
After that, there was lunch, which was amazing. And talking about books--which was even MORE amazing. And then, at the end, there were more tears and hugs (and maybe some spilled sweet tea on the carpet that was totally embarrassing but THANKFULLY didn't get on my new, pretty book babies).

Once all the goodbyes were said and I got home, there was  just the unbelievably peaceful feeling of being able to say that I never gave up and I lived my dream.

And as hard as it was, it was every bit as fantastic as I thought it might be.

Thank so much to Mandy Hubbard, Jennifer Klonsky, Ruiko Tokunaga, Krista Strawderman, the most amazing book printing company IN THE WORLD, and every one else I'm not naming who made this day just the most amazing day of my entire life!


  1. I may have had tears too. How awesome!!!!!

  2. Aww yay! I cried too! <3 Congratulations!! Your baby is lovely.