The process after the writing

A note from Laura:  this post springboards from a little tidbit I shared about the title of the fall 2016 In Death title (Apprentice in Death) and the resulting “why can’t we have it now?” comments.  It’s also a preventative measure for the upcoming Stars of Fortune, book 1 of The Guardians Trilogy, and the predictable “why do we have to wait for the second and third books??”  (In the latter case,  it’s because book 3 is not yet written.)  We’re so lucky that Nora has the discipline and fast pace to give us more than one book per year but that can be lost in the fun and excitement of a new book.  So let’s get a peek into what goes into a book beyond the writing.

I think I’ve tried to explain the publishing process before, but I’m going to try again, with–I hope– more detail.

Laura will often announce when I’ve finished a book or the title of an upcoming. Many readers are impatient–and I appreciate that–and wonder why they can’t just have the book NOW. It’s written, after all.

Here’s why.

To begin, my process is generally a three draft deal. When I’ve completed the final draft, I send it to my editor and my agent. I let out a big WOO!

My editor and my agent will read the ms (manuscript). My editor–any editor–will read it through. He or she is the first reader. She–as mine’s a she–will read it to see if it engages, if it holds together, if it’s a good story, and makes sense, does the job. This read isn’t done at the office–too many meetings, too much other work for that–but most often on the editor’s own time. Mine read this last ms. over the weekend after I turned it in. The editor may make notes–have questions. Maybe something doesn’t hold together, maybe the ms needs some more work. If it does, those notes become an editorial letter or discussion, and the writer may have to do revisions. Minor or major, depending.

This triad–writer, editor, agent–all want the same thing. The best book possible. That’s work, and that’s time.

If the ms holds together, or the revisions are done, the editor then reads the ms again for a line edit. That’s line by line, editing. It takes time. It may be a very clean ms, so little has to be done, or it may need more work. Either way, this next step has to happen. Then it must be copy edited, and gets its first proofing after that.

Meanwhile, the editor is working with the art department on a cover. With Sales and Marketing on how the book will be sold in, how it will be marketed. It has to be scheduled, and this book is one among many. Accounts–bookstores, chains and independents, other venders like WalMart, Target, Costco and so on, have to be addressed–so there are book reps who deal with that. Catalogue copy must be written, Publicity has their meetings on the book–what to do there? Back cover copy, flap copy must be written. That cover has to be produced, maybe revised, produced.

None of this happens in five minutes. Or five days. Or five weeks. Or five months.

The book must be printed, produced–audio and e must be produced. If it’s a major book Advance Reader Copies are produced and seeded. And the book must be proofed again, by a proofer and by the author. Any changes resulting from the proofing must be fixed in the final product.

And yes, yes, yes, there are still going to be mistakes that slip through. You have humans, you have mistakes. A lot of people think/say: If I proofed that book, I wouldn’t have missed that mistake. Maybe not, but you’d have missed something else. If you think you’d miss nothing every time, let me just say: bollocks.

In any case. It’s a very labor intensive and creative process, on many fronts. It takes between nine months to a year to reasonably take a ms from completion to publication.

It takes a reader a matter of hours or days to read it.

Nothing, absolutely nothing is ever going to change that gap. Writers can’t write as fast as a reader reads. Editors can’t edit that fast. Publishers can’t publish that fast. That’s reality.

But! There are scads of wonderful books published every month for readers to choose from and enjoy. There are scads because there are writers and editors and publishers working their asses off to make that so.

Enjoy them. And some impatience is fine. Just don’t blame the author, the editor, the publisher when the book isn’t in your hands five minutes after that final draft is done, and the writer lets out a big WOO!


MS at the start of the process
MS at the start of the process
Edited ms
Edited ms

PS. I did these two galleys back-to-back in the evenings–as like my editor I have too much work to do this task during the work day. That’s two solid weeks of proofing in the evening, after a full work day–and juggling that in between signing tubs of books three days a week.

Saturday soup
Saturday soup

But today I made soup!

112 thoughts on “The process after the writing”

  1. Thank you… for every moment it takes to “birth” that book. Love the anticipation of waiting and those hours that it takes to read the next segment of your stories.

  2. Love you Nora!! Keep doing what you’re doing … works for you and for us. “Bollocks” to any who say otherwise!!!

  3. Thank you for the insight into the world of publishing. Thank you for many hours of enjoyment, enrichment, education, and pure entertainment.

  4. No one can possible understand how much time and energy goes into any creative job until they have seen it for themselves. My daughter-in-law wrote a book and just watching the editing she and the editor did was truly mind boggling. I’m just thankful you have the creativity and endurance to write so many wonderful books and keep smiling. Thank you. Sue Gahagan

  5. Thank you all for all of the hard work you do!! I think people forget that you have another life. I do appreciate all the wonderful places I have been and the characters I have met. Sometimes I just miss ny book friend s really bad.

  6. Patience is a virtue many in our society needs to learn. That you bother to explain the process shows you care about your readers, and I thank you for your patience in doing so. I am excited for the new books whenever they come out.

  7. I don’t mind waiting. Anticipation is half the fun. And yes, every so often I see a mistake. I don’t mind, we’re all only human after all. It’s all worth it for a great book.

  8. Thanks for the background info. I found it very interesting and I have a greater appreciation of editors and publishers. And the soup looks fabulous ?

  9. You have shown us the side of ‘doing what we love’ and just how busy it really is. People often ask me why I work so many hours and it’s that simple, I love it!

  10. I take days to read a book. Going back and often re-reading it to make sure I missed nothing. Audio books are my preferred medium as I travel a lot and it gives me something to do driving down the road. I appreciate all you do and that we don’t have to wait years for your books unlike other authors. Although your not the only author I read you are one of my favorites. Thanks again.

  11. Nora I just love your books and am so happy that you are still writing!My husband and I recently purchased our first home and we’re fortunate enough to have a room set up as a library. I’ve filled an entire bookcase just with my Nora collection. Eventually I’ll need another another bookcase as my collection continues to grow. I can’t wait! 🙂

    I appreciate you taking the time to explain the process. I do recall you previously explaining it but this was in greater detail. Although the explanation of the process was unnecessary it was just nice to know how it all works. I think it’ll make me appreciate my books a bit more now knowing how long and involved the process is.

    Thank you for all the many hours of reading enjoyment your writing has given me.

  12. Thank you for sharing the process. We all anxiously await our favorite author. But as you stated, I use the time wisely while waiting. I have found many new and interesting authors. Thank you for all the pleasure you have given me throughout the years.

  13. Dear Nora
    Thank you so much for all the wonderful books.
    Every one of them are masterpieces

  14. Thanks for the insight. Between reading your books, there are so many other wonderful books out there to read. I can’t keep up with all the books I want to read. I am trying though. Keep up the good work!

  15. Long process but your books are always worth the wait for me. If I need a “Nora/J. D.” fix I just re-read books I have.

    These are a true labor of love on your part and it shows.

  16. “Thing takes time” I’ve read mist of your books and understand that the process takes time. It’ s better to be a bit patient and get the best book. So take your time I rather wait a bit longer and read older Bööks while I white for the next one. Good luck

  17. Several years ago when I had finished reading your newest Nora book, I went on a binge and reread, in order, the whole In Death series before I started the newest one just released. It was so much fun and at the end, it amazed me that none of those books were at all alike. Not one “cookie cutter” in the bunch. New plots, new characters introduced, familiar characters, with new insights. It was a wonderful experience. So, today’s blog into the whole writing, editing, publishing process gave me a new appreciation of your gift and the hard work that goes into getting just one book from the computer and into the hands of the reader. The one question that came to mind in reading the post, was this: The many times, over and over that you have had to read the ms before it is finally done, are you just plain tired of that book? And, it’s no wonder you might miss something in the proofing, no matter how careful. Thanks for sharing this process. Blessings on your writing!

  18. Thank you for sharing that. I’m definitely a woman with no patience but I do understand that it takes a lot of time for you and your ‘crew’ to get one of your masterpieces out to us. No worries…you keep writing…I’m definitely going to keep reading.

  19. I know how much goes in to each and every story you do for us and just want to say thank you. I put the date on my calendar as soon as I know when they are coming out so it gives me a reminder before hand so I can make sure I am there for it first thing. My sister turned me on to Nora first when I read all of them and was caught up was so bummed then she gave me Naked In Death and the rest is history. I look forward to each and every book you give us and hope to be reading them for years to come. Once again thank you Nora/JD and your wonderful staff for my many hours of Falling Into The Story

  20. I had no idea the work envolved. Fascinating to read about the process and now I appreciate what you put into your books Nora.
    Maybe I will more understanding in between books!
    Looking for to your next.
    The soup looked scrummy?

  21. I know it every book takes a long time to go through the process and that is why I don’t complain. I would rather have one or two great books a year than a hundred poor quality books a month. I just wait for the release date and circle it on my calendar.

  22. It is inconceivable to me that readers complain about having to wait for a book by you. We are SO lucky that you are the prolific writer that you are. Some authors take three or four years between books- and we are lucky enough to get multiple books from you each year- by two incredibly different authors. Thank you for your dedication, your work ethic, and the amazing ideas from your ever inventive and talented mind. I will happily wait for the next book- because I know it will be worth the wait!

  23. Thanks for using an editor. My friend gave me a book to read. She proudly stated, as she handed me the book, this author doesn’t use and need and editor.

    After finishing the book, I strongly disagree. The book had so much more potential and gaps. So thanks. I love your books.

    1. Every writer needs an editor. Every. Single One. Any writer who thinks he or she doesn’t is doing themselves and any potential readers a real disservice.

    2. My former sister in law used to write romance novels for this little online thing that wasn’t much more than self published – I think she got paid a penny per book that sold, or something like that? I could have it wrong, it was a penny per something. Anyway, I don’t think they were edited. If they were, the editor would have caught in one of her novels that the father and son were playing “airplane” before airplanes had even been invented!

  24. I personally have never understood why some readers are so impatient. I look forward to each month as I know I will have a different Nora/JD release appear in my mailbox. I try not to read much of Nora’s earlier work outside of the publishing schedule because it allows me to enjoy those titles as they are re released. This year, in addition to her new releases, I was able to read Blue Smoke, the Three Sisters trilogy, and the Key trilogy for the first time. I know I could rush off to my library (or Barnes and Noble) to get Key of Valor and finish up the series, but I’d rather wait for TTP to send my copy in December. That way I can wonder about the characters and possible outcomes while I wait. It also allows me to re read the other two in case I missed something the first time around. I admit when the release date gets close I probably stalk our mail carrier waiting for my package, but I can’t help that. I’m looking forward to seeing what fun reads Nora has in store for us in 2016. Whatever those reads are I know I’ll enjoy them all year long. Thanks.

  25. Thank you for caring enough to give your fans a tour of creating a book. It’s a bit like the academy awards, isn’t it? We tune in to see the people we recognize. Then hey presto! There are all these other people whose excellent work was vitally necessary for us to be able to enjoy the blockbuster. Very interesting indeed.

  26. You cleared up the process, one that even Roarke couldn’t speed up,.

    Just realize you are enjoyed. Yes, there are other books, and I do read other books. It doesn’t mean we don’t get anxious for their new book either. Lol

    Thank you for all the sleepless night I’ve spent because I just had to finish that page, chapter, book, Good authors are to be treasured. They hold us spell bound. You take it even farther lol.

    Please, know how much enjoyment great authors like yourself, and J.D. among others mean to me.

    Thank you!

  27. Ms. Roberts,

    Thank you so much for the quick note of what a manuscript goes through before the finished book lands in my inbox. You have always been most gracious when addressing readers commentaries about the books and your creations. I would hope that I’m never guilty of thinking or imagining that my vision of the characters and story is superior to yours. I admit to being rather OCD about reading all the books in a series. I re-read and re-listen to the “in Death” series multiple times during the year and discover some new/different detail in the books each time. I admit that I’ve found myself emulating Dallas on more than one occasion and by doing so I’ve become a more thorough attorney since I build my cases in the same manner Dallas builds her cases. This has allowed my intuition to blossom even more than it had been in the past.

    I have already purchased the first installment of your new trilogy and I am looking forward to another enjoyable reading experience.

    May you continue to enjoy your work and “free” time. And yes the soup looked super yummy.

  28. I never comprehended the entire process from idea to finished product. Whew!!!!! Thank you for your dedication to doing a great job in what you do best……create a wonderful world for the readers who love to escape ours for a brief moment in time.

  29. But today I made soup! My favorite line of the entire post. I ♡ Nora !

  30. I’ve sad it before, I’ll happily say it again and again: THANKS NORA!

  31. thank you for showing us the “behind the scenes” People do not realise the amount of work that goes on to provide the finished product. As a quilter and secretary of a canine society I appreciate the your heroic work and I love Rourke xx

  32. Considering all that a ms has to go through before it becomes a book, I am amazed that there are so many of yours that come out every year. Good grief!! I am more in awe of you now than before! LOL! Great job, keep up the excellent work, I for one, appreciate it!

  33. I just want to thank yo for all the great books you continue to write for us.. We are a greedy bunch but we love appreciate your books so much..the death books are like a family member that you want to know how they’re doing.. Yours are the only books I buy and keep but they are so worth it as I love going back and re-reading my favorites.

  34. I am amazed that you are able to multi-task to the point that you can write one book while revising others. It can’t be easy keeping details straight. But, you are the Nora, and that’s why you do what you do. I read several authors on a regular basis, and have recently been re-visiting some very old friends. But I am always looking forward to a new Nora or JD story. Thanks for the hours of entertainment/pleasure/joy/sadness-and the love stories.

  35. Question: when submitting a ms, do you include a table of contents for the chapters? Also, I think NR typically doesn’t do outlines, but does the agent and/or editor ask for a plot summary at the start of the process?

    Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes look. Those of us who are aspiring writers welcome any tid bits you can provide.

    1. I don’t know what you mean re a table of contents. Each chapter is headed, ie, Chapter One, then Chapter Two and so on, but that’s it. A ms looks, basically, like an unbound book.

      And, no, I don’t do any plot summary or synopsis, but I’ve been doing this for a really long time. A new writer, or one without a solid track record would likely be asked for a synopsis, which is essentially just a guideline of characters and basic storyline.

  36. Bless you, Nora, for your patience!
    Thanks for sharing ‘the process. ‘

    I like the anticipation of a new book and I have so many authors I am loyal to, that I like having to wait for you to publish the newest book 🙂 btw, The Collector was just fab…. The Witness is still my fav, but this one is a wonderful second! U don’t fail to deliver and thanks again for many pleasurable hours spent in the company of your characters!

  37. You’re too cool for words! I like that the editing/production process isn’t quick. I like having the time to bask in what I’ve read, have time to miss the characters before they return, and maybe catch a few zzzs first, ha! There’s nothing like the anticipation and getting that email announcing the next book, and the “aaaaaaahhh!” that follows :-).

    Grateful for all you do and learning from you. Someday I’ll finish my book and it’ll be because of authors like you that take the time to share their expertise and knowledge.

  38. Nora, Thank you so much for sharing the process that a book has to go through before it is published. I had no idea there were so many people involved in the process. I am grateful for your teams effort in making each book the best it can be.
    We also forget about the time, energy and effort that also goes into the writing of the manuscript. Your fans are spoiled because you are so prolific. I am in awe of your skill, fertile mind and imagination.

  39. Thank you Nora and everyone who works so hard for us. I believe that most of us who are impatient only mean it as a compliment. As long as you keep producing books, I’ll keep faithfully waiting! Thank you all for the years of laughter, tears, and sighs. And a personal thank you for being one of the reasons I keep fighting to live and have hope.

  40. Thanks for the behind the scenes look- I never realized how many hands and details there are behind every book.

    Your schedule sounds exhausting. We are all grateful that you are not lazy, and haven’t slowed down. And signing so many books every week? I met you at the RWA signing in NYC- your wrist was bandaged- now I get it. THANKS a million.

  41. Thank you for the tour of publishing! That was interesting and very informative. Devoted In Death and Catherine Coulter’s latest came out on the same day. Don’t tell her, but there wasn’t even a debate – hers went on the backburner for afterward. Love how the In Death characters grow with each book, and also love how the Nora books take their own trip into other worlds both mystery and mysterious – a treat every time. I’ve wondered about some authors I read, just how much editing is done before their books are published. There are so many errors or breaks in continuity, it really throws you out of the world they’ve created. It’s a pity, after all the work they’ve done to make that world. Thank you for you attention to detail and keeping that continuity, it’s always a bit of a shock when I leave one of the world’s you’ve created!

    Hmmm….bean soup sounds good today…..

  42. Thank you for the explanation, but I definitely understand that it takes a long while between when a book is written and when it hits the market. Some authors only publish a book a year, if that. We’re fortunate that not only do you have the discipline to manage to write so many books per year, but to do them well, and make it seem like a seamless process – and it seems you have a balanced timetable as far x amount of NR books and x amount of JDR books per year. I’ve re-read well, just about everything of yours that I have, and am waiting on yours and a couple of other books from another author, but I’m looking for reading/author recommendations. I’m very quickly running out of books to read and re-read.

    1. Some libraries will make you up a personal reading list based on authors you already read. Maybe you could try that.

  43. Thank you Nora for many, many hours of reading pleasure. Could you please tell us a bit more about the differences between editing, copy editing, and proofing?

  44. In general, because I only know general having never worked in editing or in a publishing house. The editor works with the author creatively, and line edits for sense, style, to correct typos, etc. To suggest, if necessary, changes or ask for more– or in some cases less. They may make cuts, ask for additions. An editor will read the ms several times during the process.

    The copy editor then goes over the ms for consistency, clarity, accuracy, any potential legal issues. And again for sense. The copy editor may flag pages for the editor or writer, questions to be answers, changes to be approved.

    And proofing is another full and careful read, looking for mistakes, typos, misspellings, incorrect punctuation. When proofing final pages, a writer might see something she wants to tweak, maybe as simple as changing She to the character’s name for clarity in a sentence. Bigger, broader changes at this stage cost a lot of money, so MUST be necessary.

    There’s more to all of this, but that’s the big picture.

    1. So many people go over the manuscript that I still find it hard to believe that all of them miss the very same error. But I’m sure not going to stop reading because of it! Especially not books by my favorite authors! My mom, however, has been known to stop reading the book after too many errors. Now you know where my hard-headed comment comes from.

      1. Sometimes they just do. And I should have added in the blog that sometimes the error happens in the actual printing–like there’s some evil tech gremlin who tosses in a typo or error. And it’s not proofed after actual printing.

        1. that evil tech gremlin must be related to my Excel gremlin. That Jerk keeps turning the font white on my Excel project at work and making the lines 40 pages wide. WHY??????

  45. Thank you Nora for laying this out. My grandmother, mother, sister and myself have enjoyed your books for years. We love every word you write and appreciate the time and effort you put into every book. You are an amazing inspiration to all aspiring writers out there. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for all that you do.

  46. Diana Gabaldon once said that asking a writer when the next book is coming out is like making a gourmet dinner and as soon as your family is eating asks what for dinner tomorrow. Having been asked that, I now realize that while writers know you mean well, inside they want to strangle you. I’m sorry for all the time I’ve asked that. And after following some writers on Facebook, understand the process. Thanks for sharing yours, Nora.

    And thanks for the five gourmet meals a year.

  47. What Nora just described boggles the mind. All I have to do is read and enjoy! But for the stresses I do experience in my life, I understand the relaxation satisfaction of cooking. Just had a chance to take a course in Italy! Rafaelo, the chef, was almost as inspirational as Nora. But not quite!

  48. I just wanna say THANK YOU. Thats all I love you as you Nora Roberts and as J.D. Robb.

  49. Let me say ‘thank you’ to you and all the others that work so hard to bring me so much enjoyment. I appreciate all of your hard work, all of you.

  50. I get that most readers won’t understand the exact process, but do people really think all we writers have to do is sit down, type for a few hours, and then push ‘Print’? Surely they’re smarter than that. ?

  51. Thank you for all you do to produce such wonderful books. I appreciate all your hard work, and so enjoy reading the finished product. Love your books. Just keep them coming!

  52. I have no complaints. You give us three incredible books each year and better than that, they’re re-readable!

    I also compliment the pacing: three years have passed but we’ve read 40 books. Perfect.

  53. Thank you for explaining the detail of the process, interesting reading! Yes, we readers can be an impatient bunch. However, I’ve always felt that you provided more than anyone else does every year and have never felt the need to rush you. I have favorites that have made me wait YEARS! Currently waiting for the third in The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin…oh my, and heaving sighs knowing full well that I will need to reread the first two (HUGE) books before I can gulp down the final. When it takes that long ( I really do understand why), we forget so much, that I almost wish I’d discover series like this when they are already all written and published! LOL

  54. What a fabulous post! I know there is SO much that goes into it but reading the process is interesting. I get impatient in a sense but never say anything because I know that a book is not the work of a moment. I always save the trilogies until I have them all so I can just gobble them up in a weeks time. LOL I’ve pre-ordered “Stars..” and it will sit on my book shelf until I have them all. In the meantime I will re-read others. Thanks for all the work you do. I’m still in awe of the amount of books you DO put out in such a relatively small window of time.

  55. No matter how long it takes…THANK YOU, Thank EVERYONE for getting it done. I wish there were 12 In Death books per year…but I understand and I’m THANKFUL for 2. Or 12 ‘Nora’ books per year, but I am again THANKFUL for 2!
    PLUS, I love soup too.
    Enjoy your life Nora…you deserve it for giving so many hours of joy to your fans!

  56. Dear Nora,

    Thanks for sharing the publishing process, I knew it was involved but had no idea that your manuscripts (and others’) are edited so many times before publication.

    I am very grateful that you are so prolific…I got into the ID books last year and 2 books and a novella this year have me so spoiled….

    My question is: was there ever a time when you disagreed with an editor’s suggestions? Or was there ever a book–which needed heavy edits or changes?

    Just insanely curious about your process…..


    1. Plus—what kind of soup? It looks delicious! Maybe it’s time for a cookbook??

      1. It was three-bean and ham soup. A cookbook is very, very labor intensive is done correctly. And not my area, at all. I’m happy writing novels and just making soup.

    2. Of course, I’ve disagreed with an editorial suggestion–but it’s been very, very rare. 99% of the time, in my experience, the editor’s right. So when you disagree that 1% of the time–and give your solid reasoning for disagreeing–she’s going to respect that as much as you’ve respected her.

      And I’ve absolutely had a ms that required a lot of revision on my part. Sometimes you might have missed an angle that if pursued will vastly improve the story. Sometimes you might have pursued an angle that detracted from the story. Or dozens of other things. Being able to dig in and fix it, when necessary, is just part of the job.

  57. I beg to differ with Nora on the proofing process. I’ve proofed ms’s and a multitude of court documents. It’s virtually impossible to find your own mistakes unless you proof it at a later date. However, names change: Jenkinson to Jacobson and back, Santiago to Sanchez and back, Morris to Morse. Those are not typos and someone is not keeping track of continuity (and that includes the futuristic lingo). I find these errors frequently in the JDR books, but rarely in the NR books, so someone is failing somewhere. I guess I’m just too old school because perfection was expected of us in anything that went outside the FBI. I love Nora’s books and am impatient like most everyone else, however, I can wait because the wait is worth it. I would just love to read one In Death book where errors in continuity and typos don’t just jump off the page at me!

    1. I do proof at a later date. Final pages come to me months after I’ve turned in the ms. Mistakes like the names you mention are directly on my head–and the copy editor imo.

      While mss aren’t court documents, it would be wonderful if the books published from them could be perfect, all the time, every time. But they’re not. Human error, which includes mistakes in continuity, is maddening, but it happens.

      1. I appreciate the response. I guess it’s just society in general that is deteriorating IMO. Computers make things too easy for errors to happen and personal responsibility has fallen by the wayside. Personally, I would find another publisher if they can’t keep your ms’s from significant errors in continuity. Typos are a given, but the possibility did exist at one time for “perfect” documents or publications. Just one additional comment from a career linguist, please Google “friggie” (which phonetically is like piggy, not as you have used in fridgie) and see the response you get. Now that I have vented my own personal peeves (which I do believe fall on the publisher’s head not yours!), I have two bookcases devoted to NR and JDR books. Your ability to tell a story is unmatched. Like so many others, I re-read and enjoy them every time. Giving us the ID series is a book lover’s dream for a ‘so-far’ unending story!

        1. Find another publisher? Honestly, I think you need to actually know something about the business before you make such a casually dismissive remark. You can, absolutely, nitpick details like friggie/fridgie all day long. You can complain about mistakes and continuity and errors all you want—you’re the reader. But the reality is, mistakes happen. Writers, editors, proofers, publishers are human, and make mistakes. I’ve been with my publisher for a quarter of a century. It’s not just ‘find another’. I’m sorry these errors bother you as much as they do. But I know how to handle my career, my business relationships and partnerships. You really don’t.

          1. Nora, I do apologize for sounding dismissive, and it was also not my intent to try to tell you how to handle your own career. It is very hard to adequately convey tone in a written message. Admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about publishing other than it is a time-consuming process. You are obviously at the top of your game here because you go beyond any other authors I know in the numbers of books published annually. As readers, I know we can be impatient, but the books are always worth the wait for me, so you won’t hear me complain about this.
            If you would allow me one more question which stems from my particular areas of professional expertise which are languages, translations and linguistics. I, too, am at the top of my game in my field. Maybe this explains a bit why I read things like “friggie” in a different way than others may, yet I certainly don’t fail to understand your meaning however it is spelled. I recently saw a Polish language book which I believe was Dark Witch, however, the Polish title I saw literally translates to Witch’s Curse. It could be as close as you might get, and there is indeed a curse involved. Polish is not one of my primary languages, so I am hoping to find a Romanian-language version, and I think the Sign of Seven would be perfect, since we are in the spooky season. So, the question is, who handles your translations in the many, many languages of your readers? Are translators chosen by your publisher, and do you know of the minimum requirements for someone to competently translate? I have to say that I will be completely “horrified” (laughingly!) if online translation software is utilized. I was in on very early development of this for use by the federal government. While things have improved considerably, these still leave a lot to be desired. As translators, we always had examples going around where a “machine” translator came up with something so bizarre that we all laughed hysterically. If you ever took the time to read a foreign-made car manual, you would see for yourself how undecipherable the English can be.
            I do apologize again, but appreciate your response.
            Once I have read a trilogy in Romanian, I’ll be better able to tell about translation quality, and hope that you would be open to any comment I may have. Translation is an art similar to telling a compelling story, and certain factors do apply, but are not worth mentioning until I can ascertain the quality of a translation for myself.
            Again, I meant no disrespect to you because I truly am clueless about the publishing world. I appreciate your response, but it was never my intent to offend or alienate my favorite fiction author. The In Death series is a dream come true for those of us who would like to see trilogies and sagas go on and on, despite you bringing them to their logical conclusion. And, the follow-on stories for the Gallaghers and the Quinns is a nice touch. I enjoyed reading them
            You will not see me suggest storylines, character pairings, a Dallas-Roarke baby or any of the things that would most likely change the story in a way I wouldn’t even like because I am not a storyteller either! I also know you have to answer some of these questions repeatedly. lol You also have my word there will be no further nitpicking since I do have answers to my questions in that regard.
            It is always fun to see how people read the same book and perceive or react to it differently based on age, life experience, occupation and other aspects. It makes for very interesting discussions among us in an NR/JDR fan page on Facebook. We are all looking forward to the new Guardians trilogy which will be here soon.

          2. Cinde,

            Foreign publishers use human translators – each one has their own. If there are ever any questions or comments on a translation they go to the publisher, not the author who has done the work writing. Translations fall under the purview of publishing.

            If you have a Goodreads account, they do a pretty good job of listing the other editions of any book, including foreign. The Sign of Seven trilogy is published in German, Dutch, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Croatian, Spanish and French.

            For more information you can google the process translating books from their native language fairly easily.


          3. Laura, I do appreciate the information. Nora has advised me that the publishers handle the translations. I appreciate you providing me with the languages for Sign of Seven. Believe me when I say that I will not comment to Nora if I find significant errors. I am a professionally trained translator and graduated at the top of my class from a DOD facility, so I am aware of how translations should be approached. I also worked to develop translation software for the Intelligence Community, so I am well aware of it’s limitations. Again, I appreciate the information. I just thought it would be interesting to read one of Nora’s books or trilogies in another language. It helps to keep me in the game now that I have retired! Have any of the ID books been translated? Thank you for your swift response!

  58. Thanx for the “behind the scenes” look. Please take it as a compliment when we wish for the next book ” NOW” . We are not all pulling a Veruca Salt but just love your stories. Especially the In Death characters. After 20 years they are more interesting then many of our own families! LOL

  59. First, fist bump for the Veruka mention.

    It is flattering when readers want more, want now. Just as it’s distressing when readers claim the publisher is holding books back, being greedy, because trilogies aren’t published one, two, three. Or more mystifying to me, all at once. My hope it laying out the process is to illustrate for those readers it IS a process.

  60. I have always thought that being a copy editor would be the best job ever!!! I think it would be great to get paid to read. I love a variety of books, including but not limited to all JD Robb and many NR. My major problem is that I have been told that I am an EVIL editor. I have told classmates and colleges that they have to pretty much start their works over due to consistency issues, plot issues or my biggest pet peeve perspective inconsistency (first person, third party). I can slash a 30 page report in half with a red pen. I think the authors would revolt if I tried that stunt again 😛
    (we did get a great mark in the end)

  61. Nitpicky people…leave Nora along…FULL STOP!!! She allows me to escape a crazy and nerve wracking day. Give it a rest about typos…do what I do get the first …second…and third of the trilogy…but put them to the side…and wait til you have all of them…then wait for the perfect weekend…get caffeine of any source…and read til your eyes fall out…and then praise Nora for the public service she provides ….keeping my sanity …and my family is happier just to see me with her book in my hands…not checking on the three generation household of mine….commas …be damn!!! ?

    1. The problem is for some of us the error temporarily pulls us out of the story. I say temporarily because it is Nora Roberts we’really speaking of and nothing keepshort from one of her stories for long. I don’t know why some brains just instinctively find the errors and others don’t. Believe me I would change it if I could. I am happy to know that Nora is as aware of these errors and would like to know if they are corrected before subsequent printings. I read everything but Nora is the only author I buy, just wondering if I should wait to make that purchase until the second printing.

      1. There are editors…readers….typists ….way…too many people are involved in the process of the printed word. Instead, of worrying the rest of the world about a miss printed word …buy yourself a a marking pen and buy your own personal book…and mark the crap out of it…then stop your whining…this is for pleasure…share the pleasure with others …not the complaints. I have limited myself to four authors in which I keep due to space…two of those authors are J.D. Robb and Nora Roberts…I don’t like people messing with my authors :{

        1. The responses to readers, including myself, about the error rate interrupting our reading, it happens. That’s a fact. If the manuscript is read by several people, SOMEONE should pick up on it or they are NOT doing their job. I’ve done proofreading and realize that it is very difficult to proof your own work. The same does not apply to a professional proofreader, and I assume the publisher has such a person. I noticed that the error rate in the NR books is far less than that in the In Death books. Not only are there misspellings, names of continuing characters change spellings, not to mention the lingo in use. I’m no author, but have written technical documents. If I were to write a continuing series, I think I would have an index of names, terminology, etc. that pertain to the time frame. I repeat, if Nora can’t take constructive criticism from loyal fans who do not mean it as an attack, why does she have this forum??

          1. Nora Roberts and J.D.Robb are books written in joy and for joy….she delights me every single time. One of my best days ever…opening the mailbox and her book is there waiting for me. Written in joy and read in joy. I’m sorry there are people out there who only look for mistakes. I’m sorry it’s the only way they are happy… by looking as a professional reader for mistakes…what glee!!! I’ll stop at this last comment…I look for joy and I find it each and every time in Nora’s books. Simple joy…..

          2. To Susie Coyle, we don’t look for mistakes. I certainly don’t, but having done a considerable amount of proofreading over my 30 career in the government, errors jump out at me. As I stated in another comment, the NR books do not contain so many errors as to be distracting. As much as I love the ID series, I am constantly stopped by errors, misspellings, name changes in recurring characters and changes in the terminology Nora created for this futuristic series. I am a speed reader who sees an entire page at once, so anything that is wrong jumps out at me immediately. Others have expressed the disruption to their reading rhythm that occurs when an error is encountered. At times, you have to determine what Nora actually meant in order to continue the story. I know that those of us who feel this way are considered “nitpicky” and maybe that is true. But, I love both the NR and JDR books. I simply realize the fact that someone in the publishing company is NOT doing their job in proofing before the manuscript goes to publication. In this day and age, not much attention is paid to this, but I am of the old school. I do everything to the very best of my ability. When I do make errors in something I am writing, I take responsibility and apologize. Were I Nora, I would take the publishing company to task over this, but she has a different opinion. No one can set the bar higher for you than you yourself. My bar is set incredibly high. I may not always reach that level, but I give it everything I’ve got!

          3. I guess she put it up for anal reading people….that’s why its our job too write about the joy she brings!!! Joy in each word…whether some people believe it should be there…Joy such a wonderful word….thank you Nora for the joy!!! No more…no less just joy!!!

      2. In reply to the response to “nitpicky people”, I’d like to say that some of us see errors immediately and it disrupts the rate at which we read. If Nora can’t handle constructive criticism, why does she have this forum?

        1. One way to get around typos and such is to listen to the books instead of reading them. I have only noticed one or two discrepancies while listening.

          1. Jean Ader, that is definitely a way around the error problem! Unfortunately, I am old school enough to love holding the actual book in my hands and turning the pages. That will never change.

          2. Cinde, you are lucky. Some of us are unable to read written books now for one reason or another. I miss holding books, the smell of them, bookmarking them, etc. Unfortunately, my brain has other ideas and won’t let me read now.

        2. Couple of things:

          Susie, thank you for the defense, but it’s absolutely unnecessary. You go on enjoying the stories.

          Mellisa, the frustrating part about errors found after printing is that it’s just too expensive to go back and edit published copy. So the errors live on through every print run. And in certain of Nora’s categories — the errors live on for decades. There are always readers who see the printed words in a more exacting manner than others. I know I read fast and some of the reader comments about a word or a use of language have me going back into the book to see what they mean.

          Cinde, this blog isn’t meant for readers to offer constructive criticism or suggestions for how Nora should do her job. This particular post addresses the process after Nora sends the ms into her editor.

          As I said to Mellisa, it’s a huge expense to re-edit published books. This makes the errors that slip by even more annoying because they live on. And as every reader approaches/sees the written word differently, every writer will approach the writing process differently.


          1. Laura, I can appreciate your position and Nora’s. Believe me when I say that I have been a loyal fan for years, but a late-comer to the ID series. There must be a reason that the NR books contain the odd error while the ID books are full of them. Certainly the computer age makes us “lazy”, but knowing that it affects her readers, why does Nora not address this issue with her publisher? She is paying for it and they are not doing their jobs properly. I think that those of us who do comment about the errors are looking for some response other than name calling or shutting someone down as Nora did to me. That has not changed the fact that I read both NR and JDR books. Nora is an expert storyteller and I enjoy her books. But when I say I am old school, I am a few years younger than Nora, so she should understand where I am coming from with my comments. She responded to me that she is responsible for her work. I agree, but I also know that Nora is NOT responsible for the failure of the publishing company to properly proof her works prior to publication.

          2. Cinde,

            Nora doesn’t pay her publisher to print books, I’m not sure why you would think that. The publisher pays her and therefore is as invested in creating the best product as she is. All a writer and her editing team can do is try to make every book error free. If an error slips through, it lives on through every reprint as I’ve said many times. So the team tries again.

            We could go around on this in perpetuity but the process is not going to change. Reading is a personal thing and every reader has a choice whether to pick up a book or not. It may be time to for you to choose.


          3. Good answer, Laura. I’m having a back and forth that I have had to put the brakes on with an editor in Wikipedia. I feel so free.

  62. When a book’s sold to a foreign publisher, they do the translations, often change the title so it makes sense in their language and their market. I don’t have anything to do with that area. If I did, I’d be spending more than half my time in meetings with foreign publishers. I don’t speak the languages, so can’t read the translations. They do have actual human translators. I suspect the majority of readers in Japan, for instance, read the book in Japanese, so don’t compare it to the original English.

    There’s no question there are changes when a book’s translated. If I worried about the changes when my books are translated for the Romanian market, or the Italian market and so on, I’d go crazy quickly. I’m just going to continue to write the best books I can, and let the people in charge of the other, myriad areas of publishing to their jobs, as best they can.

    1. I certainly agree with you about the amount of time you would be spending if you dealt with the foreign publishers, and I appreciate your answer. My question was a matter of curiosity for me, and I am not looking for another opportunity to criticize. As a career translator, it was always a matter of how an individual perceived the material. As in English, there are sometimes choices of which word to choose based on context. I might use a particular word, but another translator would be just as correct with another choice. Post 9/11, we had voluminous materials and the urgency of time meant they were often split between translators. Continuity was a must for specific terminology, but we used Trados for this.

      I still would like to read a trilogy in one of my primary languages, such as Romanian, just to see and enjoy. I have a Romanian Bible as well, and it is a learning experience for me since I am not a native speaker of Romanian.

      Now that I have answers to all of my questions, I will leave you to answer others. Rest assured you will never hear from me about couples, babies, etc. As I said before, I am not a storyteller and would never presume to think I could make a better choice than you. I love the ID series as well as your individual books, trilogies and sagas. I would like to see some of them continue, but as Laura has said, you reach a logical conclusion and the rest is left to our imaginations. Since reading was a lifetime gift from my parents, I do have the capability to imagine how one story might continue. That is sufficient. The gift of ID as a lengthy series is fantastic. You have my thanks for the books and your answers!

    2. Nora Roberts and J.D.Robb are books written in joy and for joy….she delights me every single time. One of my best days ever…opening the mailbox and her book is there waiting for me. Written in joy and read in joy. I’m sorry there are people out there who only look for mistakes. I’m sorry it’s the only way they are happy… by looking as a professional reader for mistakes…what glee!!! I’ll stop at this last comment…I look for joy and I find it each and every time in Nora’s books. Simple joy…..

      1. Agreed. I think people just like to complain. I don’t know how else Nora can explain the process.

        It is what it is. Are errors annoying? Yes. Do they take away from the thrill of the story? Not for me. Even if it’s a “big” (not my words) error.

        NR/JDR draws me in. The typos and grammar errors that are missed don’t bother me.

        Anyone read 50 Shades? Omg. The mistakes in that series. NOW that was horrible. Still didn’t pull me out of the books (that much) b

  63. I love you and your books! I would probably love that delicious looking soup as well. Continue to be the best you can be.

  64. Thank you for sharing the process. I am waiting patiently for the next book. I am glad you took up writing that snowy day. If you had not there may not be these fabulous books that your legions of fans enjoy. Thank you for being the writer you are. My reading world is richer with a Nora Roberts/J.D Robb book.

  65. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    After reading the “In Death” books through 5-6 times, I have finally ventured into the Nora Roberts world of books. I love the trilogies: 3 books in one. (I shudder to think Eve and Roarke could have ended up as a trilogy!) I have so many Nora Roberts books to choose from that it is mind boggling, but tremendously fun. So again:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  66. Just want to say thanks for the incite, I love knowing more about the inner workings of the publishing process. I also have a question, and I’m sorry if this has been answered already. How many times do you edit before you deem a work ready for the publisher? Do you do multiple drafts? If so, how many? Also, could you tell us a little able your research process, I’ve always been curious about where authors begin once an idea hits them.

    Thank you!

  67. First, Susie, I’m so glad you get such joy from my work. I appreciate you letting me know.

    Mellisa, as Laura said, publishers very rarely go back and correct minor errors and typos in subsequent editions. It’s really expensive to do so.

    Cinde, I have to say it’s your interpretation of my responses that lead you to believe I ‘shut you down’. What I did, was answer you as honestly and politely as possible. You suggested I should take my publishers to task, I explained how this works. You suggested I should find a new publisher. And to that I pointed out I run my own career, and it appears you don’t know a great deal about publishing.

    You proved that when you responded to Laura’s–again polite–response that I pay them to do a job. I do not pay my publisher, my publisher pays me. I am not their boss, nor are they mine. They make an investment in me and my work, pay me for same, and take the risk, lay out the expenses and the manpower to edit, produce, package, publish and distribute that work.

    Mistakes slip through, as I’ve explained before. Some mistakes happen AFTER proofing, during printing. And mistakes are frustrating for all parties–writer, editor, publisher, reader. But they happen.

    My age, the height of my particular bar, have nothing to do with this reality. I honestly don’t know how to respond to your complaints any more thoroughly.

    1. Nora, with all due respect, I have said I know absolutely nothing about publishing. The one question I have asked that has never been answered is why the error rate in the NR books is extremely low compared to the much higher rate in the In Death series. As for your “polite” response to me, I have to say that the written message rarely contains the attitude of the writer. To me, it read quite differently. When all is said and done, I do enjoy your books and look forward to each new one. Without doubt, you are a fantastic story teller.

      1. Cinde, with all due respect, you say in this response you know absolutely nothing about publishing, but you’ve continually offered your opinion of what I–who does know a bit about it–should do regarding her publisher. And have done so after I’ve tried to explain the process and my own opinion on it.

        If I was/am trying to ‘shut you down’ wouldn’t simply ignoring you be more successful? My interpretation of your posts and responses is you seem over-sensitive and considerably didactic. This may not reflect your attitude.

        I have no idea why, if so, the error rate in the In Deaths is higher than my other books. They are (were) published by a different imprint of the publishing house, so that may contribute, but I simply don’t know.

  68. Lauren, I may have addressed your questions in a previous blog. Laura?

    If not it seems like a good subject for a blog!

  69. I’m going to add here, I don’t ask for or expect ‘constructive criticism’ from readers. You can bash away at me for that if you’re so inclined.

    I am absolutely fine with a reader stating, blogging, emailing, telling me they didn’t like a certain book. I don’t expect every reader in the world to enjoy every single book I’ve written. Reading is personal, and a reader is entitled to an opinion.

    A reader is not entitled, in my world, to tell me what to write, how to write, what not to write, how to handle my career, my publisher. I have addressed just this in other blogs and won’t slog it all here, again. If anyone wants to know my reasons for the above, they’re laid out in other blogs on this site.

    This site is not an invitation to critique my work or offer unsolicited criticism–which I personally find is usually only constructive in the opinion of those who offer it.

    I’ve been in this business for decades. My skin is plenty thick, and so is my spine plenty strong. I value and appreciate every single person who takes the time to read my work. But I am the writer of that work, and I’m in charge of my own career, and the decision made regarding it. Period. Full stop.

    FITS is a site created so I can share some of my world–personal and professional–with those interested. It’s a site created so those interested can ‘talk’ to me, Laura, and to each other in a happy space.

    That’s why I have this blog.

  70. Little late to this party, but I just wanted to thank you both – Nora and Laura – for providing me the link to this particular issue of the FITS blog. I was curious about how you sit down to write something fresh and new, and was – and still am! – amazed that you only do three drafts. My god! Three! You have my admiration, respect and awe. If I could do that – dang . . . but I can’t, so I depend on you to fulfill the itch to fall into a good, solid escape. Thank you. Truly.

    One other thing: I noted that several times, contributors to this blog state they read and reread your books in anticipation for a newly published work. The problem I have is my TBR stack is 80 books (and counting). You know the story: the problem with new books is they keep you from reading the old ones! But I do read my NRs and JDRs as soon as they arrive, and thank heavens for them.

    So, keep it up, please. And, as one individual above wrote, I too am so glad you began your writing on that snowy, wintry day. Without sounding gushy, mushy and weird – much love to you (and Laura) and what you do to make us all so happy. Like I said in another entry – you are a treasure.

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