Processus: Janet Skeslien Charles, Parisian-based American author, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at publishing a book.

Swallowtail Butterfly (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Le Papillon Jaune" (discovered last month, munching on our hearty Lila d'Espagne). Butterflies! Talk about processus!

le processus (pro sess ooce) noun, masculine

    : process

listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & example sentence: Download WAV or MP3

Le processus est toujours le même. The process is always the same.

"Processus" by Janet Skeslien Charles

Today, Janet Skeslien Charles, Parisian-based American author, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at publishing a book.

Do you ever wonder why it takes 18 to 24 months for a manuscrit, a manuscript, to become a book? Today, we’ll look the processus, the process, of publication from start to finish.

In May 2008, my agent sold my novel to an editor at Bloomsbury, the independent UK maison d’édition, publisher, that first published Harry Potter. Helen, my éditrice, gave me six pages de commentaires, comments. (Single-spaced!) She looked at the big picture and gave global comments concerning the story line. I edited the novel from June to December.

In January 2009, the réviseur, or copy editor, contacted me about her suggestions for the novel. She looked at the text sentence by sentence, word by word, looking at the meaning of each word and phrase. Here is an example of one of her comments. “The line reads: ‘Jane accused me of having a crush on her boyfriend.’ The word ‘accused’ here seems a bit strong.” The réviseur was right. Jane wasn’t angry. I changed the line to “Jane teased me about having a crush on her boyfriend.”

In February 2009, I received the American couverture, or cover.

Although we loved the cover, Bloomsbury USA went with a couverture with a bolder look. Which one do you prefer?
In May of 2009, I received the proofs, the typeset text, and locked myself away because it was la dernière chance, the last chance, to change anything. Then the correcteur, the proofreader, looked at every letter and all the punctuation.

It was a pleasure to work with the editorial team. It felt like a luxury to have people pay such close attention to my words and characters. I loved the images that the artists created. Until this point, the processus was private. Everyone who had read the book had loved it.

The next part was public. The book came out on September 9, 2009 (or 9-9-09), nearly a year and a half after it had been sold. Les critiques wrote les critiques, reviewers wrote reviews that ranged from “Good for ambitious readers” (Josh Cohen of Library Journal) to “Chick lit with edge” (Kirkus). Readers on Amazon.com, GoodReads, and LibraryThing weighed in. The first reader reviewer didn’t like the book and posted her comments on seven different sites. It was hard to see those harsh words posted so many places. Luckily, several other reader reviewers had kind things to say. At readings, I met people who had very different but equally valid points of view concerning the characters’ actions. Talking to them made me rethink my own book.

People commented not only on the text but also on the social issues of the novel. On one site, a man registered as “Galactic Love” called me “flat out biased” and “jealous”. He also used the phrase “arrogant bit**es”, referring to American woman. On another, a woman registered as “SS” listed everything wrong she found with the book. Luckily, I have received many kind emails and reviews from readers and the negative posts have been minimal, though I do think it is surprising what people say when they are anonymous. I feel lucky to have the support of great independent bookstores such as the Village Voice, the Red Wheelbarrow, and Shakespeare & Company here in Paris as well as Rainy Day Books in Kansas City and Fact & Fiction in Montana. It has been wonderful to meet so many people who are passionate about books.

From manuscript to roman, from private writings to published work, it has been a rich experience. I hope that you have enjoyed my posts this week. It has been a pleasure to share a little of my journey with you. Bonne continuation!


Le Coin Commentaires
Mille mercis to Janet for sharing her stories with us this week and for breathing hope into our own creative endeavors. To leave Janet a message, please click here.

I leave you with a mot de remerciement from Janet: 
Un grand merci to all the thoughtful, generous people who read my posts and took the time to respond. I was overwhelmed by your kindness, appreciated your support, and enjoyed learning about your experiences in France. Again, many thanks to Kristin who kindly let me visit her wonderful blog as guest this week.

%2AIMG_3559_small[1] Janet Skeslien Charles’ debut novel Moonlight in Odessa was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of their top ten debut novels of Fall 2009. 

9781608192328[1]-1 It was Book of the Month in the September issue of National Geographic Traveler. BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime featured Moonlight in Odessa for two weeks in February 2010.

Click here to order Janet's book.

See Ann Mah's interview with Janet, here.

un manuscrit = manuscript
le processus = process
un agent = agent
une maison d’édition = publishing house
un éditeur, une éditrice = editor*; publisher
commentaire = comments
un reviseur = copy editor
une couverture = cover
la dernière chance = last chance
un correcteur = proofreader
le mot de remerciement = a thank you note 
*rédacteur/trice = editor 


"Nature's Palette" - a close-up of those beautiful wings.

A Life of Her Own A Life of Her Own: The Transformation of a Countrywoman in 20th-Century France, by Emilie Carles

From the publisher: Emilie Carles was born in 1900 into the rigidly conservative patriarchal world of a poor and isolated peasant community in the High Alps of France. Her autobiography is the tale of a world that has largely disappeared and of the one that has emerged to take its place. 

Customer Reviews:

Emilie Carles started out her life the same as many of her neighbors in her predominantly peasant town in France. Unlike her neighbors, she went on to receive an education and break out of generations of grinding poverty and ingnorance. The very fact that she is able to chronicle her most unusual life is a testament to the power of the human spirit. 

Emilie Carles A hard-bound edition of this book is available, here

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
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Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Bill in St. Paul

Thank you, Janet, for a great explanation of the process of getting a book published. Both my daughter and her husband are involved in book publishing. My son-in-law is an editor for a young adult imprint and my daughter (a stay-at-home mom) does manuscript reviews and editing for him and other publishers that he ahs worked at in the past. I like the US cover better because it stands out and had I seen it on the shelf it would have caught my eye. Thanks for your past posts.


Janet, I was in the class with you in April of 2008 at Shakespeare and Company given by Susan Tiberghien and I remember you from working in the shop. I was a bit out of my element but loved every moment. I am working on my book, about how to move to Paris for two years and have about 5 chapters "done" - but apparently not!! I am inspired by what you did and hope to follow. Everyone says writng a book is hard but I'm having fun so maybe there is something terribly wrong!! Good luck to you and I will purchase your book - like the first cover the best.


Editing is definitely an art. I often wonder what it would be like to edit one of Stephen King's books. He's so prolific, and I remember when he republished The Stand on his own dime because the editors had omitted quite a chunk of the original story, and he wanted to put it back. I read both copies, and I preferred it his way. :-) Both versions were good, but his original was definitely better. Sometimes the writer has a vision that can't be edited.

Lisa@ Tarte du Jour

Janet - Thank you for sharing this process with us. I'm sure most people have absolutely no idea how much tweaking go into the final book. Very interesting! Thank you also for your guest posts. I've enjoyed them very much.


Very interesting account of the gestation of your book, Janet. It must also be flattering to have so many experts analysing your draft and offering helpful sugestions. A bit like having a team of personal trainers, but ones who are committed to improving the 'health and fitness' of your draft.

I'd be interested to hear how you managed to overcome the most difficult hurdle of all: getting an agent!

Rosalinda B. Roll

Thank you for taking us through the process. It was very informative. You should be congratulated and commended for surviving the many hurdles between selling your manuscript and seeing the book printed.


As a book editor, I'm thrilled that you had thoughtful and competent people working with you -- and that you appreciated them. And we in publishing love working with authors like you!


I think being an author takes a tremendous amount of courage! Kudos to you for making it through the whole processus !

Lynn McBride

Janet, as a writer I was thrilled to read about this particular processus. Thanks so much for sharing it. Can't wait to read your book (I like that first cover, by the way).

Arnold Hogarth

Thanks for sharing the story of your 18 month "Publishing saga." Fascinating, I had no idea. P.S. - How long did it take to write your story - and, actually, I like the cover with the photo.
My best to you, and continued success . . .


When I read the reader reviews at Amazon and similar sites, I am struck by the illiteracy of so many of them. Opinions from people unable to string two sentences together aren't worth worrying over. I think, too, that many dissatisfied and jealous people post nasty comments simply because they can do so anonymously and with no repercussions. I guess it makes them feel good. One can only pity them because their lives must be unsatisfactory.


Oh, and I much prefer the first cover (the one that wasn't used). But the publishers know what they are doing.


I've just noticed a spelling typo in my earlier posting. 'suggestions', not 'sugestions.' An eagle-eyed editor would have spotted that one immediately!

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Thanks Janet for your insight. As a writer, I self published my Organizing Book, it gave me more insight into publishing. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I can't wait to order your book.

Pamela Waterman

Your experiences give both hope and a dose of reality to people entering the writing/publishing world. I wish I had known half of this when I started on my own author journey. Now, four books later, I know that good editors are indeed a treasure! I'll have to look for your book at our beloved independent bookstore here in Kristin's home town area -- Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ.


Salut Janet
Je ne comprends pas! Je suis en train de lire un livre qui est daté, par l'auteur dans la préface, moins il ya un mois! Le sujet est contemporain et clairement le droit à jour! Cependant, il est non-fiction et je suppose que le processus de montage est différent?Bonne chance avec votre livre!

Debbie Ambrous

Hello Janet,
Thank you for sharing this informative insight into the book publishing process. I'm writing and hope to reach the stages you've described. I like the red cover and I'm already thinking about a cover for my work. Congratulations on your published book!

Merrie Dail, Annapolis, MD

Prefer cover no. 1 also. Cover no. 2 is bolder and more stylized, but also appears a bit 'sterile' - perhaps first cover evocative of what might be inside??

Enjoyed your posts, wish you much success and sure Kristin appreciates you 'pinch-hitting' for her during the busy season at the grape farm (terrific phrase).


I like the first cover better as well...more contemporary and has a hint of mystery to it that sparks the imagination as to what lies within. To me the cover is an important introduction and becomes part of the charm of choosing and owning the book!

Thank you for your insights into the processes of developing a novel... I like the thought of exploring the importance of every word from the word "go"!


Janet, I have enjoyed reading your words and it has made it easier for me to move forward with my book. I hope to one day go through all the experiences and more that you have given in detail on publishing. It is a big step, one I have been terrified to do. I would need one very good editor, I had a brain injury years ago and it is hard for me to find my mistakes once they are down on paper. The brain only sees what is there and has no way of seeing the errors, blunders and missteps. I have so many wonderful people that keep pushing me to publish or at least be a freelance writer. It takes a lot of courage. Thank you and I do look forwards to reading your book….RaeDi


Hello Janet,

I don't mind the bold choice of the second cover, but I dislike the curly frieze. I'd be surprised if it actually meant something related to the story. As for the tiny picture in the middle of the white strip, it doesn't make me feel I particularly want to read the book.
I prefer the atmospheric approach and stylish design of the first cover which gives me a more inspiring introduction to the story.
Anyway, I haven't read the book and won't judge it by its cover!

I'm wondering whether your next novel will be set in France. If your agent sells it to the same editor, the whole procedure will be less of an ordeal...
Bonne continuation!

Thanks for giving Kristin “le temps de respirer” during this ultra-busy last week of "vendanges" - and "un grand merci" for giving us an interesting insight into your novel and the long procedure you went through to get it published.


Hi Kristin,

"Finies, les vendanges" at Domaine Rouge-Bleu?
Smiling harvesters on their knees?

I imagine the enormous feeling of relief, mixed with satisfaction and gratitude, lots of smiles and great hope for the future wine!...

… and how was “l'émission Talent” on TV this afternoon?

Mille mercis for this so perfect “papillon jaune”. It's “un machaon” (= a 'swallowtail') isn't it? Le “ gros plan” (= close up) of its splendid wings is truly magnificent! What a great honour for your “lilas d'Espagne” to provide nectar to such a beautiful creature!
Here, we had very few butterflies this year!

Hoping you're having a quiet and relaxed weekend!


Dear Janet,

I just finished reading Moonlight in Odessa and I could barely put it down once I started. I was on tenderhooks to find out what Daria would do. Such a brave girl! You wove a gripping story. I can't wait for your next book.

Kristin Espinasse

Newforest, thank you for swallowtail butterfly. Busy googling now... what I love about this one is how the curving line on its body continues, uninterrupted, up through its wing:

I cant help but think of its creator, a brilliant artist.


Hello Janet, I admire your (and Kristin's) spunk for persevering through the process of writing and publication. What a mountain of work it is! I have also grieved about the state of manners in our social sphere today. I've had people be extremely hurtful and rude on to me on my blog. I'm sure they are thinking that we are unable to be hurt by them, or worse, they don't care. So, I invited them to dinner. I said, let's sit down face to face and discuss this issue. Of course they were not interested in dinner with me, but it did zoom their heart (against their will possibly) closer to my heart, maybe making me a real person. I apologize for those who would hurt without cause, and those who lack the wisdom of "a word fitly spoken". Thanks for the glimpse of what you do!

Lindsay Tognetti

Totally love the first cover/dislike the bold red one. Maybe publisher could use first one for a second publishing--much more intriguing (like the use of postage stamps as well).

Will look forward to reading your book after reading the above comments and your personal process.

Lily Ng

Hi Janet. It is impossible to make everyone to please. Like our fingers, they are in different length. Some short, some long. But they are all so useful. The critics may drive you to become endeavor to your work in future. That's not bad at all. Same case for your book cover, I do like American one, but book publish prefer to the red. There are no absolutely right or wrong.

joie  carmel,ca

For me the first one is far more intriguing. I would go to that cover first.

Colette Copeland


We would say:

Maison d'édition: publishing house
éditeur: publisher
Rédacteur/trice: editor

Wonderful blog!

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