Sunday, April 20, 2014

The publishing process.....

Hi, All!
    One of the questions I'm asked most frequently is this: "Just what is the process a book goes through while being published?"  I think many are curious about this because very little has been written about what happens in the process after a writer, either literally or symbolically, writes "The End" at the conclusion of the manuscript. What happens between "The End" and when the book hits the shelves is actually a very interesting journey.
       I thought I'd take a few minutes this morning to talk about the part of this process where I am right now.  My publisher liked the manuscript for my next book:  Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legend of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire.  So, the first thing a writer waits for is the official approval of the manuscript by the publisher.  Publishers have many options when the manuscript comes to them.  They can say "We like it," or "We like it, but we'd also like to see some changes/revisions," or "Sorry, we don't think we can use this" -- and several other responses, to varying degrees, along that scale as well.  Once they say they like the manuscript, a very interesting process begins.  Editors read through the manuscript carefully and, even for the very best of writers (which I'm not!), start marking words, sentences, paragraphs, passages -- all places where they feel changes might be in order.  Most editors do not do this with an iron fist.  That is, these "suggestions" are made, but the writer can discuss these areas with his/her editor if the writer believes the change is not necessary or believes the suggestion might be altered in some way.  At this point of the process, even though it is might tough to do, a writer has to put as much ego as possible aside and listen to the editor.  After all, the editor has a completely different perspective (and an objective one), and I do have to admit my editors have been right in what they have suggested at least 99% of the time.  As a matter of fact, the only times I've really *fought* to keep things in the manuscript were when I felt making a change would influence how characters were presented (which is of vital importance in nonfiction writing).  As fate would have it, I went to visit my publisher a few weeks back to talk about my next book project.  While there, my editor was at a point with my upcoming manuscript (the Fairfield book) where we could actually sit down next to each other and go through some of the changes that were being suggested.  This was so much fun for me I can't even begin to describe it.  First of all, I have what I consider to be the best editor ever, Rosemary Yokoi.  If there is a more talented person in that field, I've never met him or her.  In my book, Rosemary is Tops!  As we sat there and dug through her recommendations, I started to see just how *many* perspectives an editor must have all at one time: what will make the book better/easier to read, what can be chopped because it really doesn't help carry the narrative, which words are not true to the era being written about, what will help the book be more marketable, and so on.  While keeping all these balls juggled in the air, the editor also has to deal with the often fragile ego of the writer.  Side note:  A long time ago, when I turned in the manuscript for Inman's War, I ended a chapter with a page of description and narrative that I thought was the best thing I had ever written in my life.  When I finished that page, I remember sitting there and saying to myself, "Wow -- that's really awesome!"  Well, about two months later when my editor sent me the manuscript with suggestions written on it, one of the suggestions was to get rid of that page!  At first I couldn't believe it.  After all, I believed it to be the best section I'd ever written.  However, the more I looked through the editor's rationale for getting rid of those paragraphs, the more I could see the other side -- which was that this section was "too sentimental" for this point in the narrative.  So, out this section went -- and the book was much better for it.  Sorry -- I digress.......     After sitting with my editor for a couple of hours a few weeks back to dig through the Fairfield manuscript, we covered most of the major changes that were being suggested.  The next part of the process will now begin tomorrow.  I just received word the "proofs" of the manuscript will arrive to my mailbox tomorrow afternoon.  I'll then have just over a week to go through the manuscript to make sure I'm fine with the changes that we've made --and to read through the whole manuscript (from beginning to end) again to make sure no glitches have happened.  I've had books in the past where words and sentences were accidentally left out of the manuscript at this point in the process -- and nobody caught these.  I'm not sure there's much more that makes a reader irritated than when this happens.  So, it is really looking at the manuscript with a microscope to make sure all is as it should be.  I'll write more about this process later in the week as I dig through the proofs.  For a writer, this is most typically a very enjoyable part of the process -- and a very necessary "bridge" in getting the book into the hands of readers.
     One last note today:  I've been pretty darn ill of late (respiratory infection).  One day, just to get out of the house, I went to Elephant Rocks in southern Missouri.  During the Ice Age, massive granite boulders were rolled to this specific area.  Today, this area is known as Elephant Rocks because the rocks are so huge -- and, from a distance, it really does look like a group of elephants roaming through the landscape.  It is a fun place to climb on the rocks and walk the trail surrounding them.  I'm attaching a picture so you will be able to get an idea of the size of these "elephants."
     More soon......    Take care -- and have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Book Covers!

Hi, All!
     My publisher has recently provided me with "mock-up" designs for the front covers of *both* books that will be released this coming fall.  I'm incredibly happy with both covers, but I'd like to hear what others think of them.  Do they capture your attention?  Do you like the colors used?  The designs/layouts?  I'd appreciate it if you could jot me a quick note and let me know your opinions about these -- and any other areas related to the covers.

***Cover #1:   This is the mock-up for the main book:  Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legend of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire.
     Please examine it, and then, if you have the time, please let me know your thoughts about it.
     NOTE: There is a special story behind the "Wanted Poster" on the cover.  John Fairfield was wanted "Dead or Alive" because of his work helping slaves to their freedom.  Therefore, he did *not* want his image captured in pictures, for the obvious reasons.  Photography was still relatively new when Fairfield was doing most of his work for the cause, and he managed to avoid all cameras, which was wise given his situation.  However, I wanted to know what he looked like.  While doing research for the book I was able to uncover ample written, physical descriptions of Fairfield, and the Wanted Poster represents a blend of these accounts.  There is MUCH more to the story of how this particular Wanted Poster came about, and it is detailed in the "companion e-book" (see below).

***Cover #2:  This is the mock-up for the "companion e-book," which is titled:  Finding Fairfield: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legend of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire.
    NOTE: This cover was designed by Maryana Britt, an incredibly talented and gifted artist/illustrator; we were SO lucky to have her help with this project.  This "companion e-book" was so much fun to write.  Basically, it tells of my adventures while doing the travel and conducting the background research needed to write the main book.  It is part travelogue -- and also a "behind the curtain" look at what a writer of nonfiction must do to in order to capture the essence of the story and characters involved.
     Again, if you have the time, please let me know what your impressions are of this cover.

    Thank you for examining these covers.  I really do appreciate it.  And, finally, don't forget:  Both books are now scheduled for release in the fall.

Monday, April 7, 2014

St. Louis history & event

April 7, 2014
Hi, All!
    I thought I'd pass along a quick bit of news while I had the chance.  As most of you know, I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and that city has always been my "spiritual home."  This is a very special year in St. Louis -- the 250th anniversary of its founding!  Celebrations are taking place all over the city this year to commemorate this special time.  One such celebration is taking place at the Missouri History Museum (known as the old "Jefferson Memorial" to those who grew up in St. L.) in Forest Park, right next to the St. Louis Zoo and the Jewel Box.  The Missouri History Museum has a special exhibit called "250 in 250."  The curators have put together an absolutely magnificent "walk-through" exhibit, which is free and open to the public, that shows the city's history in pictures, artifacts, and visuals and sound.  In short, walking through the exhibit is like strolling through the city's storied history, from its beginnings to the present.
    One part of the exhibit is devoted to the 50 most notable people/events in St. Louis history.  One part of this special exhibit describes the sacrifices made by J. D. Shelley and his family as they fought to help end racially restrictive real estate covenants, covenants which said where people could live -- and not live -- based upon their race, religion, or in some cases national origin.  I was very pleased to see this section describing the Shelley family and their fight to end this type of discrimination.  I also had a pretty broad smile on my face as I looked at this exhibit because I chronicled their battle in my book Olivia's Story: The Conspiracy of Heroes Behind 'Shelley v. Kraemer.  After viewing the rest of the exhibit, I asked for the name and contact information for the main curator of the exhibit.  I contacted the curator the next day and told him how wonderful I thought it was that the museum chose to spotlight this dramatic part of not just St. Louis history, but *American* history as well.  Basically, the "Shelley v. Kraemer" decision, eventually taken to the U.S. Supreme Court level, ended these horrible restrictions.  I was also delighted when I was then asked if I'd do a presentation about Olivia's Story and  its description of St. Louis history -- and have this as a part of the special exhibit at the Missouri History Museum!  I said I'd be happy to do this, and it is now being scheduled for one of the weekends in October (please check back here for an update when the date is chosen).  I can't wait to do this presentation at the museum.  At the same time, I'd like to invite all of you in the area to stop in to see my presentation when it takes place.  I'll be sharing how "Shelley v. Kraemer" literally changed the face and color of America.
     I'm also attaching to this message a picture of the Museum Shop at the Missouri History Museum.  I'm also so proud they carry Olivia's Story there for those interested in St. Louis history (the book is at the center of the top shelf in the photo).
     Also, for those who'd like a little more information now about Olivia's Story and how it fits into the exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, here is the link to a short discussion I have about the subject on YouTube:
    More soon.........