As you see in the right-hand column, I am co-author of a new book, “The World’s Your Stage.” The intended audience is performing artists (musicians, dancers, etc.) and those who manage artistic groups. So it isn’t directly related to this blog, and in fact my co-authors are not libertarians. But readers who are thinking of publishing may be interested in what I learned from dealing with a commercial publisher, so I’ll write a little about those experiences here.
A great deal more is involved in getting a decent book out the door than writing and editing. Most would-be authors know (I hope) that a good editor is essential. Our first editor did a poor job and was fired, at which point the publisher, perhaps out of embarrassment, assigned their top editor to us. He was very helpful. Some editorial corrections can be very hard to swallow. One has to give a great deal of latitude to an experienced editor, while knowing when to stand firm on an essential point.
It had all started with a contract. They sent us a long document that we had to initial in about forty places. We were promised an advance, which showed up about a year after we signed the contract: $5,000 split three ways. I expect to see little or nothing beyond that, making this very much a labor of love. A learning experience, certainly.
They want you to conform to their specifications for writing the document in MS Word (font, spacing, figures, etc.). No problem there.
Publishers are scared silly about copyright infringement. For example, I had used a 52-word quote from a book, but they said I would either have to cut it to 49 words or get written permission from the author. I cut it to exactly 49. There were lots of other places where we did have to get permission. Fortunately one of my co-authors had the patience to get most of these.
They are also picky about citations. In several instances they wanted sources for facts that I thought were common knowledge.
Several times I thought we were through with revisions only to find out we weren’t. After the editor comes a copy editor whose job (I think) is to read it all for consistency and various other picky but necessary things. These good people don’t miss a thing.
A good cover is essential, and for that they have graphic designers who sent us proofs for our approval. A dramatic pictorial graphic would have been nice but beyond the budget, no doubt. They needed photos of us for the jacket along with the photographer’s name, for credit. Mine was a selfie, which had them scratching their heads at first.
Quite a few competent professionals seem to have spent time on our book, and they don’t come cheap, especially when the publisher is headquartered in Manhattan.
So the book is in print and we’re done, right? Not exactly. For a niche book like ours, marketing is pretty much up to us. So one co-author is working on a web page, and we’re all thinking of where and how we might pitch the book. The other co-author was head of public TV in New York for 20 years and there are lots of doors he can open. He got Rene Fleming, an opera star, to write a plug for the back cover. He can easily get speaking gigs and possibly TV appearances.
Now I’m thinking about my next book. Even with this first book in hand, getting a publisher for the second is a long shot so I’m looking at self-publishing. I think there’s a lot I could do on my own, using my experience from the first book, and a lot where I would need help. I would hire an editor, but how to find a good one? And a graphic designer—who? How to market it? Stay tuned.