Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Author's Rant

There's a difference between a writer and an author, and right now it's an aggravating difference.

I can write in my blog or my journal or my travel commentary. It's my choice what I say and how I say it. I can read it myself and offer it to others. That's kind of gratifying. It's all my call.

Here's what I've learned this week about being an author. I've written a book with my husband Art and found a publisher. They contact me every week to see how I'm coming along. Their goal is probably to keep me moving and maybe to provide encouragement, but what I'm feeling is guilt and frustration. For three weeks now I've said I'll have the materials to them "next week".

Issue One is format - my responsibility. So I spent several days selecting photos to be inserted into the manuscript - images with meaning to accompany the text. Then yesterday I realized none of the photos are 300 ppi (pixels per inch) which is required by the publisher. So I removed them all and am developing an accompanying webpage for people who want to see our experience in addition to reading about it.

When you remove something from a manuscript, all the text has to be revisited and any "widows and orphans" fixed. That's where you have the first or last line of a paragraph that turns up on a different page from the rest of the paragraph. The book has 190 pages, so the revisiting took a while.

If you've decided to have no ragged edges on the right, Word will set that up for you. But sometimes there are multiple spaces between words. Then you have the option of hyphenating words to fill in some of those blanks. I did that manually so I'd have more control over which words I hyphenated and which words I left alone. Sometimes, when I fixed the "widows and orphans" issue above, I had to remove hyphens I'd put in before or add new ones. Another revisit of 190 pages.

As a "final touch" you add headers - in this case, the book title on odd pages and the chapter title on even pages. There are four chapters. This requires inserting a "section break" -- which I have never done in Word -- and an advanced-user feature called a "field" so the correct chapter title will display. I will need to take an online tutorial to figure this out - probably this morning, since it's the only time I have available this week

Issue Two is finishing up the content. Art has drawn a map and I have given it to two graphic artist friends to clean up. One of them has a full-time job and a wife and two kids. The other is going to school full time. Both say they'll work on the map "when I have time, hopefully this weekend".

One friend read the manuscript and would like me to add a few pages at the end. It's an excellent idea but requires an interview with my husband, the subject of the book. She has the questions for me to ask, but hasn't had time to send them to me yet. She has a full-time job.

Then I have a niggling thought. What if the margins I set up aren't exactly what's needed for a 6 x 9 book? The publisher sent me the numbers, but I have a Mac version of Word and you never know what minor differences will turn up between the Mac and the PC version.

I tore myself away from the computer yesterday and went for a three-mile walk with Art, but almost everything else I normally do got set aside this week. This feels like working on a term paper with a deadline. I thought I was finished with that.

On Tuesday Art and I are flying to Houston and back. We need a few more frequent flyer miles to retain our MVP status on Alaska Airlines, and we've got a few trips next year where we can use the first-two-bags-fly-free perk and the first-class-waitlist status. We'll fly four hours, get off the plane for half an hour, and fly four hours home. I'd planned on taking a book, but I suspect I'll have the laptop instead. To work on the "section breaks".


Teresa Evangeline said...

Every time I think about writing a book for possible publishing, I think of travails such as this. You have more stick-to-itiveness than I. I can't stand the thought of dealing with publishers and all that. I'm sure it will all work out, but I'm surprised at how much gets turned over to the writer. Is this usual in the publishing business?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Linda, believe me -- this may feel major right now but it's small stuff. I'm a veteran of 35 years of New York publishing -- and have had over a dozen books published by the major publishers and I'm telling you it can be a very difficult though ultimately satisfying experience. You develop a thick skin and a high tolerance for frustrations and learn to pick your battles. I totally understand the pressures of trying to get the manuscript just right and get in in on time. I don't know whether you are self-publishing through one of the newer publishers or through traditional publishing, but traditional publishing is very different these days. As Teresa indicated, much more is put on the writer than used to be the case -- particularly in terms of promoting the book after publication. The good thing after all the stresses of deadlines is you have a book in your hands that you created! My agent likens it to the pain of giving birth and the delighted amnesia about the pain afterwards!

June said...

Oh boy. You remind me of my experience with formatting and reformatting and reformatting ad nauseum a few years ago when we rewrote a portion of Small Pond's law. I feel your pain. I would get it finished and scroll through just to make sure . . . and find half pages and whole pages that were blank . . . where I'd put in section breaks and/or page breaks . . . and I'd have to take them out and start all over.
It made my brain ache.
I talked to myself, and to my computer, a LOT.
But when it was finished I felt pretty proud of myself. You will too.
Hang in.

Terra said...

Oh dear, this sounds complicated and frustrating. My second book is being published by a traditional publisher, who also pubbed my first, so I don't have to do any of this difficult word processing. I empathize with you and know you will succeed!

Ms Sparrow said...

I anticipate having to worry about what some people would call "a high-class problem". For now, I just write willy-nilly and let the breaks fall where they may. Margins be damned, full speed ahead!

(Nevertheless, I have the awful feeling that someday I will regret that attitude.)

Olga said...

What a lot of pain and effort. I think the giving birth analogy is very apt sounding. But...How exciting will it be to have that book in hand!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Publishing a book always involves lots of details and frustration, but at the end you get...A BOOK! I did so much work in Photoshop improving the photos for our book that my arm ached for a month. Good luck to you in these final steps!

Linda Reeder said...

Oh my. I'll stick to blogging.

Beth said...

I wish you lots of luck. I am sure you will succeed!

Deb Shucka said...

You sure sound like an author and a writer to me. It's really interesting to read your process here, and while you sound a bit frustrated, you also sound jazzed and in full learning mode. I look forward to reading your book once you've jumped through all the hoops.

Rita said...

Goodness! I thought the publishers did all of that stuff. I'd be totally lost. I didn't understand half of what you were talking about. More power to ya! You will be so relieved and have such a feeling of accomplishment when all of this is finally done! Let us know. :)

Sightings said...

Whew! I'm exhausted just reading about it. But then, I always feel slightly inadequate after reading your posts, b/c you just have so much energy and so many worthwhile things that you're doing -- including the book. About your husband? Sounds good. Will it be on

Also ... flying to Houston just to rack up more frequent flyer miles? I don't get it. (But then, I hate to fly.)

Dee said...

Dear Linda, thanks for sharing with us all that's going into getting published. I'm hoping to do an e-book on It's an e-book of a book called "A Cat's Life: Dulcy's Story," which Crown published back in 1992. I'd like it to reach a new audience. But oh, I'm having such troubles trying to understand exactly how to do this. It took five months to get the ms. typed (it was only on an old floppy disk). Now I have it typed and I'm not sure what's the next step.

So, I'm truly commiserating with you on the process you're going through.

But everyone is commenting--soon you'll have a real book in your hands. Wow!


Arkansas Patti said...

Exactly what you have mentioned has kept me from even thinking about changing my status from writer to author.
Hang in there and soon this will all be just memory.

DJan said...

I've been through all those frustrations you describe so well, Linda. It's because Word is not really designed to handle all those details all that well. I've been through the same process. Until I learned a word processing system called TeX (pronounced tech) that is designed to fix all those details... I used it for books that were published by Cambridge University Press and the process suddenly got much easier.

I am wishing you luck in getting through this part. Are you making an index? Believe it or not, that was my favorite part! :-)

Retired English Teacher said...

This sounds like torture to me. I can only imagine. I am sure the story you have to tell is worth the pain of it all. Hang in there. I am wondering if it would be better with a different publisher, but how is one to know these things?

#1Nana said...

But think about how good it will feel when you finally send it off!

Jen Chandler said...

Hey Linda!

Wow, sounds like you've got your hands full. Interesting to think of "writer" and "author" as two different jobs, but it really is! Thanks for a fresh perspective on things :)

I hope your revisions go well and a bit more smoothly from here on out. It's a big job, but I know you'll be proud when you have that finished book in your hands!

Write on!

PS: Safe travels :)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

The things to look forward to as my own journey into publishing continues. :-)

And I do truly mean 'look forward to' because the end of this road will include your name on the spine of a book that will be available for purchase by people you've never met, never communicated with and looking to gain the knowledge you're putting out into the world! To say how huge that is probably seems like an aside right now but once you're past all the last minute frustrating details it will surely be the only thing that matters.

I am so proud of you and sending a virtual hug & high five to just keep pushing through this much because I know you can and I know it will be sooo great when its done!

Friko said...

I don't understand any of this. I thought you got an agent, who'd get you a publisher and they'd do all the printing and faffing about.

Doesn't sound at all pleasant and not a bit creative. An office girl should do this sort of stuff. I'm rapidly going off the idea of writing.

Grandmother said...

If admiration and support help, you have mine. Who knew that authors now have so much of the nitty gritty to do. Focus on the feelings you'll have at the end of all this and you'll keep going. This story needs to be told.

Perpetua said...

Poor Linda, my brain aches just thinking about all the detail you have to concentrate on. But it will be worth it when you actually get to hold a copy for the first time.