Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing a Book

I have published a few articles in the past for Public Libraries and Library Hi-Tech News. That was not easy, even though I like to write and professional writing suits me. Why, then, did I agree to write a book? An entire book. It seems absolutely impossible.

But I did it.

Along with Mary Kelly (who else?), I am the proud parent of a 40,000+ word book. It is scheduled to be published by Woodhead Publishing (incorporating Chandos Publishing) in May 2011. In the U.S. it will be published by their partner, Neal Schuman. Check out the link! It's called "Making a Collection Count: a Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management" and it's all about collection quality.

The process of writing a book is interesting, and starts with the book proposal. We received an email from an employee at Chandos who sent along their proposal form. I'm not sure how she found us, but we took a look at the proposal form and emailed some ideas back and forth before we decided to take the plunge and submit a proposal.

They accepted.

We were given about six months to write the book. Mary and I assigned chapters to ourselves and got to work. We picked at it for a while, put some ideas into Word documents, and talked about it a little. Once we felt like we really had a direction and an overall plan for how the chapters should fit together, we started meeting every couple of weeks for what we lovingly called "story time."

Story time was painful. The idea was that I would read our chapters, a chapter at a time, out loud. It's one thing to read your own words in your own head, but when you commit it to verbal language it's a whole another animal. We edited, revised, read, edited, revised, read...rinse and repeat. Mary is the idea person and I am the detail person. That works well for us. I make sense out of her mad genius, and she gets me to think outside the box. Brilliant!

In December, we sent our rough drafts to the publisher. The agent read our work and said that yes, we were on the right track and she was happy with our progress. We were well under the 40,000 word limit, though, so Mary and I re-evaluated our chapter outline. We added several more chapter ideas, which we wrote, read, edited, revised, etc. just like the original chapters. These extra chapters, as it turned out, were not extras at all! They turned out to be my favorite parts of the book, and really ended up tying our ideas together.

In February, we thought we should read our publishing contract again. For some reason, we thought the final manuscript was due to the publisher on May 1. Good thing we read the contract again, because it was actually due on March 1! That left us about three weeks to make our final revisions and add our final content. Ouch!

The majority of the work was done, but there were two chapters that were sort of bothering us. We just kept picking at them, and couldn't let them go. We put all of our chapters in different order than originally planned, we took pictures and made charts, and had marathon writing sessions. At some point, you have to let it go and stop picking at it, so the last week of February we put it all together and wrote an introduction.

That's right, we wrote the introduction to the book dead last. It was so much easier that way because we could introduce the content that was already in it, telling the reader what they would discover inside. Being the last thing written, we didn't have to revise it to include all the added chapters, as we would have if we wrote the intro first.

We packaged it all up into several Word documents and emailed it to the publisher in England. Then we waited. A day or two later, the agent emailed back. She said it read well and she was happy with the final product. Yay!

But wait, there's more.

A freelance editor was hired by the publisher. He's currently working on the document. Here's hoping he doesn't suggest any major re-writes! We also received a worksheet to fill out to help the company start to market the book. Who is the intended audience? What is the primary market? Secondary? What professional associations should they contact about the book? Are there any conferences at which they should peddle it? It's all very interesting!

The last thing we need to do is write the index. We are responsible for writing the index (which was spelled out pretty clearly in the contract, but which we must have blocked out of our mind!) They need it after the first proof is created so that we can match the index to the correct, final page numbers. That gives us until about May to finish. Thank goodness Mary took an indexing class, because I only have a general knowledge of indexing. I've never actually done it. As it turns out, Word 2007 has an excellent indexing feature! We will still have to do some manual assigning of page numbers, since our Word document for the book does not match the size or paging of the final product (once all those pictures and charts are inserted and placed by the typsetters, the page numbers will be way off, plus the book has dimensions of 234mm x 156mm (roughly, but not exactly, 9 inches x 6 inches). Complicated!

Last week Mary received an email inviting writers to submit book proposals. The topics they were looking for were right up our alley! So many tempting choices to write about! I think I'm done for a while, though - at least until this book is printed. It was a great experience, but absolutely all-consuming and exhausting. Maybe I'll go back to article writing, or hey - blogging is great too!

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