I loved Tara’s “Monstoremobile” concept she gave us on Monday, but even more, I love her reaction to her cover. This is the reaction I expected to have to my cover as well, but, as I have discussed here previously, I didn’t.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the path between deal and debut for me, has been how my reactions to the various stages of the process have been different from what I expected.
When the deal was at last in place, I had expected to feel great joy and a desire to crow to the world of my success. Instead, I felt great relief, and very self conscious about crowing, because I didn’t want to crush anyone who was still waiting for their chance to crow.
When I first spoke to my editor on the phone, I was a nervous wreck about it for days, practicing my “professional persona,” only to find her so comfortable to talk to that we were telling each other silly personal stories right off the bat.
Then came the much dreaded editorial letter. While I waited for my letter I heard all the stories about sixteen page letters, asking for everything to be changed except the kitchen sink (which appears only once at the bottom of page 137, in a paragraph that is going to get cut anyway.) When the letter came, I stared at it for half an hour before getting the nerve up to open it. I read through it. Something was missing. Where was the awful part? Where was the hard part that demanded I totally rewrite the entire thing? I had expected a moment of “this is too big, I can’t do it” panic. Instead, it all looked easy, and logical, and I was saying “Of course, that’s exactly what I want to do! Perfect! I couldn’t agree more!”
It was so easy, in fact, that I anticipated the real work would begin with the second letter. And of course, I knew there HAD to be a second letter. You see, I went through a very rigorous graduate program in which I had to write twelve drafts of my dissertation proposal, before I could even start my dissertation itself. Twelve drafts, some of which were accompanied by revision letters filled with very harsh words about my writing, that might have (more than once) included “sloppy.” So how could a professional editor at a publishing house be happy with one revision?
But she was. The follow up email lauded my efforts and told me the next draft would be the copy edits.
I cringed a little at that. Because if there is one thing I don’t know how to do, it is spell or punctuate. Or count, but that’s a different issue.
The thing is, I knew the copy edits would be a sea of red pencil, that would humiliate me into acknowledging my pathetic grasp of the English language. But along they came, with another surprise. The phrase “It’s very, very clean,” in the cover letter. Huh? My writing clean? My first reaction was relief, but then came the swan dive into self doubt. There could only be one explanation for this–my publisher had assigned the intern’s two-year-old golden retriever as my copy editor. How else could I explain the lack of mark up? I sent the copy edits back feeling sure I was doomed. It was going to be the worst book every published, with errant commas everywhere. Doomed, I tell you. My entire career devastated by a very, very clean manuscript.
Somewhere in all that, the cover appeared. The glorious, beautiful cover. The moment I had waited for above all others, because the cover would make it feel like a book. But it didn’t. It was weird and surreal, and not my cover at all! Ack! Wasn’t I ever going to get one of these emotions right?
Then, just two weeks ago, my first pass pages arrived. These are photo-ready page proofs, appearing exactly as each page will appear in the book. I have published many scholarly articles, and I’ve always found reading through the page proofs to be very tedious, so I braced myself. One more proof read, I thought. A bit of a drudgery, but no putting it off. So I ripped open the package and pulled out the pages.
I looked at the first page. And then the second. And then I saw my formatted dedication, and I cried. Actually cried. Seriously, people, I’m not a crier. That would be my sister. But there it was, a sliver of my heart on the page, EXACTLY AS THE WORLD WAS GOING TO SEE IT. Subtly, the whole world shifted.
I turned to the opening of chapter 1. It had ARTWORK!
HOLY COW!!!! THIS IS A BOOK!!! I thought.
This is a book.
This is my book.
This is an amazing book.