A Very Minor Affair – tips for the editing process

Obviously a book is the pride and joy of any author. There, I’ve said, it. As an author, doesn’t quite trip off the tongue, because I still feel a bit superstitious about saying it before I’ve actually cradled the finished book in my hand. It’s a bit like not telling anyone you’re pregnant during those first three months, or not buying anything for the baby. Yes, I have the proofs at home, just in case the nearest I get to being published is getting them bound in a hard copy.  I still don’t accept that after nearly a decade, my book is being published. However, imposter syndrome is alive and well in this household.

You would think that the proof was in the proofs, right? Fortunately, I already had experience of the  academic editorial processes from start to finish, having  been a publications assistant to Professor Norman Davies many years ago. That doesn’t mean that I encountered no surprises along the way though.

In a flurried exchange of emails, the jacket underwent several typographical revisions, that suggested to me that it had undergone only the most cursory of edits. The lesson is this. You may have an editor, but you need to be the fiercest critic, because at the end of the day, your book is what you sweated tears for, what you gave up time with friends, family and probably invested the state of your mental health in. Your name is on the cover. Therefore criticisms about anything from a rogue comma, to missed diacritics to inadequately explained hypotheses will be laid at your door. The editor’s name will be buried in the acknowledgements and he or she is probably already working on the next job. Pay particular attention if you are working in a language other than English, which your editor doesn’t read. After battling with Word to systematically make the word ‘i’ (‘and’ in Polish) lower case, I had to repeat the process yet again, since the editor had capitalised it as a correction.

 Acknowledgements – make sure you run through everyone you want to list. Otherwise you end up, like me, having to apologise to people for not including them, whilst inviting them to the launch event.

Permissions – start the process as soon as you identify images, tables, book covers that you want to use. You will need to pay for them and the process may take months.

Publicity – you will need to do it yourself. Unless you are the next big thing, the hours you spent filling out the author’s publicity form will be wasted. Keep in contact with the person responsible for author care. Don’t expect them to fund a launch, not even out of your royalties. Whilst it seems permissible to fund a £500 index, I had no joy with getting a very low key launch costing half the price set against royalties. A launch, at which I shall be selling books. If anyone can see the logic in that, please do let me know.

Translation rights – consider whether your work would find an audience in foreign markets. For example, I know that a book about Polish witchcraft will find a Polish publisher, however, there will also be interest in Germany and possibly Russia. Again, chase and email those who are supposed to be dealing with this. It’s in your interests.

Although as an academic author, you are able to operate without an agent and deal directly with the publisher, the downside is that you really are a very minor cog in the publishing machine. However, whether you are selling millions or 400, your launch is a very important event and it’s up to you to make it as much fun as possible. the subject of my next blog piece.

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