Recently, I recalled one of the lows of book writing in a local newspaper: the many rejections an author faces. In this column, I am balancing that up with the joys.
One of the high points of writing a book with a publisher is seeing that final book delivered to my doorstep. The first time only happens once, and in my case, it was when my book about teaching at Monmouth High School landed on my porch. However, I must admit that the deliveries of the first and second Endurance mysteries were also joyous occasions. I opened those boxes and picked up the first copies, forgetting all those long hours of researching, planning, writing, editing, and proofreading over months of my life. Seeing my words in print and my name on the cover of a book is always amazing. There are no words …
Let me say this less I forget: I love the UPS lady.
What many people do not realize is that the birth of a book actually involves two deliveries. First, I receive a box of paperback, smaller versions of my book called Advance Reader Copies [ARCs]. These used to be called “galley proofs” back in the earlier days of publishing. These copies–as it says right on the cover–are not for sale. Authors, as well as publishers, send them out to reviewers, using those reviews on the actual back or front of the final copy.
Another use for this paperback version is giveaways. I have a newsletter on my website, and people who sign up for it are put in a pool to receive free ARCs in a giveaway. This happens well before the book comes out, so they read it before everyone else. I usually give away five ARCs through my newsletter.
GoodReads is a website for people who love to read books and review them or recommend them. This site allows authors to do free giveaways. Marry in Haste had two free giveaways of three ARCs apiece. Over a thousand readers signed up for each of the two contests, and six people won ARCs for Marry in Haste. They live in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. Although giveaways allow more people to become acquainted with my books, I must grudgingly pay the postage to ship to the winners. I spend a great deal of time at the Monmouth Post Office having book packages weighed and shipped, so I’m doing my part to keep the postal system going. Ben Franklin, our first postmaster, whose proverbs provided my book titles, would be happy. I’m beginning to think of him as a close friend.
My last two books came out in the month of November, and the ARCs were sent in early June. This allowed me a month to proofread the ARC before the final copy began the road to publication. Now that books are done digitally, the publisher already has the book formatted, allowing the printers to add my changes before it goes to press. I send the publisher a list of changes formatted in three columns: the page and line number, what it currently says, and what I want it to say. They make the changes and put the reviews on the cover, and off it goes to the printer. The final book will be done in a little over three additional months with my current publisher.
I also have two secret weapons: two of my friends use my ARCs to proofread. I refuse to have my name on a book that is filled with typos and grammar errors. Sending out a good product is crucial to me, so my friends–who share this idea of quality–do a wonderful job of finding errors I miss. It is difficult to proofread my own writing, and often I make some truly stupid mistakes. I have no ego here; the more eyes on the text, the better.
Finally, that day arrives when my printed, much-loved, and anxiously-awaited book is shipped, and the UPS lady pulls into my driveway and begins unpacking boxes and boxes and boxes. Some of these are sent to me free because of my contract; others I buy at a discounted rate to use for book sales and signings. Several stores and gift shops in Monmouth and Galesburg sell these books locally.
These gift shop owners, along with the workers at the Warren County Public Library, are also on my list of people I love, just like the UPS lady. As you can probably tell, even recalling that final book delivery is a euphoric memory.
Reprinted with permission of the Review Atlas