Monday, September 24, 2007

Published Works

I've written before about how I used to work in book publishing. Well, I'll be honest with you. I've actually written two books.

My first book was published in 1988. Ghost Towns. It's out of print now, but you can still find copies if you search. It was a really interesting project, I worked really hard on finding information about the first ghost towns of North America, then moved on to the various Gold Rushes, from Georgia to California to the Yukon. From the first white settlements, to gold to silver to black gold, the book covers a lot of ghost town history.

My second book was published in 1998. (Note the ten years between -- writing books is HARD.) I did this project for Bluewood Books, 100 Medical Milestones That Shaped World History.

Again, this book was really hard. I don't have a medical background and don't laugh, back then my little computer had all of 2400 bps. So gathering the information was a very, very slow process. Fortunately, my years as a graphic artist/book designer worked in my favor. I had spent many long hours in the past digging up photography and information for the many books I've worked on, so this was just another kind of research. Hard, but not impossible.

There is a LOT of research involved in doing a book. People have no clue about how much work is required.

First, of course, the client decides which projects they're interested in. Whatever was selling well last year is a first priority. Publishers want the same thing -- only different. IE, perhaps the same topic from a different perspective. You can't just copy the competition's books, you have to come up with other ways to present the information. (The movie business is very similar. Note that The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe have done so well, you'll see a bunch of similarly themed movies over the next few years. Some may even be pretty good. Honestly, most won't be that great, they've been gathering dust in the movie companies' warehouses. Now they're being rushed into video to capitalize on the current movie trends.)

Next, depending on the project, you have to familiarize yourself with the style of the book. 100 Medical Milestones is one of a series of books, so there is a particular way that the information is listed and presented. The pages are formatted in one style, with the topic, who discovered/invented/developed it, when that person or persons were born, an image of the person, place or thing. It's very strict, even to the word count on each page.

If the editor is lagging as you send in the text, you can really get screwed on your deadlines. Or, in my case, I had a computer glitch and lost half my text. So I had to rewrite half the book. ARRRGGGGHHHH! Fortunately, I had all the info in a pile next to the computer, so I could recreate it all. And by then the editor had gotten back to me, so it actually was a blessing in disguise. I'd have had to make some major revisions anyway, this gave me the chance to incorporate them during the rewrite. Sigh. It still sucked.

Oh, and both projects were "work for hire". That means I don't get any royalties on the books. I was paid a flat fee. One third upon completion of the approved outline of the book, one third on submission of completed manuscript (that includes incorporating all editorial changes), and one third upon publication. This is standard procedure for many books. (Please note the Amazon search box in the right column, you can do a search for and purchase my books by accessing Amazon from my blog. Please do, it gets me an extra nickel or two to help cover my teenager's cell phone bills. LOL!!)

I'm working on a couple of new projects these days. They're my own projects, so I'm not going to discuss them right now. I don't want to be swooped on the topics. Oh, yes, that happens more than people know. And you know, realistically, you can't copyright an idea, so it's usually better to keep your mouth shut until the project is completed. I really haven't decided if I want to self publish or shop it around once it's done. Self publishing is a lot of work. Plus the upfront costs involved in printing the book.

On the other hand, if I self publish, I can design the book myself. I don't have to argue with someone about the page design. Being a designer, I have strong ideas about the layout of my books.

So, then, here I am. Still writing, still designing. Still researching new projects. And looking forward to the next book. It's been nearly ten years, it's time to write and publish another one.

I think I've recovered from the last book...

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