I'm about to be become a first time author as of January 12, 2009.
Yes, I'm excited. However, I never anticipated the painful process I endured for five months to reach this point.
Let me give you some background so that you can follow this track.
I wrote a non-fiction book about Sara Jane Moore, the 45 year old woman who shot at Pres. Gerald Ford in 1975. This book contains history, crime, a controversial topic and lots of folks who insisted on anonymity.
So, what is my pain about?
Lesson #1---Never promise what you can't guarantee you can deliver. My publisher, Palgrave-Macmillan wanted to add more of the 70s political history to the book. Good idea and I was sure I had all the material I would need in my files from previous research. I agreed to add another 20,000 words in four weeks. I had taken me at least four months to write 20,000 words.
You can already guess this was a disaster. I had heard first time authors are eager to please. Still, I felt I had grossly overestimated my skills.
Lesson #2---Attention to detail and notes. I always prided myself in being very organized. In terms of this book, I have files and file folders labeled for every part of this book. I have each and every scrap of everything. I had aligned all my end-notes so that material requiring validation was identified.
So, how could I not see what my editor at Palgrave could see in terms of matching notes to text? How could a comment from a letter in the Berkeley Barb, a former "underground newspaper," get linked with a comment from the FBI? But there is was. I spent hours double checking end-notes that I was sure were perfect. Next time I'm going back to the low-tech practice of 3" x 5" index cards.
Lesson #3--- I would never consider self-publishing a non-fiction book such as this now that I have seen the detailed review process Palgrave gave my book.
There are several elements to this statement. One very important observation was my editor's comments about my "tone" in the text. She said in many cases my observations sounded critical or judgment and that would undermine the credibility of the book. I had no idea I had done that and I certainly never meant to be critical or judgmental. But, there is was.
I never would have caught that.
Another piece is the close scrutiny of the legal department. Palgrave's lawyers spend more than six hours just with me reviewing every word, every interview, all background checks and sources.
I would never have put my book through such rigor. And, if I had hired a lawyer, the cost would have been prohibitive.
So, finally, if I ever have the opportunity to publish a second book, I hope I get the chance to show I'm on an accelerated publishing process learning curve.
Causes Geri Spieler Supports
Gobal Tolerance, Village Harvest, harvesting produce for the homeless and hungry. American Lung Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters,