This week I received the copy edited version of my first book manuscript. I was exuberantly happy and excited to reach this point in the production process. I jumped right in to review the copy editor’s suggestions and queries—wondering if I was as good a writer and proofreader as I imagined. I mean, I have spent ***number of years perfecting my dissertation into an awesomely, publishable piece of scholarship worthy of being called such. It’s been a labor of love—and hate. You know its hard out here for a….p—uh, a person who is trying to publish. Still, I am happy to finally be in this place.
It reminded me, however, that I still know very little about the publishing process. It seems I am learning as a go, unsure of what questions to ask and to whom to direct them. And what is this about creating my own index???? It is a lonely, scary world for the first time author. I feel totally inept at managing the process. I have tackled everything from securing copyright clearance for decades old blues songs, to negotiating permission from an artist to use his work as cover art, to then having to professionally scan the original art work that is in my possession, to contracting an indexer only to realize that I am, in fact, the best person to do the job. That’s not to mention actually formatting the manuscript according the publisher’s guidelines and all that that entails.
It has been a learning process filled with anxiety, excitement, and the thrill of learning something new. I’m am feeling real insecure about the index project. I’ve convinced myself that I can, in fact, do the job, but I am not confident about final product. I have no clue about the details and formatting that makes a really good index. It seems time consuming and the publisher has assured me that time is not on my side. It can all be overwhelming at times and my stuff isn’t even in press yet! I am constantly asking myself, how could I have better prepared myself for this? How could I have clued myself in to the process in a real, informed sort of way?
Don’t misunderstand me. I read books on publishing and polled colleagues and mentors about the process. Most gave honest, though vague answers: the contract is pretty basic, pay someone to do your index, and it will take about a year from contract offer to book release. Very few mentioned any of the leg work of securing permissions, cover art, or the possibility of creating your own index.
The process has not been overly burdensome, but when you are behind the learning curve one may find themselves spending more time playing catch-up. Now that I am (almost) fully initiated into the club of published scholars, I do not feel so anxious or uninformed about the process. I have faced the gauntlet and survived another day. Future monographs will certainly not provoke the cold sweats and nervous jitters as this very first one. I will keep you informed about the index—who knows how that will turn out? But it is my first and there is something inspiring about taking the time to learn the process the first go ‘round.
I suppose it makes my entry into the profession official—almost the equivalent to dissertating and defending for the young professional. I can dig it. I just hope the next batch of newbie scholars can crack the code and know what they are in for prior to taking the leap. I imagine it makes the process much more seamless.
Conjuring Moments in African American Literature: Women, Spirit Work and Other Such Hoodoo will be available from Palgrave Macmillan Press in January 2013.