Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Writing Process – Incorporating Reader Comments and Changing the Title

I just finished a very minor rewrite of Secret Witness – my first true crime book.  The acquisitions editor sent it out to another author to gather comments about the book to improve it.  The reader (I don’t know who it was but they have my thanks) had one comment/suggestion.  The editor and I discussed it and I have gone through and made the change. 

I also had to go through and tell the editors where I wanted the photographs placed in the book.  The publisher of this book (The University of Michigan Press) does a great job of production and puts the photos throughout the book rather than in a section in the middle of the book.  Personally I’m a big fan of putting the photos where they relate to the text rather than being lumped together in the middle. 

This is all part of the writing process.  If you have an ego, this isn’t the business for you to consider.  Sometimes you have to be objective and in this case, I think the author that provided the comments may have been right.  The net result is a better book. 

The next step is that a copy-edit will be done on the book.  This is to clean up grammar and spelling.  The book then moves into production.  Somewhere along the line I will get a “blueline” copy of the book to review.  Back in the old days a blueline copy was a printout of how the book was laid out and is my final chance to make changes.  Nowdays this is a PDF file of the book as it appears in final form.  Generally you get a ridiculously short amount of time to review this copy – some publishers have hit me with 48 hours turnaround time.   

Then the book is gone.  Months will pass. As an author you move onto other projects.  Then suddenly the book is available.  I have sometimes seen my books in a bookstore before I get my author’s copies or before anyone informs me it’s out.  No problem – as long as the book is out and people are reading it. 

This book, re-re-renamed Secret Witness, went through several title changes.   When it pitched the idea to the acquisitions editor I used this title.  When we finished the book the suggestion came up to change the book title.  I’m game.  The running joke I use is, “you can call this book Free Beer if it will sell copies.” 

We bounced around two other titles – In the Shadow of Fear and Grip of Terror.  I used Facebook to float the titles out there and everyone favored In the Shadow of Fear.  I liked Grip of Terror because I think books that have short titles are better for readers to wrap their hands around.  Based on my informal market survey (Facebook comments) I went with In the Shadow of Fear, but I found out two days ago that the marketing people wanted to go back to Secret Witness.  It worked for me – that was the original title to begin with. 

The marketing folks also told me some general ideas they are bouncing around for the cover.  I can barely draw stick people so I’m excited to see what they eventually come up with. 

The reason I go over this is to explain a little bit about some of the background work as a writer that I go through.  Some of this has nothing to do with writing or research, but it has everything to do with the business of writing. 

So there you have it – another weekend as a writer.  Secret Witness, the story of the Nola Puyear bombing murder in Marshall Michigan in 1967, will be out next spring.  Until then, I’ve got two other proposals I’m working on, and another book I am writing. 

Life is good…

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