Monday, March 28, 2005

Reality check on writing

“If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.” You’ve probably heard others say that in relation to a variety of subjects. I’m thinking of the phrase at this moment in relation to the reality of writing and more importantly, publishing my book, When Towns Had Teams.

Believe it or not, the latter is probably going to be the more difficult part. The writing of late has been progressing fairly smoothly and I’m currently done with five of my 11 proposed chapters, with the sixth one nearly completed.

I met with a publisher this afternoon. While the meeting went well, I came home discouraged and filled with doubts about the sanity of my original intention of writing this book on town team baseball.

Like I said, the meeting went well; the editor wanted to know more about my book that I had sent a proposal to him about. The publisher was non-committal about anything other than learning more about my project and ideas for the book. While this is basically what I knew was going to happen, I think I secretly harbored some illusion that somehow, the publisher might be so impressed with my knowledge about the arcane details of my subject, the wonderful vintage photos I've obtained and my enthusiasm for the project, that he was going to circumvent the process.

Basically, when I left his office mid-afternoon, I realized that once my manuscript is finished (probably the end of May), I will send it to him to read. At that point, I may not hear back for six to eight weeks. At that point, if the book is one he feels worthy of publication by his small press (they publish 5 or 6 titles per year), then we might begin talking contract. There may be some suggestions and a need to rewrite or make some changes. If I agree with the terms of the contract and am ok with letting someone else change something I’ve lived with for almost a year at that point, then I will be placed in a queue for publication and once the changes are made, maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a book ready for release in the spring of 2006. Yes, you heard me right; 2006! Granted, since this is a small press, the date could be pushed back to summer or even later.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a bit crushed tonight. Crushed, but not beaten. At this point, I can’t think much further out than the prospect of completing my manuscript. At that point, I’m going to have to make a decision if I’m going to continue down the traditional route of publication, or am I going to think seriously about self-publishing? For any musicians out there, self-publishing is sort of like releasing your recording on your own label. There are pros and cons to both. Having a contract with a major label (traditional publisher for a book) means they own the product and while they are marketing it, you lose creative control. Granted, they are doing the marketing, which technically frees you up to record a new product, tour (begin writing a new book/articles), there’s no guarantee they’ll get behind it like you would, schlepping it out of the trunk of your car or selling it at a table during and after gigs.

Yes indeed, if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they?


asfo_del said...

For whatever it's worth, you have my awed respect and admiration for taking on such a demanding project and actually carrying it through. I hope you don't become discouraged and continue to be proud of what you have accomplished. Best wishes!

Jim said...


Thanks for your kind words once again regarding my writing.

It is a struggle at times, particularly dealing with fewer and fewer options for books that arent' for mass consumption. I recognize that my subject and audience is a regional one at best.

What keeps me going is the knowledge that the information I've collected and the stories I've gathered are worthy of hearing. There were some special people who played town team baseball and they represent a Maine that is rapidly disappearing, except in historical collections and books like mine.

My focus now is to complete the manuscript and then see what happens. I'm learning not to get ahead myself, as new things keep being learned along the way. It's kind of mystical in some ways, and I'm normally not that type of person. I've heard other novelists talk about the same things and I always used to dismiss it.