Back-up, Back-up, Back-up

There used to be a sense in publishing that when your books made it into hardback that you'd scaled a new peak in professionalism. Also you should make more money because hardbacks cost more than softcovers! So I was  excited when my publisher decided that four earlier softcover books would be combined into an encyclopedia would be issued in hardcover.

But be careful what you wish for! The publisher closed down the division shortly after the book appeared and the Encyclopedia quickly disappeared from bookstores.  The royalties were far less than all previous softcover books, despite the higher cover price. Still, this project taught me to value back-ups. An earlier version of this article appeared on Red Room.

Hardcover Headaches and Triumphs

My first hardcover book weighed 3 lbs according to the publisher's website. All I know is that it is my first book that's actually slightly bigger than my laptop.

The Encyclopedia of Collectible Children's Books was one of those projects that seemed really simple when it started and got slightly more complicated and then insanely more complicated as we went along.

Things that I learned along the way of putting together a book that was the "best" of four previous books on the topic (as well as multiple changes and additions to reflect the changing market of collectible books):
  • Just because you have a back-up doesn't mean you can open it. The oldest back-ups from Book 1 were  not compatible with our current word processing software.
  • There is a reason for storing that old laptop in the basement. Using it, we were able to translate those elderly (decade old files) into a 21st-century version that could be opened by our current laptops. The fact that the oldest laptop screen would only come on in the "slightly open" position made it more interesting.
  • Even through you check and doublecheck your copy, the gremlins will eat a paragraph or two. Somewhere during the final edit, I discovered a favorite Edwardian illustrator had vanished from the manuscript. Luckily the editor and designer #3 (designers #1 and #2 apparently fled screaming into the night) figured out how to shoehorn that information back into the book.
  • No matter how carefully you plan, everything happens at once. I really, really didn't expect to have my first novel to go through final edits with the publisher as we were preparing the first draft of the Encyclopedia. I would have preferred a few more months apart -- and having a boss at my day job quit during the same period and increasing responsibilities at said day job just added to hysteria.
  • Working with an understanding writing partner is (as the commercial says) priceless. Thank heavens, we live in the same time zone. Endless e-mails, phone calls, and she would make dinner when I'd come over to her house to read over the drafts. Wow!
So the Encyclopedia is taught me a lot about back-ups. And it does feel good to have 3 lbs of shiny nonfiction on my bookshelf.


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