Do You Remember The Daisy Wheel

A ebook version of a joint work
My attitude of changing technology being good for writers may be inherited.

When I was growing up, my mother Diane Jones typed her novels on a Smith-Corona with carbon paper copies. In those days, those smudgy pages were the back-up. If the editor dumped coffee on your precious pages or lost your book in the mail, you had to retype it into a clean copy and send it back to the publisher.

Eventually, Tandy came out with a dual-disk personal computer that we brought into our house with much excitement.  Diane even paid extra for the daisy-wheel printer to make her publisher happy. (For the writers of this century: The computers of the early 1980s came with dot matrix printers and nobody in New York would accept "those" print-outs as submissions. So professional writers paid extra for a daisy-wheel that mimicked the Selectric typewriter. And thus the editors saw that the manuscript had been professionally "typed.").

But Diane was handling "hard copies" of manuscripts as required by her NY publishers (Dell, Avon, Scholastic, and so on). There, somebody else retyped the complete manuscript into a format that could be turned into a book. These transcription typists were very good, but errors could creep in. So paper galleys were sent back to her and the editors, which had to be marked with a pen, bundled up into a box, mailed back, retyped, requiring more waiting, then "blue lines" (final copy, blue ink on blue paper) were mailed out to check to see if the editor had caught all the corrections and the typist had typed them into the manuscript, more marking, more mailing, and then more waiting until the book was done.

When I started writing books about collecting children's books with Diane, we were overjoyed to find a publisher who let us submit our manuscript on a floppy disk! This speeded up the process, although we had to send a print copy as well as the disk through the mail. We still waded through the usual rounds of galleys being mailed back and forth. Also, our scans of book covers couldn't be submitted on the disks available to us (the digital files were too big) so we had to send actual color prints to be rescanned on their end. Which caused a number of color correction headaches, but was less difficult than shooting film and submitting negatives.

Eventually we both invested in zip drives, and then CD drives, that let us mail off an entire book, graphics and all, contained in one slim envelope.

These days, I write my books on a laptop. I submit files via email and share large images on the cloud via Google Drive or similar software.

My mother grabbed rights back from her NY publishers, converted her old paperbacks into digital copies, and now republishes them herself as ebooks. Neither of us wants to go back to the "old days" of producing books. And the typewriter is just a hipster decorating item on the top of the bookcase.

When our joint project on collectible children's books went out of print, we secured the rights to those and start republishing the most popular chapters as smaller ebooks like The Wizard of Oz and Friends.

Can't wait to see where the tech goes next....


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