Saturday, September 6, 2008

3/25/08 (updated 4/13/08): IT'S REAL. WOW...

The postman brought two packages yesterday. One contained a pair of shoes for formal bagpiping performances, but the other... one hundred fifty-eight six-by-nine-inch sheets of paper covered with words, with a very nice cover wrapped around them. In other words, a pre-publication proof copy of The Last Protector.

Wow. It's actually a book. After eight years in which I saw this story only on a computer screen or as typed pages in an envelope, I can finally hold a real live book in my hand, turn the pages, and read it.

I wonder if I'll like it...

Update (4/1/08): Proofing is done. I found twenty-some typos, which is not too bad for a book of this length. A surprising number of them were missing words, which seem to be related to a word-processor quirk: when I select a phrase to revise, if I move the mouse just so, the word processor (to avoid embarrassing a certain large software company, I'll avoid mentioning it by name) silently adds one word to the beginning of the selection. And if I don't notice this, when I type the revised phrase, I end up losing a word. Oops.

Oh yeah... I did like it.

Update (4/14/08): Proofing the proofed copy is done. Of course, I found that I'd introduced one new mistake when correcting the previous ones, because I didn't read the whole compound sentence carefully enough. Oops. It's a small error, maybe even unnoticeable, so we're going to leave it in the very first press run. The second press run will have it fixed, so those first few copies will become Valuable Collectibles. Right? Right??

THE PHILLY STEAK SANDWICH RULE (and other adventures in cover art)

The print edition of The Last Protector now has a cover! There's a back cover, too, with some nice words from another author. But most importantly, it obeys what I'm calling the "Philly Steak Sandwich Rule" of fantasy/SF cover art: a good cover is like a Philly Steak sandwich: all beef and cheese! Or, to put it another way, all a fantasy/SF cover really needs is a hero with a big sword and a heroine with big... umm... attributes. The picture is by John Kaufmann, the overall design is by Ardy M. Scott, and the endless fussing over the precise placement and shape of letters and such is by me.


Part of the fun of seeing my first novel go to press is learning about the publishing business. Last Friday's lesson concerned the "title data sheet," which is used by book distributors to help convince your local bookstore that they should carry my Magnum Opus. This would seem to be a straightforward exercise: summarize the book, make up some bullet points for marketing, and I'm done. Except... this thing's actually used to help sell books, so I can't really just blow it off, and this is a 150,000-word story that I'm trying to explain in a synopsis of 175 words or less, which only requires eliminating 99.883 percent of the words. But that's the easy part. Next comes the three bullet points, each of which must be under 25 words. I took a shot at it, and wound up with points that were not so much bullets as BB's. Sigh. Couple more drafts, couple more revisions, and I finally got three bullets... though I still think one of them's only a .22 caliber. And finally... the summary, in a whopping 50 words! This is the point where I start agonizing over whether I really need little words like the, an, and so forth.

Suffice it to say I got the job done. But I probably labored as hard on the 300 words of the "data sheet" as I did on any 300 words I've ever written.

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