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Episode 38: Publishing’s Lunatic Paradigm

November 12, 2012

August saw the book editing really take off. Once Heather had set a baseline from the original manuscript, it became possible to push forward with new content. Being a ghostwriter, Heather picked up my writing style quickly, which made my job easier. We hoped that Heather’s experience as a ghostwriter would relieve me of the burden of writing, but the process ended up being more developmental editing than ghostwriting. I would produce sections of material and she would message them into place, at the same time producing new portions herself.

The collaboration grew complicated. We collided, editing the same portions of the manuscript simultaneously. The result meant integrating our changes together by hand—a long, arduous process. Every time a new set of updates came in, I would sit at my monitors and painstakingly integrate the changes together—hours and hours of work in addition to my authoring duties.

And it still felt like there wasn’t a strongly defined target for the manuscript–what it should contain, the order of information, overall flow, etc. The feeling of not having a definite target had started eariy on with the publisher, but I hoped that having an editor would create clarity and direction, but it didn’t. There just wasn’t a feeling of ‘the manuscript needs x and y, and this is how it should be assembled’. Even though we had an editor, as an author I still did not feel as though I had a solid understanding of the process or steps to achieve completion.

Inevitably, this led to me writing this insight about the publishing and writing world:

Even months into my first experience working in the publishing world, I’m still stunned by the differences between the razor-honed environment of Silicon Valley and the strange business of book publishing.

It is clear that I am trying to write and launch a book in an environment which I still do not completely comprehend. The responsibility for creating the book, as I see it, revolves almost entirely around the author. Everything from concept to delivery to marketing seems to rely largely upon the author, even though the author is likely to be the *least* knowledgeable entity in every discipline, save that of the original concept itself.

In Silicon Valley, where I come from, things usually work differently. When a concept comes to the table, a person in each discipline comes forward as a part of the team to add their expertise in bringing the concept to fruition. Marketing, engineering, service support, sales – all automatically apply their sage experience to the task, taking up the mantle and executing their portion of the project with comparatively little need for input. It’s a well-worn path. They know what needs to be done. This is precisely why it is so easy for Terry and Russell to come onboard the Magical Matches team. Silicon Valley has always been their neighborhood; they know these streets.

In contrast, Judy and I have no real knowledge of how to author a book. The science (or art) of construction, prose, delivery, pacing, voice is all foreign; it might as well be Jupiter. On the other side of the table are editors, venerable authors, publishers, and publicists, all descendants of Gutenberg: almost 600 years of genetic progeny in the art and toil of The Word.

Yet, it seems as if the onus in publishing falls to the naive first-time author. Even surrounded by experts, the stories of authors drowning in their own sea of inexperience seems commonplacee. Those who should be lifeguards are actually more like bystanders, watching the first-time author hopelessly flail. I find this paradigm to be utter lunacy.

I was burned out, frustrated and desperately needed to finish the manuscript as quickly as possible.


Click here for Episode 39: Out of the Shadows

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