Baker Ben suggested that since the testing is over and we had such a great group come together, that I continue to blog about the actual process we'll be going through to actually get the book into print. I think it's a great idea, so, with thanks to Ben, here goes:
July and August were simply insane. I was putting out a couple of dozen recipes each month, keeping track of all the testing and feedback and trying to get all of the other stuff written. It was madness, to the point where everything else on my to-do lists (several) simply had to be pushed aside so that I could get the manuscript done by the 9/1 deadline.
Norm and I were on the phone at least weekly -- usually more often than that -- going over recipes, fine points and all of the background stuff that needed to be included in the book we wanted to write. If I tell you all that I got very little sleep over the last couple of weeks, it wouldn't be an exaggeration.
Those last 2-3 weeks are a blur now, writing, researching, fine-tuning, making sure all of the measurements and conversions were right, all of the steps and procedures consistent and all of the narrative smooth and where it was supposed to be.
9/1 came around and I had about 99% done ... everything except for the Acknowledgements, Picture Credits (since we hadn't yet made final picture choices), and a couple of last-minute recipe tweaks. Nonetheless, I assembled what we had -- about 280 pages, including somewhere around 130 recipes -- and emailed it off to our publisher and our agent.
So of course the publisher said, "Well, no rush. Just put everything together, print it all out, burn the files into a CD and send it off to me when you can." When I met with him back East the beginning of July, he didn't seem like he was terribly concerned about deadlines, but I like to honor my commitments.
So Norm and I went back at it, doing illustrations of the challah braiding, strudel dough stretching, and a couple of other recipes, including the rye flour honey cake (lekach) and revised plum cake (flomenkuchen). I figured I'd take a couple of weeks to make sure we got it all in shape. So naturally, less than a week later, I get an email from Edward (the publisher) asking, "When will we get the package?" Shift into high gear, put the final touches on it.
At that point, my laptop died. I mean really died: motherboard, display, keypad, who knows what else? Of course, I'd been backing up to spare hard drives, pen drives and whatever, so I had three or four backups and didn't lose a thing. Switched to an old Dell that we had lying around ... slow as honey on a cold day ... got the manuscript all put together and start printing .... now at 260 pages, after some cuts and consolidations.
Print, print, print. At page 243, my printer dies <sigh>, so I load the finished file into a pen drive, take it downstairs and finish on my wife's printer. That's Monday morning a week ago (9/12). Then I discover that the old Dell's CD drive can only read; it doesn't burn. Back downstairs to burn the CD on Syl's puter. Pack it all up into a FedEx box and drive it down to the local Kinko's/FedEx office.
A week earlier, I had asked our agent, Stephany, about typical production schedules and she said, "Be patient. It usually takes a publisher 9-12 months to get a book into print." Nine months to a year ... feels like an eternity.
At that point, I had such mixed feelings ... so much intense work, suddenly ground to a halt, all this energy with no place to go and exhaustion suddenly setting in. For two days, I could barely think. But at the same time, I felt the same way I did when I took my kids to their first day of kindergarten: proud, full of anticipation, a little bit afraid that they wouldn't do well and also sad that in an instant I was no longer as needed as I'd been the day before. Norm and I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking about the closure of that part of the process, which he said was less real for him, since he wasn't involved in any of the writing.
It was strange, the sense of loss finishing the book created -- first the dissolution of our tester group, which had brought together well over 100 people and created a very intimate bond of shared experience, and then the departure of my youngest child (the book).
I waited until today (9/23) to phone Edward to find out how things were going with the book and whether he could give me more information on the production schedule, other next steps and how much more work would be needed. Instead I got Brad, the head editor, a very kindly man who clearly loves books. "It looks very good," he said. "We just need to get it to copy editing and then we'll have a better idea of what else needs to be done, but I don't think it will be very much."
Then I asked the question I really wanted answered: "Any idea of the publication date?"
"We want to get it out before summer ... probably in the March-April timeframe. We want this book to look terrific, so we're choosing our designer carefully."
March-April! Six or seven months! Wow! .... Other things to think about now ... promotion and finishing up all the remaining tweaks and revisions (there are still a few), getting all of the photo permissions in place ...
We've entered a new level of reality.
(to be continued)