WRITING IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Writing a book is demanding. Publishing a book is another story. I’m generally very disciplined, so setting myself in front of the computer every day for about ten months was challenging, but doable. Plus, I already had a doctoral dissertation under my belt, so it wasn’t as formidable a task as a first effort might have been.
However, as with my university treatise, the biggest headache didn’t lie with the actual writing (not to minimize the endeavor in any way), but with everything else associated with the undertaking. My Apple computer certainly was an upgrade from my Brother word processor, and what a relief to be able to upload digital photos as opposed to photocopying and scanning, cutting and pasting, and then covering up the inevitable blemishes along the edges of the images with the white-out tape that seemed oh-so-modern at the time.
How ever did the academic world survive through the typewriter? Perhaps the standards for visual “perfection” weren’t as narrow. My up-to-date experience with typesetting, for example, led to some serious head scratching when a “state-of-the-art” font seemed to react oddly to apostrophes.
Despite the seemingly ultra-flexible kerning available on said font, I still had to deal with words that I hadn’t ever seen before, such as “hes” with an apostrophe floating somewhere over the three letters that to the naked eye didn’t have any space between them whatsoever.
As my language comfort doesn’t embrace all lowercase email messages, I could in no way incorporate such trailblazing interpretations of the English language in the book I had worked so hard to create.
THE FIRST COPY
And then one day, a year and a half after I had actually finished writing it, my book arrived. I opened the USPS’s priority mail, flat rate envelope, and I was holding the proof copy in my hand. At first, I felt a flash of disbelief. Through all of the (in retrospect ludicrous) struggles with the details, I had almost been convinced that it wasn’t ever going to happen. (By the way, this is where a memoir writer might have gotten all emotional, but my book is more of a travelogue, so I remained composed as I proudly surveyed the cover.)
Flipping through the pages, I knew that this would be the last opportunity to make changes, so I read through it yet again. This reading was different. Although I told myself that I was on the hunt for errors, I knew that I wasn’t about to find any. I read for the sheer enjoyment.
What a pleasure to actually hold the book in my hands. Although I have plans for an electronic version, I don’t have an e-reader or a tablet. I’ve always read my books the old-fashioned way, and it was such a relief to finally have that satisfaction with the book I had spent so much time with viewed on a computer screen.
THE FIRST SALES
Shortly thereafter I received my first shipment of books. The UPS driver had them stacked up at my front door before I could answer it. Another couple of boxes arrived the same day in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Members of the Anglo-Italian Club for whom I had presented my book a few months earlier were waiting for the delivery.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble had it up on their sites. A cousin of a friend placed what was probably the first Canadian order. Amazon.it had it on their site a week later, at first stating it wasn’t yet available and then a notice that they had “2 copies with others arriving.”
The official “release date” was January 7th. It passed without my knowing it. I was busy.
I don’t know how many copies sold in the first month. That report hasn’t yet been communicated to me. I’m not really concerned although I will continue with my publicity and marketing efforts. I had an important story to tell about a neglected, oft-maligned region in southern Italy. I’ve told it, and Calabria: The Other Italy has been published.
Now that you’ve read my reflections on publishing a book based on my four years living, working and traveling in Calabria, are you curious to learn what it’s about? Calabria: The Other Italy is a non-fiction book that explores daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in a fascinating, southern Italian region that is full of surprises. Read the Book Reviews.
Come to Calabria with me! Check out the itineraries of one of my small-group tours: Calabria tours.
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