Sunday, March 28, 2010


The old cliche is that flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. I can't dispute it.

Writing then is days of tedium rewarded by moments of intense pride and pleasure.

Anyone who has ever aspired to write a book knows what a labor it can be. You've got an idea, a concept, a thesis, a plot and you've decided the story needs to be told. You face the white expanse of that blank sheet on the MS Word screen and you start. Maybe you organize with an outline. Maybe you create some characters or a situation. Maybe you Hemingway it, fueling yourself with Pina Coladas and good cigars, to awaken weeks later with a masterpiece before you. No matter. It's work. Maybe a labor of love, but still work.

Nothing happens though until you get a publisher. Don't believe for a moment that "publishing on demand" is the answer or sending a check for $1500 to a vanity press to get fifty copies of your work is really "having a book." It is, but it isn't. It's the difference between masturbation and actual participating partner sex.

You might send a proposal to publishers, editors and agents. They might or might not give you the time of day. You might be fortunate, as I was, in having made some contacts who were already published that would open doors for you. If you've got a good manuscript and a whole lot of luck, you might get a contract.

That's like the hopeful couple who sit before the doctor and are told the rabbit died. It is a moment of elation and celebration. It is vindication of your concept, your talents, your effort. But it is a long way from a book. The baby is merely gestational.

With one behind you, I would be dishonest if I said it didn't get easier with regard to publishers. It doesn't get easier with regard to the manuscript, but if you've had reasonable success with your first work, you'll at least have contacts for your second.

The contract is the start of a year for most writers until a book exists. We're not some celebrity of the moment with a ghost writer who turns out trash in three weeks with a tell-all about Octo-mom and gets it in bookstores before her fifteen minutes of fame is exhausted. It will take a year of editor review, formal submission, acceptance, copy-edit, page-proofs, legal review, photo crediting, cover art, jacket copy, advertising text, and layout.

Along the way there are moments. The day a page-proof arrives by Fedex and you see a facsimile of a book is a moment. The agreement on cover art and a first look at what a buyer will see is another. Getting some advance reader comments is yet another and you finally begin to learn whether your book is actually any good in someone else's view.

But, the real moment is the birth. The presses have run. The books are in cartons for shipping to retailers. The release date is set and finally you have a first-run hard-back copy of your baby in your hands. That is when it is real. All other moments pale in comparison to the release of the actual product which readers around the world will be able to buy and hold and hopefully enjoy.

That moment came Thursday of this past week when "Fighter Pilot: Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds" came with the UPS man to my door.

I am simply thrilled with what St. Martin's Press has done. The cover, the layout, the jacket text are all worthy of the story of a great man. Christina Olds has done a great job for her dad to preserve his memory, his legacy, his writings and his story. Fighter pilots around the world will have a role model to show them what the business is about. Other readers will have a hero to look up to and a leader to respect. I will have made a small contribution to preserving the legacy of a great man.

It has been a good week for me.


Me said...

Can't wait to read it. If it's half as good as your other two, I won't be disappointed. From what I understand, Robin Olds was Da' MAN!

juvat said...

Been on order from Amazon since the first time I heard it was in the works. Now if they'd just send the darned thing!

immagikman said...

Too bad the Obama generation thinks pilots in planes are out moded and easily replaced with machines, if in fact weapons are necessary at all....for don't you see, it is pilots and other "Violent" types men that keep world peace from being a reality, no Men are things of the past, Metro-sexuals are the new owners of our cajones. :(