From Editing To My Bookshelf


I’ve been pretty busy over the past few weeks with the final editing of my next novel, The Memory of Trees, so my planned posting – From Production to Marketing – had to take a back seat. But maybe there was a reason for that.
About two weeks ago I got a call to meet up with a writing friend who was passing through Dublin on a trip to London. His offer of meeting up for an hour or two was a welcome relief from the networking, editing and general regime of hair-pulling every author seems to experience when an imminent ‘book-birth’ in near. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and dropped the pen in my left hand and stopped tapping away on the keyboard with my right hand.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat in a busy eaterie and headed for somewhere quieter to talk proper ‘writer shop’. I was conscious he had a 6.30am flight to London the next morning so I suggested somewhere close to the hotel he was staying at. In the end, we found ourselves in the foyer/reception area of his hotel with a drink in front of us. I’m lucky we can chat online as much as we do because he is an early bird and I am a night owl, so it suits that he is lives on the west coast of American and I am from Ireland.  When I’m heading to bed at 3am or 4am; he’s normally not too far away from his own bed. This was a rare meet-up – only the second face-to-face in about three years.
“So this editing you’re going over with your publisher – what’s different now than what you were doing a few years ago?”
I think he asked the question innocently enough, but my American friends have a way of asking a question sometimes, but making it seem like a feathered, pom-pom, cheerleading  accusation, like, ‘who do we appreciate- rah-rah?’,  ‘why don’t your Irish buses run on time?’ or ‘why are your sign posts so ambiguous when you get off the motorway?’
I wasn’t in control of the editing. For the second time in successive books someone else was in charge of editing my books. It was no longer a case of me wanting the book to be as good as I could make it, or as well edited as I could afford it to be.  It became about what the standard of my publisher expected of the book and me. Yes, you can employ and pay an editor, but editors work to the level of excellence you pay them for, and sometimes that is not always the standard of a published book. It’s an easy trap to fall into with self-publishing—confusing proofing with proper editing. Proofing is something that happens an already edited text for the printer, typesetter or web designer. It is not editing. A proof reader might tell you easter should have been written with a capital E, but they won’t tell you that you actually meant Christmas in your novel.
When I look back on the books I published in the 1990’s, I was proud of what I achieved, and though some of those books reached store bookshelves, I recognised their miss-sized oddity, and their garish dust jackets. I had learned how to stitch and bind books long before we ever heard of print on demand. In many ways, what I was doing was what William Blake and Walt Whitman had done to produce their first volumes for the published world. I still have a few copies of those old self-published books on my own bookshelf at home—and they sit just at uncomfortably beside their better neighbours. Ultimately, they are mine, by my mind and hand.
When my American friend went to make his way to his room after a longer evening of chat and drink than he had planned for; he reached into a small case he had tucked under the table we were sitting at and pulled out a slim leather bound edition of his soon-to-be published poetry collection.
“Damn publisher should have had copies of the book before I left home, so I had to get a couple of hundred of these things done to show folks over the coming weeks.”
He shoved the book into my hand, almost apologetically.
“I’ll put a proper copy in the post for you when I get home next month. The publisher should have the review copies ready by then.”
I didn’t feel quite so bad, and as my American friend hobbled off upstairs to bed in the late night silence of the hotel foyer, I thought;
I know just where this volume will feel most at home. 

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