Done but still untitled

By the way, it turns out that the fourth draft of my manuscript, which I sent off to my editor at Riverhead in May, was indeed the last and final draft.

In other words, the manuscript (ie, book) is officially finished. It is written. Done.

I chatted with my editor the other day, and he loved it. Thinks it’s a winner. All that.

In particular, you may recall that the only major and noteworthy change in the final draft was a new final chapter. A chapter of “lessons”. My editor likes that chapter exactly as is, without any iteration.

So we now have an interesting timeline:

  • I got my book deal with Riverhead in December 2007, a bit over 2Β½ years ago.
  • About one year later, I delivered the first draft. So that was 1Β½ years ago.
  • Just over 2 years after the deal, I sent my final draft.

So I guess it took two years to write the book. But for much of the time between drafts, I was really just waiting for my editor to get back to me. So it actually only took about 1Β½ years of work. And always part time, (after the kids went to bed, on weekends etc.). No big deal. Consider that, if you’re thinking about writing a book.

That said…

The surprise, therefore, is not how long it took me (not long) or how hard it was (not hard) but how incredibly, mind-numbingly slow the publishing industry is.

The next step, I have been told, is now for the publishers of Riverhead (ie, the boss) to set a publication date. You might think, as I once thought, that they simply start printing and there we are. Oh no. Various mysterious processes now begin, and they take half a year or so.

Furthermore, the scheduling of a book release is apparently both science and art, so tactics come into it. You may not want to release in the fall, when celebrity authors come out; you may want to release just after Christmas when reviewers and connoisseurs apparently look for new talent; and so forth.

So now I am, as I have been, waiting. Just waiting.

Oh, and we haven’t chosen a title yet. They think it’s incredibly important, but are in no hurry. You’ll be the first to know.

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48 thoughts on “Done but still untitled

  1. Congrats! As we used to say in the book business, now that you’ve handed in your book “the real work begins” (ie. promotion).

  2. For the title of your book, how about something along the lines of, “Lessons From a Man Who Walked Over The Alps With an Elephant”.

    Although unusually long, it might catch the attention of book buyers.

    Think only of the now quite famous “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” – a longer than normal title. But, if in a bookstore and you saw this title on a book jacket, wouldn’t this alone make you at least pick the book up to learn what it’s about?

    • But, just having read this blog, wouldn’t you guess that I’m a minimalist-word-count-title kinda guy?

      In my mind, I’m actually counting syllables, never mind words, to see how few I can get away with….

      Admittedly, that may just be the Zeitgeist. The full title of Darwin’s opus magnus was:

      “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”

      How did he get away with that?

    • I know you didn’t ask, but . . .

      Considering the subject matter, you might want to have different titles to appeal to different demographics. So for the 50+ crowd, who have heard of Hannibal you could go with something prosaic such as Hannibal: Another View.

      For the 30-40 group, who may not be familiar with the subject matter, but have grown up on Oprah, you could try something like Travels in Italy with a Mass Murderer.

      For the 20 somethings, you better play up technology and the possibilities are fairly wide: Travelling With No Starbucks: Ways to Deal With the Stress, or How I Unfriended 79,000 People in One Day, or I’M 1 Bad MoFo & i’m cmng 2 kik yr (_!_)

      Just thinking out loud here.

    • πŸ™‚

      Love the proactive thinking.

      Since you’re on a roll, could you find the right title for the “Eat, Pray, Love” crowd? (I won’t describe the demographic, you know it.)

    • That is truly too hard an assignment, especially because I hear they have made a movie of the book with Julia Roberts. When I heard that it limited my cognitive capabilities and all I can come up with is “Eat, Pray, Love II–This Time I REALLY Let Go.”

    • The title definitely has to be a Lecter double-entendre of some sort.

      Maybe a rhyme: Lava Queens and a Vigilante

      Does your book happen to feature any lava queens and a vigilante of some sort?

  3. This saga has left me wondering about writing a book and waiting. I know you are not a patient man; I’m wondering about your real thoughts.

    • You’re not wondering about my real thoughts. You know my real thoughts: Happy about the book, pissed off about the wait. But what can I do?

      I guess I’d say that every writer I’ve talked to so far has found some part of the process frustrating, just a different part.

      A lot of authors have told me that their editors didn’t actually edit, ie showed no interest in the manuscript once they had bought it. In my case, it was just the opposite: my editor showed extreme interest in my manuscript, making suggestions on every page, down to commas and hyphens. I’m really grateful for that.

      But as to pacing, speed, time: I’m just flummoxed. I work for a weekly magazine, so I think in weeks. These guys think in years. When they miss a season, they say ‘oh well, next year.’ Perhaps this is why no country with a low life expectancy has a thriving publishing industry: They always died before the book came out. πŸ˜‰

  4. Master Cactus

    Congratulations! I promise I will purchase the EPUB version of your pamphlet for the E-Book Reader I still did not manage to purchase (on the bubble with Nook and Kindle as the options).

    Perhaps your next title will not require a publisher anymore, you sell it online.

    Will that weekly magazine review the book, once they found a title for it? (Is that one of the mysterious processes that has kicked off now and is my understanding correct that you are not involved in it???)

    In case this comforts you: Your impatience while waiting has a viral aspect. It’s catchin’ eh.

    Best regards,
    PP

    • Thanks, Peter Practice. You can read it telepathically if the technology allows it by the time the book’s out. πŸ˜‰

      No, the weekly magazine (ie The Economist) will NOT review my book. We have a policy against that.

  5. Thanks for your openness in sharing your experience. I have vicariously been there with you, so I am looking forward to the next part when the book is published and the experiences you will have in its promotion.

    Judging from your humor here on the blog, and your quick wit at the debate, you will have a lot of fun in that part of your adventure.

  6. Congrats! The first time is always the hardest. When you are ready for your second book, may be the e-publishing and e-books businesses will be a lot established and may be you can even self-publish your second book?

    Given your reservations in putting the last chapter of β€œlessons”, I would think if you were picking, you wouldn’t want it as part of the title? Or will you let the marketing team have more say in picking the title in order to help sell the book?

    Congrats again as the hard work by you are “done”. Will you do book signing tours?

    • Thanks, Kempton.

      Haven’t thought ahead to book tours and such matters yet.

      You mean, put the word “lessons” in the title? I’ve thought about it. But it’s just so incredibly … yucky. Plus, that would mean an automatic stamp of “Self Help”, in which case, even if it’s a bestseller, I would go and jump off a bridge….

  7. Congratulations! I can’t help but comment on the obvious parallels to expecting a baby … and we blog readers are so excited we want to name your kid! Welcome to the world, Hannibal — can’t wait to read you!

    • The very best situation to be in, I think! Keep us posted on that as well!!! Now that Hannibal is done, you have all this time to do everything your better half +1 requests πŸ˜‰

  8. Hey!!!! Congrats!!!!!! Waiting, as you know, has its rewards. No ‘lesson’ in the title, please… Forgive me Kempton. Make it short, though. Me, being almost in the threshold of finishing my novel, would like, forgive my daring, to hug you. Best of luck,

    • Well, huggy hug hug back to you. Congrats re the novel. Let us know how you fare with publication.

      Note to Riverhead: Ana says “no lessons in title!”

  9. your title is in the poem “IF”. perspective and perseverance. please avoid the words “lesson” or “self”.

    success is a cage, some desperate to enter, others desperate to escape, the wise man dwells around and between the bars.

    some quotes to inspire: “Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health.”

    “I care not so much what I am in the opinion of others, as what I am in my own; I would be rich of myself and not by borrowing.”

    “Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom.”

    – Montaigne, Michel Eyquem De

    • Yes, I’ve of course thought of “The two impostors” as the title. (That’s in the poem.) Possibly overused, though. (Also, we already ahve that other book, “The unforgiving minute”, also from the poem.)

      Love the quotes. Especially the bottom. Mine will always be happiest in Lotus on a tatami mat.

    • “the two impostors” way too obvious.

      something that combines/expresses a time, a state of mind and is an oxymoron. (last quote)

      thinking of neshama and kismet. of course i may not fully understand you’re book – but the title of “the tipping point” keeps popping up in my mind.

  10. “Hannibal and Helvetica”

    my first cage metaphor of success was also based on “the negative space” which graphic designers value as much as the “positive space’. you probably got that.

    best of luck deciding!

    • does the relationship between hannibal and “helvetica” (freedom/ neutrality/ location) make any sense?

    • ugh! insomnia.

      i thought hannibal named the alps “the helvetica territories”? i have some swiss coins that say LIBERTAS and Confoederatio Helvetica.

      possibly a big stretch. it struck me that the the poem instructs us to treat the two impostors the same, with neutrality. another generally accepted definition of “helvetica”.

      as an aside the font is a “visible oxymoron”. design to signify nothing it should have been so “forgettable” – yet it is most highly respected and recognized.

      of course, none of this may jive with the direction you went with the book.

    • Ah, I see. Now it’s really a stretch. πŸ˜‰
      Hannibal never went through Switzerland (he crossed from what we would call the French to the Italian Alps). And there were no countries there at the time. The Roman word “Helvetii” came later, around Caesar’s time. As usual, they chose a Gallic tribe the encountered and gave its name to the whole place.
      Later, the Germanic types did the same, and they called themselves Schwitzer, or Switzer, or Schwyzer or something like that….

  11. Congratulations and best wishes! You really have worked, we readers of your blog know it well, and you deserve results. As for the title, choose your own but listen to editors who usually know how to market a book.

  12. I will save my rant about “Eat, Pray, Love” for another place.

    Congratulations. Cheri is right: I, too, am amazed by your generous sharing of the experience.

    • You can save it for another place, but we are all begging on our knees for your rant about Eat, Pray, Love.

      Pleeeease, rant. Wherever. Just let us know where.

  13. Heartfelt congratulations.

    You are inspiring all the way.

    Family, Work, Book, in Lotus on a tatami mat and Blog… An admirable and very successful investment of time and talent.

    May sales reward you with further opportunity for your great capacity to share your interesting associations, analogies and questions.

    Thank you for letting us in.

    Exuvia

  14. In the Guardian UK’s site I saw this article called *Who Needs Publishers?* which, for obvious reasons, you may find of interest.

    The writer surmises that “……..with Apple’s iPad recently joining Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader as devices for reading downloaded books, power in publishing might just be shifting in the authors’ favour……….”

    • Very interesting. However, his article does sound a mainly like a plug for his book. As he says at the very end, the question is whether anybody will read it (staring at a screen, especially).
      The one non-negligible purpose publishers still fulfill is to bestow credibility on the books they choose in the minds of bookstores, reviewers and the reading public. How much longer? Don’t know. In ten years, we (authors) might cut them out of the loop. But for my first book I was afraid of doing that.

  15. Can you give us a lesson on writing titles for news and journal articles (not books)? I often get sucked into articles in the New York Times from Google News based solely on the title. Titles in the Economist have a recognizable feel, but I can’t figure out the algorithm. Do you teach this sort of thing in J-school?

  16. Let’s crowd-source this one, Mr Crotchety:

    Everybody, help Mr C out with some titling advice.

    I can offer my thoughts, but I won’t presume that I write good titles. I have no idea whether my titles work or not.

    I try to:
    1) keep them as short as possible
    2) minimize the ’empty’ words (the, a, to, etc)
    3) avoid cliches or overused puns
    4) tap into a dilemma, choice, tension, conundrum
    5) provoke (sometimes even irritate, incite, annoy, challenge)
    6) keep it open-ended (so the conclusion of the text might run counter to what the title would seem to imply)
    7) balance syllable counts in the words (avoid several polysyllabic words in a row)

    I might be able to think of other things.

    Also, remember the cardinal rule: Break any of these rules whenever it feels right

  17. OK. Thanks. You’re supposed to work on this for a week and get back to me. No pressure, but rules 1 – 7 are going on my bulletin board.

  18. My sincerest and heartfelt congratulations, Andreas. It must at least be a load off your mind to have the thing written … if not published. I can only imagine what that feels like….

    As for a title, how about Alpine Elephants and Other Successful Failures … too long?

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