1. Since I got back from the road trip I’ve basically been locked up in my office, putting the finishing touches on my final edit for the book. It has to be at the publisher’s by Monday morning.
I’m pretty much done. Just going over it again and again and again, micro-tweaking the hell out of it.
2. I’ve been told that the official launch date is June 9th, 2009. Yes, for us Internet types used to immediate electronic gratification, that seems like a long way’s away. But hey, this is books, not blogging. I’m told designing a book properly takes forever. Ditto with getting the sales team up to speed. Marketing, ditto. I’m told that if you want your book featured in a magazine article for one of the majors, say, Forbes or Businessweek, they need to see galleys at least four months prior to the launch.
3. And then there’s the psychological pressure. You make a mistake on a blog post, it’s easy to go back and fix it, or at least, try better next time. But once a book is in print, the mistake is there, in hardback, on paper, forever. If you make a mistake on a blog, well, it’s your blog, so nobody really cares besides yourself. If you make a mistake with a book, suddenly there’s a whole list of people you’re letting down- editors, agents, sales people, retailers. As the deadline approaches, I feel this more and more acutely. It wasn’t something I ever really thought too much about before, until it became real.
4. I remember a decade or two ago, Woody Allen telling a journalist that he never, ever watches his movies ever again, once the final edit is in the can. At the time I thought that was rather odd. What? Don’t you want to occasionally visit your baby? Your masterpiece?
But having lived with this book in various manifestations for over four years, I can now totally relate to what Woody Allen was talking about. As my film director friend, Dave Mackenzie once told me, by the time you’re done with a large project, you are so bloody sick of it- all the pressure, all the meetings, all the changes, all the keeping the thousands of balls up in the air- that you never want to see it again. Though writing this book wasn’t nearly as much work as making a feature film, this feeling does permeate. This book is “me” four years ago. This book is not “me” now. I feel that in spades at the moment.
5. In one of the final chapters of the book, I tell how I never really set out to be a professional cartoonist. Nor did I set out to be an Internet consultant. They just kinda-sorta happened. I feel the same way about becoming an “author”.
6. A few months back I tracked down a very dear friend of mine, Mark O’Donnell and sent him an e-mail, congratulating him. Mark is pretty much my oldest “creative hero”, ever. I’ve known him since I was nine years old. Mark is the consumate, old school, New York humorist. He wrote for the Harvard Lampoon back in college. Later he wrote for The New Yorker. He wrote for Saturday Night Live. He wrote for Spy magazine. He published comic novels and wrote off-Broadway plays. He still lives in the same Upper West Side, rent-controlled apartment he moved into in 1976, the year he graduated from college.
Why was I congratulating him? Because after struggling away for all those decades- lots of highbrow, critical acclaim, but zero money- he FINALLY landed his first bit of massive worldly success. He wrote the words and lyrics to the Tony-Award winning musical [and later, the movie], “Hairspray”. It was huge for him.
So I write him an e-mail, sending him big kudos. The guy’s a genius, no one deserves a massive hit more than he. I just wanted to let him know that.
He wrote back: “And Hairspray is like only one per cent of what I’m proud of.” A-ha! Bingo. That pretty much is how I feel about the book. Just one small step in a very long march.
[PS: Mark also wrote the lyrics to John Water’s next musical, “Crybaby”, based on the movie with Johnny Depp. Rock on.]
7. I’m not worried about book sales per se. Having a bestseller would be lovely, sure, but no-one has any control over these things, especially not a first-time author. I’m sure as hell not relying on it financially. What concerns me far more is how the book will affect the rest of what I’m up to. For the better? For the worse? Again, I feel a lot of that is well beyond my control.
8. I wonder what my second book is going to be about…
[UPDATE] Mark left a comment below: “I’m happy for the ancillary coverage. You know more about me than my agent. Congrats on the bouncing baby book! It is a challenge to enjoy it and to keep perspective at the same time. — Mark O’Donnell”
[Note to Newbies: The book is based on a 10,000 word blog post I did back in 2004, called “How To Be Creative”. So far it’s been downloaded & read well over a million times etc.]