I try to keep my posts to all things plant related, whether it’s walking in the countryside, reading gardening books, growing plants or, even better, eating them. Now I can add writing about them to the list.
I could never have imagined last autumn when a publisher said they loved my idea for a book what it would have involved. Of course, at the time I thought I did. But isn’t that always the case with something new, because if we did fully understand the process we’d probably never do it in the first place. Instead we fall into things with differing degrees of naivety, discovering along the way whole new worlds that had previously been off our radar. For me writing this book has been a pretty steep learning curve. Previously I hadn’t had anything to do with the world of book publishing. I’d had some experience of research and writing long documents when I was at university but, other than that, nothing. Over the last few months a plethora of new words and phrases have appeared in documents and emails that I have never come across before and gradually the realisation has dawned on me that writing a book is not just simply getting some words on to a screen.
I’m developing a whole new appreciation of the work that goes into producing the books I love to read. It becomes a slightly obsessive process, partly because it’s not the sort of job that you can leave in the office on an evening and go home and forget about it. Ideas crop into your head whenever and wherever. As a result I have pieces of paper with frantically scrawled notes to self dotted about the house which, invariably, I can’t understand by the time I get round to looking at them properly. Because the book is about gardening and I’m growing all the plants for it, my usual, pre-book plant obsession has only multiplied. As the months progress this will be matched only by my increasing preoccupation with the weather.
This time last year I had no idea about the complicated world of rights and permissions. That means trying, and generally failing, to secure the OK to use material, be it a photograph or text from another source in your own book. Just trying to track down who owns the rights to a particular book or photograph is a task in itself and I’ve spent whole mornings in email conversations on the elusive trail of a particular sentence. All of which so often ends in frustration.
I have had to come up with a list of photographs I’ll need. So a rough draft of the text so far is covered in red pen indicating where I think a photo is needed and although I’m writing this with the benefit of spell check, it is, of course, not foolproof. For some reason my fingers insist on typing ‘form’ when I mean ‘from’ but as the former is a correctly spelt word spell check is useless. It’s surprising how many of these little things slip through. It’s crazy now to think that all of my university assignments were hand written and my 10,000 word dissertation was typed up on an electronic typewriter with a tiny screen that only showed four lines of text at any one time. There was more than one occasion when ‘Boris’, as the typewriter was known, was nearly launched from my bedroom window with sheer frustration.
Then there has been the quest for prop materials for the photos. I’ve discovered that spending several hours on cold, wet Sundays wandering around flea markets and reclamation yards is a surprisingly absorbing pastime. And there was the serendipitous introduction to a local builder on one of the aforementioned sorties which resulted in us following him along country roads to his farm. There was much consternation and amusement that I should want something he was going to get rid of as scrap. But when I explained he very kindly gave me just what I was looking for, a sheet of corrugated iron, and we spent a while chatting about his farm and his late wife and her love of gardening.
By the end of this summer I will have discovered what ‘box prominent’ and ‘box recessive’ mean, I’ll have proof read around 45,000 words and I’ll have worked out how to write an index. Apparently, there are some people who write indexes professionally. Another fact I hadn’t come across until recently.
I’m loving the whole process, though. I’ve always wanted to do something that was even just vaguely creative. I did once crochet a hat for Wellyman which he still wears today but I was still frantically finishing it one Christmas Eve and had developed repetitive strain injury in the process and so never really went any further with that. I also have no musical ability whatsoever and have no real skills on the drawing/painting front to speak of. But, for once, I feel like my creative juices have found an outlet and it’s brilliant.
So, if I disappear from the blog occasionally over the next couple of months you know where I am. I’ll be buried in my study, surrounded by illegible notes trying to find the ‘en dash’ symbol. How could I reach my mid-thirties and have never come across an en dash before? It’s a longer hyphen for all those who are as mystified as I was.
Stephen Studd Photography said:
Looking forward to seeing the finished result.
Thanks Stephen. Me too. 😉
I think it’s the same with most things, you never appreciate all the work, effort, blood, sweat and tears which have gone in to something until you try it for yourself. It does sound as though you’re having fun with it though, and I can’t wait to hear more about it.
Thanks Jo. I am enjoying it, just never realised there was so much involved. 😉
Helen Gazeley said:
What a lovely adventure. But how much work is the publisher expecting you to do all by yourself? I hope the publisher is copy-editing and proof-reading too? If they’re not, can I put in a plea? Please do find someone professional to do it. However good you are at doing it yourself, as one old hack said to me, “Everyone-EVERYONE- needs editing.” So many books with great content are let down by poor editing nowadays and it is very hard to catch all the mistakes oneself. I take it the publisher won’t index it? The reason there are professional indexers is because it is a skilled job, and a good index is worth its weight in gold – another thing that publishers frequently seem to neglect these days. I’m not aiming to dampen enthusiasm (I’m really looking forward to following your progress and seeing it in print) but it would be such a shame to spoil the ship for a happ’orth of tar and it’s worth thinking about these things.
I’ve got a great editor on board so she will be doing all that side of things. I’m quite used to that sort of thing anyway though. I had nobody to edit and proofread my dissertation and thesis at university so had to do it myself. As for the index I’m going to give it a go myself. The book is fairly straightforward and not complicated so I think the index should be OK to do myself. If I find it a struggle I’ll get a pro to do it. Thanks for the advice. 🙂 it’s much appreciated.
Flâneur Gardener said:
If you need a (free) proof reader for your book, let me know. I have done stuff like that in the past for money (as well as translation work and so on), and though I’m not a native speaker I think I can do pretty well when it comes to catching typos and unclear wordings. (Also, I’m unemployed, I love languages and I love gardening, so I’d actually find it quite entertaining to proof-read a garden book.)
Anyway, it’s an offer you can accept or decline with no hard feelings either way.
Awww!. Thank you, that’s such a kind offer. I was re-reading my uni stuff a while ago and it was surprising that typos still got through endless proofreads by me and OH. I’ll let you know how I get on over the next couple of months as it’s still early days at the moment. How’s the job search going? We’ve got a friend who has been looking since September but it’s very quiet over here.
Flâneur Gardener said:
There are lots of jobs to apply for, but the competition is rather fierce, so it’s tough going even getting an interview. That said, I’m currently shortlisted for two amazing jobs, so fingers crossed etc…
I’ll cross my fingers too. Best of luck x
Flâneur Gardener said:
I have an interview coming up in 4 hours, so you wishes for best luck are much appreciated!!!
Kathryn Marsh said:
It sounds as though you are getting good support from your publisher, and while academic books are best indexed by indexers I am sure, from the meticulousness of your writing in the blog, that you’ll be able to do your own indexing well, given how friendly modern indexing software is (do use it). However good you, your editor and all your friends are one typo will slip through, it always does. As an editor myself I am never completely comfortable reading any book until I’ve found it (and even then I’m sure there is another I’ve missed, even if it is only a double space or some such). But if you feel you need another reader I’m here.
Looking forward to the end product
Thanks for the tips, Kathryn, they’re much appreciated. Oh dear, I’m not sure I could completely enjoy reading if I had to do it as my job. I’d probably be exactly the same, looking for typos. 😉
Gosh that’s very exciting and I am sure you will do it brilliantly. I was just finishing a post when my inbox went ping. I decided to resist looking until I had pressed publish since my blog was already days late. I then went to the inbox and found this post and the very book I too had covered.
Still bees are an important subject so it’s hardly surprising.
Good luck with the writing.
Thanks Sue, great minds think alike. 😉
Good luck with this exciting project – look forward to seeing the book when it’s finished. 😀
Thanks Cathy. I hope you’ll like it.
Sounds like an amazing and absorbing adventure!
How do you find the time to fit in regular life, and work though?!
Still, you sound like you are absolutley *loving* it.
I wish you all the stamina and patience you need to complete your fantastic project.
I enjoy reading your blog and I’m so pleased you’re enjoying this opportunity!
Thank you for your kind words. There has been quite a bit of working at night and weekends but it’ll be worth it.
I’m impressed, you certainly sound as if you are enjoying the whole process and can imagine that you will be kept very busy indeed in the coming months. Will wait to hear how you are getting on with your “new baby”!
Thank you Pauline. The plan is to try to be organised so that I have time in April and May to do all the growing.
From the writing style of your posts I think the book will be brilliant. I sure it will be very hard work but you’ll enjoy it. Good luck! Christina
Thank you Christina, that’s very kind of you. I hope people like the idea and content when they get to see it.
I’ll get some examples of ‘Box prominent/Recessive’ for you 😉
Julia Stanley (@islaveevee) said:
Really looking forward to seeing the finished product – it’s going to be a delight 🙂
Thanks Julia. It’ll be exciting to see it all laid out.
Sounds like a fantastic opportunity, and a challenge which you’re embracing very well!
Thanks Sophie. Everyone has been so kind with their words of encouragement. 🙂
Hi WW, Good luck with writing the book. I quite agree that’s it’s best not knowing quite how much work is involved, otherwise you’d never start such a project! Spent most of last year writing a book and while it was gruelling at times, I loved the process. Sounds like you’re working with a great team and really enjoying the challenge-can’t wait to read it!
Thanks Naomi. You’re at the end of the process now which must be a bit of a relief. Exciting times ahead with your book being published. Good luck with it all. 🙂
There are professional index writers?! And there was me thinking they happened automatically as a by-product of writing the chapters themseleves… Your new venture sounds exciting, absorbing, scary and wonderful, in about equal measures. All the best for it, you have such an engaging writing style that I am sure it will be a good read, I just hope the weather plays ball and allows you to grow some wonderfully tasty and photogenic plants!
PS I had no idea about ‘en hyphen’ either, so I hope you manage to keep bloggin occasionally, if only to educate me!!
I know, pro index writers, who’d have thought it? But then saying that I’ve been looking through a lot of books recently and their indexes and I’ve started to see why it is a skill in itself. Just shows how much we can take for granted some times. I’d never given much thought before to how a book was put together. There’s an ’em dash’ too apparently. 😉
Another quiet year in the garden, then?! 😉 Good luck, the satisfaction at the end will be enormous.
🙂 Ermmm pretty quiet. I think there might be quite a bit of ‘aaarrrggghhhing’ at times. I do hope it stops raining at some point. seriously contemplating sticking a polytunnel over whole allotment. 😉
Caro (urbanvegpatch) said:
How thrilling! Sounds great but it also sounds like you’re doing all the work yourself! I’m a bit perplexed that you have to find props for photos? Surely the book designer is working with a picture researcher to source the illustrations/photos/copyright for the book? Original photos should have a professional photographer assigned to the job. I worked in publishing (design and then as a picture researcher/photographer) and, until the recession when many publishers scaled back their operations, these were highly skilled jobs needing years of experience to pull off well. I’m intrigued now as to who your publishers are!
I’m sure it will all sort itself out and wish you lots of stamina in completing the book – and then will definitely be in the queue for a copy!
(P.S. if you want help with photos, just shout in my direction!) C xx
Thanks Caro. The publishers have assigned me a professional photographer who I’ve already worked with. I’m liking having to think about the props etc. I think when you have a strong idea about something it’s good to be able to have an input and I’m lucky the publishers are keen on that. I didn’t know you used to work in publishing. It’s certainly a fascinating world.
Caro (urbanvegpatch) said:
As with everything (except gardening), publishing is not as fascinating as it looks from the outside! C x
Most things are just jobs I guess and there’s always aspects that aren’t so much fun. I did think about doing gardening as a job but a few friends who did it said even it became a bit of a chore at times.
Sounds like a really exciting project, but as someone who gets grumpy with having to proof read a 1,000 word article, I don’t envy you the task of checking every word and punctuation mark! I’ll look forward to seeing the end result though – good luck!
Thanks Sarah. I don’t mind that side of things and at least this time I have an editor. Hope you like it when it’s published.
Claire, Plantpassion said:
I didn’t know what an en dash was, and I admire your patience. I love the idea of writing a book, but only if I could dictate it while I was gardening, the idea of doing it in an office doesn’t appeal. Reading gardening books however does!
This made me smile as patience is probably not a trait that springs to mind when I’d describe myself. 😉 The good thing is I’ve been working on quite a bit of it over winter when there hasn’t been much to do outside anyway. So good timing for me. I know what you mean about gardening books. I’m off to Wisley soon and the bookshop there is just too tempting.
Oh exciting times WW though I imagine that it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride trying to juggle work, garden, lottie and writing a book too let alone shopping, cooking,eating, sleeping etc. You will be in need of a well deserved holiday when it’s all done and dusted. Like Flaneur I’d be happy to proof read too – plenty of time on my hands and keen to keep my grey matter ticking over.Just shout out 🙂 As a former careers adviser I was aware that there are professional indexers but as for the ‘en dash,’ I have to confess blissful ignorance of its very existence. Good luck with it all.
Thank you so much. I’m really touched by everyone’s kind words and generosity. Hubby is just starting his 4th year of his OU degree as well. So we’ll be knee deep in paper by the end of the summer 😉 It is all a bit of a juggling act but we’re getting there.
I think it all sounds wonderful, very exciting, and you really seem to be getting a good grip of the business. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished object!
(I’ve worked in the book business and journalism all my life, and have a terrible tendency to forget that not everybody knows the difference between an em dash and an en dash or where to find either… if I can help at all – I’m sure you’ve got lots of helpers, though – just pm me… If I were you, I’d think about finding a freelance indexer which is well worth it. Try the Society for Indexers: http://www.indexers.org.uk – and BTW computer indexing is usually terrible. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, and hope you won’t be offended…)
Thanks for the advice, it’s much appreciated. It’s like any area of work, it has it’s own lingo which can be a bit daunting at first. Thanks for the link to the Society of Indexers, I’ll take a look. 🙂
I found this post really interesting as I’m sure that many budding authors don’t realise what is involved beyond their writing to actually get a book published.
Well done on taking the plunge which I’m sure you’ll find most rewarding, if not monetarily, and worthwhile despite the frustrations along the way.
I look forward to reading your book! xx
Thanks Flighty. It’s fascinating and I can’t understand why there hasn’t been a TV programme about the behind the scenes of producing books.
Its very exciting for you, good to have a new challenge and I’m sure you’ll be fine once you know the jargon. As Christina above says you have a natural writing style which will help you as you go along. We all want to follow your progress! Good luck.
Thanks Annie, that’s very kind of you to say. I like a challenge 🙂
Sounds like a very exciting project, despite all the hard work. will look forward to further updates!
How very, very exciting! also congratulations – it is not that easy to get a book published – I shall look forward to the end result.
David Marsden said:
I think you’d already mentioned you were writing this book, WW but I just envisioned you tapping away at your laptop (in between gulps of tea and munching chocolate digestives). I hadn’t appreciated just how much work was involved. I’ll add my good wishes to all those above and try and be patient to see the finished book. How exciting. And ‘those’ terms? Nope didn’t know them either! Dave p.s. And a reminder that I still haven’t read ‘The Anxious Gardener’ too! Thanks for that.
There’s plenty of tea and biscuits too. I’m in the ‘do anything but what I should be doing’ phase and really need to knuckle down this week but the greenhouse is calling. Even spring cleaning looks more appealing than trying to work out where to put some text. 😉 Got the Anxious Gardener on a visit to Pashley Manor last year, a good read.