The book has been edited, I have made the changes or stuck to my guns as necessary, and the text is now in the hands of the book designer. I am being asked to decide between fonts that look nearly identical to me and whether I want the page numbers in the middle or at the edges of the pages. (But wait until you see the little logo by the page numbers — you will die, it is so cute.)
Which all sounds real enough, but it’s 2013. Nothing is real until it is on the internet. So I give you the official book website, TaketheWheelBook.com. I’ve got business cards, too, so if you meet me in person, ask for one. They look as amazing as the site, and they make lovely bookmarks.
Take the Wheel already!
If you want the latest industry news as it pertains to women’s lives or updates on the book as it nears its September 3 publication date, you’re going to want to visit the site. Oh, and of course the book has its own Take the Wheel Facebook page too.
The latest in my string of automotive history articles for Mental Floss’s web site:
6 Super Cool Popemobiles
Hitting the Road: The 3 Men Behind Combustion Engines (Argh! I forgot Wankel!)
After several weeks of tweaking and and honing, Nicole at Spot Color Studio sent me the final versions of the logo for Take the Wheel this weekend! She made one vertical version that will work great for the cover of the book, both print and electronic versions, and one horizontal version that will grace the web site.
Hold up! While I was writing this post, I got an email from Vinnie, my book designer at Indigo Editing, and he says the horizontal version has a bigger title, which will show up better on Internet shopping sites. This, friends, is why it’s worth it to hire someone who knows these things. Also, Nicole sent me an Ai file to pass on to Vinnie. Not only do I not know what an Ai file is, I don’t have the program to open it. Vinnie, however, tells me loves Ai files. Great! You get down with that Ai file, Vinnie!
I may be terrible at design, but I am good at words. I’ve already given Nicole copy for the home page and an About page for the book’s dedicated site, and even some pictures for a gallery of me and all the crazy cars I’ve driven. Lamborghini, Mercedes Gullwing, Tesla Roadster — and the smart fortwo and Fiat 500 convertible.
This week, I’m expecting the line edits from Ali at Indigo. Nervous …
I write lots. For a living. And editors often return my articles with red lines all over the place and blue notes in the comments and green highlighting for all the words I overuse. Being edited is nothing new to me.
I was walking the dog the other afternoon, and it hit me mid-stride: Ali has started editing my book. Another person may be reading my manuscript right now, with a friendly but critical eye. She is making notes on my book, pointing out my errors and typos, and questioning the opinions I espouse. She is editing my book, which took me a year to write while writing a dozen other articles.
It was a weird feeling. Usually, when I hand over an article to an editor, I’m eager to get to the editing process. Hurry up and read it, I think. I want to check this box and move on to the next thing. The next thing in the case of Take the Wheel, though, is publication. Marketing. Reaching sales goals. I’ve never done these next things, and they are terrifying. All right, they’re not Somali-pirates-just-boarded-my-yacht terrifying, but still. And having Ali edit the book is just the beginning.
Happily, I am an editor myself, and I just returned a big batch of suggestions and comments to one of my authors. He thanked me, and we set up an appointment to talk about his next steps in the process, which right now are focused on major revisions to a solid memoir. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him, and he knows it. Here’s how he signed off his email to me:
Here we go. Deep breath. Step off.
I met with Vinnie Kinsella at Indigo Editing yesterday to ask him questions about the publication process, since I am — or was — so admittedly clueless. He was very enlightening; I feel like I got an upgrade for my literary headlights (see previous post if you have no idea what I’m alluding to). He also agreed to design Take the Wheel, despite being a male without a car himself, and help me publish it.
Here is my new understanding of the self-publishing process:
- I write the book. And rewrite it. And ask for readers. And take their suggestions. And rewrite it.
- An editor tells me what still needs to be fixed in the manuscript, and I fix those things.
- I give the fixed manuscript to the book designer, who makes it work as an ebook and a print book.
- We hand it over to a proofreader, who makes sure the designer and I didn’t fluff things up too badly.
- Something about ISBNs and registration comes at this point.
- I set up an account with a printer, who makes the product available as both an ebook and a print-on-demand book.
- That printer happens to be a subsidiary of a distributor, who lists Take the Wheel in their catalog.
- I sell the mother-lovin’ fluff out of the book.
As you can see, my understanding of the process is quite detailed and technical. Also, during the course of writing this post, I have decided that “fluff” is my new favorite euphemistic swear word. I don’t want to burn your eyeballs with my filthy language.
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E.L. Doctorow
I think about this quote a lot. I usually operate well within the zone of my headlights. Even when I don’t know where a story is going or who will give me the quote that lights up a profile, I’m confident that I can make the whole trip.
Self-publishing Take the Wheel: A woman’s guide to buying a car her own damn self lies beyond my headlights almost entirely now. I wrote, interviewed, researched, and documented all I could. This morning, I handed the manuscript off to my editor, Ali McCart at Indigo Editing and Publications. That’s when my headlights started to sputter. I have no idea what comes next out there in the fog.
I’m self-publishing, but I’m not publishing by myself. I’ve already hired Spot Color Studio to do my marketing and design work for me, as far as logos and web sites and all that jazz go. It’s like they’re driving a completely different car, but they’ll pick me up when they need to take me somewhere, and they’ve got halogen headlights.
I’ve also got Vinnie at Indigo Editing, who does book design work and helps clueless authors like myself unknot the ball of twine that is modern self-publishing. After Ali has edited the book and I’ve struggled with her suggestions, Vinnie will get me through the off-road portion of the trip. He’s also said we could meet soon to talk about the process, which is kind of like getting fog lights.
I hope there isn’t an unforeseen monster waiting for me in the fog, but if I keep getting fresh drivers who know the route, I think I’ll arrive in one piece with a published book in my hand.
Today, I finished the last two interviews I’m allowing myself for the book formerly known as A Car of One’s Own.
The first was with a numbers guy who, despite being told what I was working on, answered my first question by telling me he didn’t have data broken down by male vs. female. Not so helpful, numbers guy. But he gave me some good overall buying trend info. Lemons, lemonade.
The second interview was much better. It was with a futurist who works with car companies to research past trends to predict trends. With new cars taking about three years to get from napkin sketch to showroom, it’s worth it to have someone tell you if that car will even be worth the R&D. (Hint: Don’t design any new two-ton SUVs with single-digit fuel economy ratings.)
I’m cutting myself off now. I’ll do the transcriptions of these two recorded phone interviews, a chore I loathe, incorporate the information into the book, and stop with the research already. It’s been more than a year since I started working on this book. Anything new can go in the revised edition.
Next step in the to-do list: final rewrites and cleanup before sending it to the line editor.
As I mentioned in my last post, Nicole the Mistress of Marketing told me at our first meeting about my book that I had a terrible title. I had been calling it A Car of One’s Own, a nod to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Turns out most women are not so up on their century-old feminist treatises. For shame.
Rather than shoving my own nerdy lady learning down everyone’s throat, Nicole suggested changing the title to something people might actually find via search engine and then buy. Fine.
The day after our meeting, I left for a short vacation visiting family in Florida. On the last night at my mother-in-law’s house, I spent some time brainstorming. It wasn’t very good. I tried getting MIL and husband to chime in with brilliant ideas, but they were totally into a show about the origins of planet Earth and not into coming up with a title for my book.
On the plane home the next afternoon, I put the soundtrack to Breakfast at Tiffany’s in my headphones and tried to doze. But the magic of my favorite movie was at work, and I came up with a dozen new title ideas. I’d fade out, think of a new idea, and type it into my phone (I use Evernote at times like this). I’m sure I charmed the guys on either side of me with my middle seat perpetual motion non-nap.
In the end, Nicole and I chose four titles and three tag lines. If one of these strikes you as particularly awesome or awful, let me know in the comments.
Take the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self
My Car, My Terms: A Girl’s Guide to Car Buying
Girl Horsepower: How to Buy a Car with Confidence (or Fake It If You Have To)
Up to Speed: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self
I wrote a draft of A Car of One’s Own last year and shopped it around to agents, to no avail. It’s a weird length at 30,000 words, and it’s not the kind of book a person would buy at Barnes and Noble for $15. It’s a tough sell for an agent.
Publishing it electronically myself seemed to make sense. So I said I would, and then I didn’t.
Then my friend Nicole, owner of Spot Color Studio, caught me in a brave (read: tipsy) moment. She was very convincing in her support of the book — she’d read an early version — and she had ideas for marketing it. I said, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” And then I didn’t for another little while.
Finally, I said I would publish this book myself enough times that I had to put up or shut up. So I put up. I put up a huge down payment to Spot Color. Nicole brought me a contract and a timeline and a to-do list and a harsh truth: A Car of One’s Own is a title for literary nerds like me, not for the vast majority of women who could benefit from the book. I brought her a big check.
I’m lucky that my marketing person is also my friend, and that she totally believes in this project. She knows how terrible I am at marketing and how good I am at writing, and she’s willing to make up for my weaknesses. She’s also willing to push me beyond my comfort zone, which I left the second I signed the contract and committed to publishing this book.
When I got home after drinking coffee and signing contracts with Nicole, I told my husband that all I wanted was to hide under a blanket with the dog (we enjoy it; it’s one of our hobbies). He said I was aloud to hide for two days, and then I had to get out there and hustle.
Regular blog updates are part of the hustle, apparently, so I’ll be posting here more often during the publication process. Next up: new title!
Now that I’m part of Team Indigo, I get to write for their newsletter (much to the relief of my fellow editors, who are glad to have another writer in the rotation). For the December issue, I was asked to write about community, a subject that, as a freelance writer who is happiest with furry, four-footed coworkers, I felt completely unqualified to tell other people about.
But, as it turned out, I had 500 words to say about community. It helped that I had a recent Indigo retreat and an upcoming holiday party to draw on, but I also realized as I wrote that community is important even for those of us who generally prefer to wear hoodies and hide behind screens. As it says in the essay, “sometimes you and your work have to see the light of day if either of you are to survive.”