Why? When? What? How?...
The idea has been bouncing around in the back of my brain for some time - in the age of "status updates" and Twitter, a long and thoughtful essay on a blog is kind of getting left behind in favour of the quicker info fix on the net. A few bytes, here and there, as opposed to long and langourous entries which take time to write, time to read, and a certain frame of mind (I guess) to appreciate and enjoy. I've been actively blogging on LJ alone for five and a half years now, elsewhere for proportionally less (and a new Halloweenish-themed essay went up on StorytellersUnplugged on the 30th, by the way, for those of you who keep track...), and I had a good solid cache of things I had written about in the blogosphere; there were other essays, some of which appeared in a webzine of some description or another, unaffiliated with any given actual blog site; there were a handful of essays which I had written and which had never been published anywhere... as yet. So there was plenty of material to work with. In fact, when I winnowed my main blogs alone - LJ, StorytellersUnplugged, SFNovelists, RedRoom - I came up with an amount of material which came to more than 120 000 words. I knew I had a book here. Perhaps even a series of them.
Things began to fall together into a neat pattern.
I chatted about the idea to my agent in New York in March, and intimated that this might be a project that I would put together myself, both as actual physical volume and as e-book - it didn't seem like it would be something that would have a huge commercial following, and thus probably out of her bailiwick. The publishing system has certainly undergone a sea-change in the last handful of years because she was far from being remotely hesitant on the whole project. She said, in so many words, that she was actually encouraging her writers to explore these niche publishing opportunities in between the contracted books that were bread and butter for both author and agent alike. We both agreed that doing this with a full novel is probably not a great idea - but a slim non-fiction volume of an author's reflecitons of life the universe and everything...? That had potential.
So, when I returned home from New York, I began to look a little more closely at my blogs with an eye to picking candidates which would go into this book. It wasn't a pressing or an urgent issue - sometime in the summer I put out feelers on the blogs to gauge what the response would be, and what came in was an expression of interest at a level high enough for me to kick the project into a higher gear. rdeck was enlisted as editor, book designer, and general factotum; between the two of us we selected the essays, and then he edited them into a format in which they would appear in the book (not a one of them is precisely identical to the online versions...) and then wrestled with new-to-him sodftware to bully the book into settling down into something resembling a book you might pick off any bookstore shelf.
And then my local indie bookshop, Village Books, acquired an Espresso Machine - and how could I - the coffeeholic - resist that? We went round to visit the new monster, and it was fascinating - the first part of it was a simple double-sided photocopying operation but then things got interesting. The MS pages were clamped together, a mechanical arm moved them down into the bowels of the machine (you could see all this, the sides of the Espresso are see-through perspex and you can follow every aspect of the process), a glue roller was passed along the "spine", the bundle was brought forcefully down onto the waiting pre-printed cover, a new clamp came in to hold together the cover and the pages for a few moments while the glue "set", and then the original clamping arm turned the book around smartly three times while a scythe cut it down to size and then the finished book was spat out into a holding cell on the far side of the machine. Still warm. Hot, as it were, off the presses.
The idea and the means came together. This was a go.
We talked to the Village Books Espresso people. We hammered out the details (size; type of paper; cover design; Library of Congress number; ISBN; barcode for cover) and we were in the game. I created a tuny - very tiny - imprint called Kos Books to "cover" this publication (yes, there is a meaning...) and the books appeared in short order, after a few hiccups along the way when the designer software and the machine hardware refused to play nicely a couple of times before we got it right. The final result... is very pleasing. It's a nice, neat little book. And it still has a few surprises up its sleeve, about which more anon - but in the meantime - I finally scanned a copy in order to get a version of the cover that I could show all y'all:
This is the first, numbered edition...
The first batch of ordered books are packed up and ready to be sent out - but orders are still open, of course - just go here and follow those instructions. Any orders received by the first week of December are GUARANTEED for Christmas delivery. Orders will not CLOSE then - the book will remain available - but just bear in mind the increased postal load and possible delays if you want a copy to arrive in time to be unwrapped on Christmas morning...