April 2, 2008
Eldon Sarte 3 Comments
Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t this a compilation or edited volume, with a self-publishing twist?
Not that it’s a bad idea. But I think the time-saving factor here is greatly underestimated. I just published an edited volume of academic essays (through traditional publishers) and it took *far* longer than if I had written a whole book myself. Of course, the authors were busy academics, but who isn’t a busy *something*? Spurring contributors to sit down and write isn’t easy.
For comparison, I’ve written about 50,000 words for my own projects and another 60,000 words of posts for lifehack.org since December. 3 months, roughly 110,000 words. My 85,000 word book took 5 years to complete — 3 years if you take off the time I spent proposing it to publishers, getting rejected, researching new publishers, revising my proposal, getting rejected, etc. And only 2 1/2 years if you cut out the 6 months of post-production — copy editing, cover design, proofreading, fact-checking, etc.
I have no doubt it could be done faster — the point is, when you work with contributors, the project only goes as fast as the slowest contributor. Again, that’s no reason not to do it — just a reason not to do it with starry-eyed optimism about rushing into print.
Excellent, excellent points Dustin. Stressing the importance of choosing wisely – market, contributors, production and commercial backend, a lot of the project’s speed, success or failure often hinges on selections one makes at the start.
Yes, compilation/edited volume, but I like the way I monikered it better.
But as an addendum I’ve done this kind of work a lot with computer techies — I often get tapped as the go-between the suits and techies since I’m “bilingual” — and all of you who’ve read traditional software manuals know what a, uhm, great bunch of writers techies are.
Having said that, in my experience any delays I’ve seen from this bunch on writing their contributions stems from the fact that they know they’re severely lacking in that area, which scares the bejeezus out of them.
So my job is to get them producing. And I do that by showing them it doesn’t matter how crappy they write — I just want what they know on paper. And quickly. My job as editor is to quickly massage it to a thing of beauty. And they produce once they see that their editor isn’t just a proofreader but someone who will make them look good on paper.
Works for me.
Fair enough. To be fair, the profit-sharing aspect is somewhat unique; usually contributors are paid an honorarium and the editor collects the royalties.
And to be fair, also, a lot of the time wasted in my project came from my own inexperience, especially with working with my seniors in my discipline. To work efficiently with a project like this requires a lot of planning up front, and very clear expectations. I assumed too much up front, and that cost me time.
But you are limited to the speed of the slowest person on the team, so like you said, choose that person wisely. And maybe a share of the profits (rather than a one-time payment on delivery of the manuscript) would be a little more motivating for those with a tendency to drag their feet.
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