Like a Maccabee: The Birth of a Book, Part 2

Like a Maccabee: The Birth of a Book, Part 1

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“You did what?”

This from my publishing partner. So I explained.

I thought Barbara’s manuscript was an excellent fit for Yaldah. But I wasn’t sure Yaldah was a good fit for her. Most authors know – or ought to know – that they’re probably not going to get rich or solve their financial problems by writing a book. We can’t all be JK Rowling. But most anticipate a nice advance from a larger publisher and look forward to print runs in the thousands and regular royalty paychecks.

This is the goal to which we aspire in independent publishing, but it’s not always the reality. In my e-mail back to Barbara, I expressed concern that Yaldah might not be able to offer what another larger publisher might. I wanted to sign her up, but I wanted her coming into this with her eyes wide open. Or offer us both a way to back out and keep our dignity.

She answered back with the following: “I do understand the concerns of a small house, but I am so drawn to the concept of promoting Jewish literature, that this does not discourage me.”

We talked some more; I explained what she could expect from Yaldah and she explained that she had confidence in me – in us.

Perhaps part intuition, perhaps part analysis, we negotiated a contract and played the You Sign and Mail it Back to Me game.

I will note here that I took a pretty standard boilerplate book contract (all 14 pages of it) and tweaked it. As an author too, I wanted to offer the sort of contract that I would be happy to sign. So I made sure the author would keep the rights to characters and settings in case she wanted to write a sequel and – gasp! – publish it with another house. I gave the author the right to approve or disapprove the book title and choice of illustrator, within certain parameters set by the publisher. In other words, I would look at illustrators (whose services I could afford) for cover and interior art and the author could pick amongst them.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about authors who hate the title of their book, or can’t stand the cover art. This doesn’t make sense to me. The author’s enthusiasm and energy around the book is one of the best marketing tools a publisher has. I can pave the way for the book’s success, but whether it sells or not is also contingent upon what the author puts into marketing and publicity. So I wanted her to be just absolutely thrilled with every part of the book.

We executed the contract right around Yom Kippur. I signed it on October 11, 2005, about two and a half months after receiving Barbara’s query.

Now it was time for me to do my networking thing and find an illustrator for cover and interior art and an editor who would not only help us find the best way to tell the story but who would also help uncover the soul of the book.

Things were moving along smoothly. I had no idea how rough things would get once the illustrator and editor got involved with their parts.

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Part 3 now up!

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