Following the official publication date of October 9, 2017, the travel for Goat Castle, has begun in earnest. After an interview with Author’s Voice in Chicago, and a book signing at the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC, I’m going to boot scoot over to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, being held this weekend! I’m on the panel “Murder, (In) Justice and the American Way: True Crimes that Captivated the Nation.” It’s on Sunday, October 15th from 3-4pm in the Nashville Library Auditorium. Hope to see some of you there!
Yes, yes, I’ve absolutely been excited about what happened to me this week. After 25 years of plugging away, and nearly 15 years after publishing Dixie’s Daughters, the national media decided that I “might” be an expert on the subject of Confederate monuments and so I finally got the opportunity to say something about a subject that has long been assumed to be the purview of male historians.
But guess what? A lot of folks didn’t like it.
I posted enthusiastically on my personal Facebook page (to the tsk tsk of some), because nothing like this has ever, ever happened to me in my entire career. My bone fides include a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi. That alone made it hard enough to break into academia, much less write for newspapers with a national reach. So, I got a little excited. And as anyone knows, Facebook does not tell one’s entire story. It’s always the curated version.
So let me tell you what I didn’t post about. I was a little scared as the time approached for the op-ed to go online. I worried for my safety after what I saw unravel in Charlottesville over the weekend. I took measures to notify my chair and my dean about my concerns. I worried my mother who, I will state for the record, does not always agree with my public writing.
I also took a lot of heat online and via email for having dared to place these objects of southern heritage in their proper historical context. And I say heritage, because heritage is about memory and memory is not history. That is a hard point to make with diehard defenders of Confederate memorials. The fact that they are memorials, which by their very nature are about memory, ought to make that point clear.
On the very first day that my op-ed in the New York Times appeared, I received this from a man named Edward Just:
While this vile, sexist, and racist email was the worst of the bunch, there were others who emailed to tell me I was an “opportunist,” “naive,” and that I had done nothing more than engage in a “pompous rant,” “unhinged hyperbole,” and “feminist agitprop.” “I find your NYT article repugnant and your views are Orwellian,” wrote another, and most perplexing of all came the question “when did white lives cease to matter?” In short: never.
There were also the more than 1300 online comments for the Times, which I barely looked at, because one should never look at the online comments. But there, as in emails, I still did not garner the respect of a professor. I was addressed as “Ms. Cox,” and complete strangers spoke to me and offered history “lessons,” calling me by my first name as if I was their neighbor from down the street.
To be fair, there were those who offered their thanks for my perspective and understood that while I was not on the front lines in Charlottesville, speaking truth to power in the context of our times takes some courage.
I say that knowing that whatever courage I showed pales by the courage it takes to simply be black in today’s America. I benefit from and am protected by white privilege. What I wrote about Confederate monuments cannot be equated with how black southerners must feel in seeing these tangible reminders of their treatment at the hands of people who did not, and still do not, care about their humanity.
And I never for one second forgot about the tragedy that befell Heather Heyer, and those still recovering from their injuries after a devastating act of domestic terrorism.
I’m simply a historian and I got a chance to write about something I know and have studied for more than two decades. And yes, I was honored that I could add my voice to something that is not only a national conversation, but an international one.
Because the world is watching.
Whether you’re a fan of Carly Simon or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you are familiar with the word “anticipation.” In song, it refers to waiting for a lover, but for the writer, it’s the anticipation of a book’s release. And for scholars, the wait seems like a lifetime.
Consider, for example, my forthcoming book Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, which comes out October 9, 2017. I finished a draft of the manuscript on April 30, 2016, nearly four years after I began my research. (I will offer a separate post on why it takes time for scholars to complete a manuscript.)
Over the summer, I revised the draft through a back and forth with my editor. Then, in August 2016, I submitted the “final” draft of the manuscript to my press.
At that point, it was sent out to two reviewers–specialists who can provide feedback and critique to assess what works and where I, as the author, might find ways to improve or expand certain sections of the book. This part of the process, while scheduled for two months, can take more time given the already busy schedules of the reviewers. In my case, it took three months to get the reports, after which I responded to any necessary changes and by November I had the final contract.
Now it goes into the copy editing phase. A professional copy editor pores over the manuscript to correct errors of grammar, suggest word choices, and ask questions. Mine was so terrific, I refer to her as the “fox terrier of copy editors.” And I mean that as a compliment, because she rooted out errors that I would never have seen. After I receive the copy edited manuscript, then I have to fix all of the errors and resubmit it to the press.
Almost done? Not quite. Now the book needs an index. Some of my colleagues in the history world do this part themselves, since hiring a professional indexer costs money. I don’t have the patience for this kind of tedious work, so I pay up. More time goes by, the index gets done, I delete or ask questions about the final result, and now there’s an index.
At this point, we are about seven months in since I submitted the manuscript, and nearly a year since the original draft was completed. Along the way, I must also complete a log of images and illustrations, and get permissions from various repositories to use them.
Now we’re rolling!
Next stop: book jacket. I’ve written about that process here. That’s the time when you realize that this is going to be a book. But, we’re still four months out!
That means it’s time for the publicity team to help you kick this thing into high gear. And marketing is doing its job, too. This is where an author can help herself and the press by assisting with the book’s promotion on social media. I do this through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this website. You are not a press’s only author, and in the case of university presses, they have a limited budget. So, do your part and let there be no shame in your game. (I’ll be posting about that, too.)
As of this writing, the book is three months out. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. All of the online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s ) have the book listed. Now we wait. And by we, I mean me, my family, my friends, the many wonderful people who assisted me in the research of my book, and so many others who ask: when will the book be out? And why does it take so long? I hope this post helps you understand.