Dixie’s Daughters almost never happened

Confederacy Daughters Unveil Monument
Members of the UDC gathered at the Confederate monument in Arlington National Cemetery, located in Jackson Circle. ca. 1913, Courtesy of Getty Images

I want to share a story about my 2003 book Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (University Press of Florida), which will be issued as a revised edition with a scheduled publication date of January 2019.  Woot!

When I drafted the new preface, I thought it would be interesting to provide a little background on the publishing history of Dixie’s Daughters. My justification for including it was that I wanted all of you out there who have struggled to get something published or may end up in that struggle, particularly graduate students and junior scholars who follow my work on Twitter and elsewhere, to know that you aren’t alone.

The struggle is real!!

My own road was such a bumpy one, I despaired that it might never happen.  On the advice of my editor, however, what follows will not be in the revised edition.  Nonetheless, I want to share it with you, in case it is of some comfort or inspiration.

So, for your amusement and edification, here it is:

“It may come as a surprise that Dixie’s Daughters was almost never published. Despite the fact that no less than twelve university presses expressed interest in publishing my dissertation, it was rough going. Three different university presses received the manuscript at various points in time. The editor at the first press I sent the manuscript to never sent it out to readers. Perhaps it served as a very robust coaster for whatever was in his coffee cup. A second more prestigious press did due diligence and I received readers’ reports. One of them supported publication, while the other demurred, citing scholarship that I should engage. The only problem was that said scholarship had yet to be published and remained a work-in-progress. A third regional press took it in for a proposed series that never materialized. After revisions, this press sat on the manuscript for an entire year, only to box it up and mail it to me with the note that it was no longer of interest. At my wit’s end, I reached out to Marjorie Spruill who suggested I work with Meredith Babb at the University Press of Florida. Meredith laid out the process for getting the book published, so I took the boxed up manuscript that had been returned to me and mailed it to her. Unchanged. Within two months I had the readers’ reports and a book contract and, it turned out, a new tenure-track job with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.”

And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

 

Anticipation: Waiting for a Book’s Release

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.

c635f6d503f5547578e0748886296821ea804ec159294e725fbc524f3454920cConsider, 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.

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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!

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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.)

anticipation-cat-oh-pleeeeease-let-me-read-it-nowAs 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.