My 2016 Highlight: Birthing a Book

The colorful image that is to be my book cover is on my screen. I’m opening Photoshop because it needs to be squeezed into a template and I haven’t a clue how to do that.

I’m going to try to teach myself.

I play with cropping and save the new image. Still too big.

I tinker with other tools. Save. Again. And again. Fourteen images later, it’s a fit. A friend helps to fine-tune it. Victory.

Yes, I’m self-publishing my first book, a memoir that took 10 years to write. This marks 30 years (mostly) making a living as a writer for me, a trained journalist. It’s always been a passion. I was obsessively clipping columns from my local newspaper in New Jersey when I was 12. Who is this woman, I wondered, who gets her picture next to her article?

Now I’m a purist in a field that hardly resembles the one I trained for and worked in. Once I found my way after a rocky start in college, fully paying my own way, I spent 15 years as a sports writer/columnist at two newspapers. I’ve mostly moved with the times, making the switch from print to web in 1998 with a job at FoxSports.com. I’m no dinosaur.

But when it came time to publish my book, my writer snob came out in full force. You are going to kick this old school, sister. You will get an agent and a traditional publisher. Nothing else measures up for a ‘real’ writer like you. Your writing deserves a place at the grownup table. You were a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. Hold your own.

I spent two years pitching agents, snagged one, and signed a two-year contract. Those two years flew by. She got some bites from publishers, but they wanted a platform. That’s the buzzword now, platform. But I’m not one to solicit fake followers on social media. The twice-weekly column I had on a prominent news site for five years ended in 2013; five hundred columns in the archive, but no “platform.”

In July when my agent contract was up I declared it my personal independence day. I was going to self-publish. Suddenly nothing mattered but the birth of the book. Its gestation period was dragging on way too long. I needed it out in the world, snobbery be damned.

While my intellect had crossed into a place of acceptance, I was still resistant to the idea in practice. It was daunting. I knew nothing about designing or formatting a book, making it look presentable enough to meet my standards. Yet I’d had the manuscript professionally edited in 2015 and I’d already had a photo shoot that produced an author shot. Maybe this was just a puzzle waiting to be assembled.

I was alternately heartened and discouraged. Friends lent support. Finally, I got my courage and plunged into the creation of my e-book. A local artist whose work I adore agreed to design my cover and I simply trusted her to execute my vision. She exceeded my expectations.

Along the way I learned about page breaks and how to create a live table of contents. When the book went live in September I was beside myself with glee. The satisfaction of not only crafting the book’s contents but the vehicle that would hold those contents was indescribable.

Break out the champagne, people.

Within mere minutes of blasting my good news all over social media, reality hit. “Is there a physical book available?” No, but soon, I kept writing back with a smiley face icon. But in my mind I was thinking, when is soon? It’s one thing to teach yourself to create an e-book; it’s quite another to design a paperback with a front, back and spine.

Night after night I sat at my desk, on a mission. The worst that happens, I figured, is I hate the quality of the book and I seek out professionals. I chose the font, created a title page from scratch. I became immersed in what quickly became a labor of love.

When I got to the aforementioned cover template, I was hopeful each go-round. The result was nothing short of beautiful, at least on my screen. It was time to order the proof and hold it in my hands.

When the proof arrived, I put it in a special pouch with a drawstring. Packed it in my tote and took off to walk around town. Posed for some pictures with it. My gorgeous baby.

“I am as proud of accomplishing this as I am of putting myself through college,” I told a friend.

A magnificent pile of paper, the fruits of my labor. Snobbery be damned.

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