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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book publishing

Book production was how I started in publishing in 1979. In those days everything happened on paper - manuscript typing, copyediting, proofreading, cover review - and the resultant pile of "foul" manuscript and multiple stages of proof at the end of the process required boxes and boxes for the year of storage required after publication. Those huge medical textbooks ate up an immense amount of paper, and my job was to push all of it through the various states of production, which often took a year or more. Revised editions were especially quaint. The authors were sent a copy of the book that had been disassembled, each book page (or each page column for the large-format books) pasted on a sheet of colored paper, usually green as I recall, and the whole mess stamped with new page numbers (there was a little machine). This method provided margins on which to hand-write corrections and mark deletions. We would require the author to type any major updates of more than a sentence of two on separate sheets.

I now have my own book (Owls Head Revisited) in production. I wrote it on a computer, of course, and printed it out just once, for ease of a last, major revision. (As far as I can tell, my publisher has printed the manuscript just once as well.) From then on, everything happened by email: book proposal, contract, proofs. And once in production, so fast! I received the first cover version on May 17, the first text proofs on June 8, and the end of the month will see the first printed copies. I expect that wonderful moment of holding a brand-new book in your hand (even if it was Acid-Base Disorders: Basic Concepts and Clinical Management) will be exactly the same as 35 years ago, just slightly heightened by the terror of sending your own words into the world. 

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