Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Whose Party is This, Anyway? by Terena

On November 1st, 2007, I launched the first book from my press Medusa's Muse, a memoir entitled "Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers," by Laura Fogg. Laura is an Orientation and Mobility specialist and the book shares the lessons about life and joy she learned from fifteen of her remarkable, visually impaired students. This book isn't about pity or putting people with disabilities on some kind of inspirational pillar. It's about life and hope and grief and all those messy things we all share and I am proud to be her publisher.

On November 17th, Laura read from her book at our local bookstore. That whole day I tried to decide what to wear, how to fix my hair, how early should I arrive at the bookstore, what should I bring, and do I have any shoes without scuff-marks? I was so excited I could hardly eat. Then suddenly, the cold voice of reason broke through my happy thoughts and said, "Wear what you want. No one is coming to see you."

I literally froze and dropped my shoes. It was true. No one even knew who I was. This night, this entire book reading and signing, is for Laura, not me. I am just her publisher, the support staff, while Laura is the star. I realized that I had put in hundreds of hours editing and developing her book and more money than I actually could afford printing and marketing it and no one knew or cared. It didn't matter if I went to the reading or not; no one would miss me.

Quick, name a publisher. Not the publishing house, but the publisher; the human, not the company. Bet you can't. I'll bet you can't even name a single editor. Who is the head publisher at Random House? No cheating with Google! Don't know? Me either.

Being a publisher gives me a great deal of joy, or I wouldn't do it. I love helping create a beautiful piece of art and all the parts that go into it: the cover design, font used, type of paper, edits, images, and number of pages. I love the marketing piece as well because it's like a puzzle in which I'm trying to get the book into the right hands so they'll read it and tell their friends. I love being the person who brings the author, editor, and designer together and figures out what needs to be done, when, and how much. I have the final say, even over the author, and I love that creative control. But sometimes, it is very lonely work.

Oh well... I got dressed and went to Laura's reading anyway. The bookstore was so packed with people they had to peek around shelves and calendar displays to see Laura read. So many of her friends came! And Laura absolutely glowed with the excitement and joy of launching her book. Watching her, I knew exactly how the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella felt. The cold voice of reason was replaced by a warm, soft whisper that said, "You helped make this happen." Then Laura said with pride radiating from her voice and face, "...and this is MY publisher." People clapped, making me want to burst with happiness. That warm fuzzy feeling stayed with me for weeks.

Even though the editing and design work is often hard, money tight, deadlines demanding, and marketing annoying, I will continue to do this work. I am a long way from a Rock Star. I'm not even in the stage-lights. But the next time you see a Rock Star standing on stage thanking everyone for her award, look to the sidelines. See that woman clasping her hands together tightly with the huge smile on her face, looking like she's about to cry with joy? That's me.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Wow. That was a great post. I failed your questions, I couldn't name any, but this post put it into great perspective. How did you get into that line of work? It sounds like you do a fantastic job as well !