Today, Friends, I have for you the wild and wooly tale that will explain why I have not posted for the last four weeks, after reaching out to you every single Tuesday since I opened this blog in June 2009. Be advised that I was not in Sardinia living la dolce vita. I’ll present the tale in chapters, since the action centers on writing.
Chapter One opens on July 12. I was ready to publish bright and early at 8:00 AM, when I discovered that I could not access my account. Wordpress had locked me out. Neither could I reset my password, because it’s connected to an email account that has been overstuffed with messages for two years and frozen by the provider until I get ambitious and do some deleting.
A frantic search of the forums brought me to an email address wherein I could access a live person and learn why my blog was locked. I was told that in 2012 (!), LinkedIn had a data breach (I remember being asked to change that account password), so four years later WordPress leaps into action and shuts down all WordPress members who have LinkedIn accounts (millions, I would imagine).
When I politely asked why WordPress members who affiliate with LinkedIn simply did not receive an email to advise us to adjust our passwords within, say, the next two logins to prevent being locked out, I received no answer. Oh, and if I couldn’t access the appropriate email account, I could always refer back to the original URL link to this blog that is contained in an email that was sent to me by WordPress seven years ago. Find a seven-year old email? Are they serious?
So there I was, with a post all ready for you, Friend, and no way to publish. Apparently, the folks at WordPress felt it would be fun to lock the account on publishing day (and I’m certain that was by design; now you know why I hate techies). But maybe my blocked WordPress account was a blessing in disguise, because since early June, I’ve been immersed in a book editing project that has taken over my life and that opens Chapter Two.
The book is about a women’s club that is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The author, a club member, is an academic who’s written in the neighborhood of two dozen books. The book tells the history of the club against the backdrop of certain social, economic and political events that happened since its founding in 1890: the Gilded Age (think of today’s billionaires and income inequality); the Progressive Age (a reaction to the Gilded Age; think Bernie Sanders’ run for the presidency); the fight for women’s suffrage (a woman running for president); and the rise of women’s colleges and clubs (Lean In ). I was brought in to be the photo editor, but I was as well the de facto developmental editor and copy editor, because the book needed both and there was no one else to do it. This is a self-publishing project.
In Chapter Three, I take on the role of publisher in addition to being three editors rolled into one. The club is the official publisher in this venture, but guess who’s done all the publishing house work? I even wore the hat of literary lawyer when on the fourth Saturday of July, I sat at my computer reading up on intellectual property and copyright law and then ordered those two long sets of numbers that legally must appear on the copyright page of every book published, plus the bar code. I also submitted the book to the Library of Congress (that is usually done before publication, so that you get to list the catalogue number on the title page) and two days later was so happy to learn that the title was accepted.
Chapter Four is the tale of my various editing functions. I learned that developmental editing is surgery: get into those sentences and paragraphs and realign or remove until the story is a good one and flows smoothly. Copy editing (and its little sister, proofreading) ensures that sentence structure is correct and spelling and punctuation are accurate. Photo editing entails finding photos for the book that illustrate and support the story and then submitting them to the author for approval.
No, Friend, I was most definitely not sunning and swimming in Sardinia with the beautiful people. Instead, I was Googling the names of historical figures who were named in the book and filling in quick descriptions of who they were, so that readers could better understand the story the author wanted to tell because the author, a history writer, apparently didn’t feel that such explanations were necessary.
I also searched for the given names of some two dozen women mentioned in the book who were known only as Mrs. HIM (as the author puts it). Why the author neglected to give proper credit to those amazing trailblazing women, I’ll never understand. There were only two names that I could not find: Mrs. Clarence Burns, a well-bred, high-achieving lady who once lived at 1 West 83rd Street in Manhattan and who in 1903 wrote a cheeky little article entitled Prominent Clubwomen Must be Good Housekeepers that appeared in Collier’s Magazine.
The other unnamed woman was Madame (de) Sumichrast, one half of a social-climbing couple who were leaders of the Victorian Club of Boston (him) and the Victorian League in London (her). The surname they shared was originally Sumichrast, but they saw fit to add the “de” when he was named to the faculty of Harvard University’s French Department.
Madame de Sumichrast lectured in French literature at least once at Harvard, meaning that she was a highly educated woman, but she must have felt it proper for a wife to subsume her identity in deference to her husband’s, as did Mrs. Burns. So frustrating, so sad. Not even the magnificent Sophia Smith Library at Smith College, which has a comprehensive collection of information on women’s organizations, was able to uncover the identities of those two women.
However, a librarian at the Sophia Smith Collection most generously found and sent to me a 1905 photo of the officers of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, three of whose members were founders of the club that is the subject of the book. What an excellent photo it is, one of nine superb vintage photos that I brought to the book in my role as photo editor.
Chapter Five, like the first chapter, holds frustration. Wordpress is the villain of Chapter One and the book’s author is the antagonist in Chapter Five. As I noted, the book is a self-publishing project and that means all hands on deck. The author, unfortunately, did not see it that way. When there was copy editing work to do, or when the request to register the book’s copyright was made, she simply refused to respond to emails. When she did step in to do some work, she was controlling and obstructionist. Too much time was spent needlessly rewriting the photo captions, for example. A photo entitled Christmas greetings 1939, and captioned in that way by me, had to be rewritten to read Christmas 1939. The Notes page that I was asked to create, labeled Notes at the center top of an otherwise blank page, as is the custom, was deemed insufficient and so the author spent precious time rewriting it to include her name and that of the book.
But, on the first Saturday of August at just after 7:00 PM, I received from the book designer the PDF to upload to the self-publishing website. The book’s formatting was checked electronically and found to be fine and on Sunday, I ordered a physical proof. We’re on our way to printing enough copies to have ready for the September 18 book launch party. Hooray!
As Epilogue, I hope that this story is useful for those of you who’ve been thinking about self-publishing a book that will help you to promote your brand and services. Self-publishing houses will provide assistance with cover design. Hire an independent copy editor. To legally register your book, go first to the ISBN website and also buy your bar code there. Separately register the book’s copyright at http://ipfilings.net.
Thanks for reading and I’m delighted to be back!