Historical Nonfiction Author

Reality intervenes after I mix enthusiasm and ignorance

The page proofs included the title page and chapter 1.

Lesson learned last week: The arrival of page proofs doesn’t mean that publication is imminent.

One of History Press’ copy editors recently completed a read-through of this manuscript and made dozens of changes. Then, within days and without warning, I found the page proofs in my inbox.

At the newspaper where I worked, page proofs represented the final review before publication. They were replicas of the finished pages, with everything from headlines to ads. Page proofs gave us one last chance to catch problems on paper that we may have missed on screen.

Because of this experience, I expected the page proofs for this book to be an inch-high stack of paper stuffed inside an oversized manila envelope. Instead, they were an email attachment, a PDF of 128 pages.

That meant that if I wanted to read the book on paper, I had to go to Office Depot and pay $15 for a copy. Even so, I was thrilled. My creation was no longer a Word document, printed out and bound by a staple in the corner. It was a book. At least it looked like a book, with an ISBN number, copyright notice and chapter headings. There was even a History Press logo on the title page.

With the page proofs in hand, I concluded that production of the book was moving quickly. I didn’t have the cover art for the front or a copy block for the back. Yet I had the page proofs. Certainly the missing pieces would arrive soon. Publication, which had been scheduled for July, would surely be advanced. I confidently told a friend that I might have a book in hand next month.


I had built a conclusion from little more than enthusiasm and ignorance. And my editor was quick to disabuse me. History Press’ printing schedule was set through August, he said, and I wasn’t on it. The soonest they could print this book was September, maybe October.

Wow, a summer book had become an autumn one. In the span of about 24 hours, I had gone from elation to dejection. Lesson learned.


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