Reflections of a first-time author

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When I signed a contract with History Press, I lost control of my book.

I‘m exaggerating, of course. I had plenty to say about publication of the book. But I also had a partner, a majority partner, according to the contract, with plenty of experience and a set way of doing things.

For example, the company chose a title over my objection. I believe that Shedrick Thompson’s death was the last lynching in all of Virginia, not just Northern Virginia. But History Press editors said that books with the subject locality in the title sell better than books without that. They prevailed.

The company also created a cover—an attractive one, I believe—that fit their look. I test myself when I’m in a bookstore to see if I can pick out the History Press books. Many of its covers look like mine, done in earth tones, and divided into thirds, with photos on top and bottom and text in the middle. I’m pretty good at spotting them. (See examples, including my book, above.)

I used to think of the newspaper where I worked as a giant maw, a machine that had to be fed seven local news stories a day before it spit out a newspaper. As times, History Press feels like that too. To this first-time author, it has seemed like a giant machine that gobbles manuscripts and produces finished books. Mine will soon be one of them. Look for it Monday, Sept. 12.

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