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Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 14:06:47 +0100
Subject: The Whole World 3

Hi all–more to report about progress with “The Whole World”:


There are several stages of editing. I’ve just done some “*macro
edits*.” This is where Kate pointed out general things to
emphasize/add/change overall, and left me to choose exactly where in the
manuscript and how to do that. I’ve turned those in and await her
response. She may then want more macro edits, or she may move on to…

*Line edits*! This is where Kate will go through the manuscript and mark
specific places where she would like work. This is not about
typos/grammar/spelling; it’s about word choices, forms of expression,
and where specific scenes need specific work. (Again, I’m privileged to
have such a high-ranking editor do this herself. This is often passed on
to newer editors.)

When Kate is happy with my work in response to her line edits, she will
pass the manuscript on for *copy edits*. A copy editor does final checks
for spelling/typos/grammar.

This manuscript will be complicated for a copy editor, because of my
multiple narrators. I’ve given them spellings and sentence constructions
to match whether they’re British or American, and the copy editor will
need to keep track of that.

In addition to the work that Kate specifically wants, I’m taking this
last opportunity to clean up things that may need more research. There
are some scenes, for example one at a dressage show and one at a barn
dance, where, at the time, moving the plot along was my priority. I
thought, hey, I’ll get the setting perfect later. Well, later is now!
Thanks to Mary and Gina and Dave, who are holding me to a high standard
of accuracy and giving me great advice.

Contractually, all this needs to be done by October. I have no control
over how long it will take the editors to do their parts, so I have to
really keep on top of what I can control.

*Q and A*

I’ve added a “Q and A” page to my website, at

There are a couple of purposes for such info: It’s for readers to find
out more about an author, and, most importantly, for media people to get
info if they haven’t time to read the book. Someone writing a feature or
preparing an interview needs to know, quickly, what the book is about,
and what topics the author can be prompted to talk about.

I’d love to know what you think. Is there anything I can change or add
that would improve it?

*Book Trailer*

“Book trailers” are supposed to be the next big, hot thing in book
publicity. They’re still in the experimental stages as a media tool.
Authors share them with each other when swapping marketing ideas, but
I’ve seen little evidence that they significantly impact readers.
Mostly, I’ve heard writers report that they’re handy for whipping up
excitement in-house, which is certainly valuable. Getting the marketing
department at one’s publisher excited about one’s book is very important.

(Interesting side note: It’s not uncommon for one’s in-house marketing
team to not even have read the book!! One reason for this is that
mansucripts are bulky: difficult to bring home, difficult to read while
commuting. Random House has issued Sony e-readers to all their staff,
which should significantly improve the odds that my marketing/publicity
people will actually read The Whole World.)

Book trailers often mimic movie trailers, communicating the premise/hook
from the back cover visually/audibly. They’re primarily available on the
author’s website, or myspace page, or youtube. Eventually, it’s thought
they’ll be played on TV screens in bookstores or in airports. But, at
present, they’re viewed by people who have already sought out the
author, rather than attracting new fans. I’ve kept my goals modest; I
know I don’t have the tools to make it look like a proper TV commercial
myself, and I don’t think it’s worth the cost to hire someone who could.

My motive in creating my trailer is to communicate the beauty of my
book’s setting. Americans notoriously romanticize England, and in the
case of Cambridge that’s entirely justified. The setting is as much an
attraction as the plot. There’s a wonderful Cambridge photographer,
Derek Langley, whose work will be familiar to any local. He takes
incredible black-and-white photos of Cambridge that have an eerie,
timeless beauty that I feel well-represents The Whole World.

Like most book trailers, mine is homemade. It’s a flash slideshow,
alternating photos with text from the book. It’s been a big challenge
finding the right timing to change slides, since everyone reads at a
different pace.

I could use sound, but so far I’ve found no options that appeal to me.
It’s common for such trailers to use stock music, and I’ve always found
the stock music cheesy and annoying. Maybe I just need to keep looking.
I’ve also considered narrating it, which would solve the pace-of-reading
problem. But, even with my voice-over training, I’m concerned that it
would sound homemade. So, at present, it’s soundless.

I’d love feedback regarding:
1) Any technical difficulties viewing it? Please let me know exactly
what went wrong, and what browser/computer you use.
2) Any specific points where you would advise me to change the length
that a slide, particularly a text slide, is held?
3) Did you find it at all interesting?
4) Who would you imagine finding it useful? A potential reader? An
already devoted reader? Media?
5) General suggestions for improvement.

It would be most helpful if you would specify whether your comment
refers to this trailer in particular, or the idea of trailers generally.
If you find it, for example, “boring,” it would be helpful for me to
know if you find the concept of book trailers boring, or this specific
execution of it.

Thanks! I hope you enjoy it.

*Fun Research
I had a lovely experience with some research for book 2.

I interviewed an astrophysicist, Lindsay King, at the Institute of
Astronomy to check on the science stuff I’m referencing in book 2.
Partway through our talk came “tea time.” Apparently, every department
in the university has “tea ladies” who set out coffee, tea and platters
of cookies, not just every day, but *twice* a day. So I got to attend
morning tea-time at Astronomy.

Meeting other astrophysicists, I bemoaned my trouble finding any kind of
suitable location for mayhem or confrontation at the Institute. All the
telescopes are at ground level, no really magnificent buildings or
towers, etc. One of them suggested the Observatory Dome. Lindsay was
amazed, as she had no idea it was accessible. He assured us it was, and
led us there.

Before I describe it, let me explain that my two concerns about a
setting for confrontation were that it be atmospheric, *and* that it be
accessibile. If it were locked up tight, exclusive or otherwise
difficult to get into, it would make it hard to chase someone there.

Well, the staircase to the abandoned observatory dome is within the
unlocked astronomy library building, just around the corner from the
front door. It’s completely open and unobstructed, though its position
makes it obscure; not even Lindsay, who’s worked there for years, knew
it was there. Up, up, up, dust and cobwebs and peeling paint, to a tiny
half-sized door. A ledge next to the door holds an old-fashioned key,
just sitting there. Sun reflecting off something painted red made a
laser-like glow through the keyhole. We unlocked it and stooped through,
out onto a fabulous rooftop, with lovely old details, even a gargoyle or
two. Lots of space to chase, threaten to jump, throw someone off. And,
best of all, a big, abandoned telescope dome.

This too was unlocked. It had some remains of structural stuff: a
table-like object, a tall box. Again, cobwebs, dust, and–get this–the
crunchy carcasses of hundreds of dead wasps!

I think I’ve clearly found my setting 🙂

Next month I’m interviewing some faculty from the Institute of Criminology.


I was asked if I mind these emails being shared. I don’t mind that per
se, but I wouldn’t want the content to end up published on the web by a
third party (not that I’m saying your personal friend would do that, but
rather that once something is “out there” it can’t be controlled). So,
if you do want to share, I would prefer if you would print it out,
rather than email it, if that’s possible.

I’ll probably eventually post these emails on my own website, with some
editing, as a record of the publishing process. But that will be after
the book comes out.



From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."