Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What a Self-Published Editing Client Taught Me

I have been of two (maybe three) minds about self-publishing: It's totally right for some people, completely wrong for certain writers, and iffy for many others. Now that there are so many types, levels and options even within the world of self-publishing though, I find myself reassessing those blanket statements fairly frequently.

Whatever my own personal feelings about self-publishing, as an editor and sometime ghostwriter, I am always happy to help out planning-to-self-publish folks get their manuscripts ready. When I first began working with self-publishing writers a couple of years ago, one thing I hadn't anticipated was how much my involvement with their manuscripts might mean to me.

Recently, several former editing clients brought their projects to completion, and when each book arrived on my doorstep, I was surprised by my own excited reaction – and it took me a while to unravel why each one meant something different, and important, to me. Like this one.

Florida Artist: Wm. North, His Life and Art is jointly written by a local woman (who'd taken one of my writing classes three years ago), and her 83-year-old father, a well-respected, award-winning painter. Shorter text-wise than most other books I work on, it is also filled with photos of his paintings of Florida scenes, both natural and man-made, making it visually enticing.

During the editing process, I was impressed by Colleen's commitment to (before it's too late) help her father record his life story, explain his philosophy about art, and share his joy at living a full artist's life in retirement after a desk-bound career. The book was not only a labor of love between father and adult daughter, but a marketing tool too – something her dad could sell at his gallery and art book store and to the many fans of his work worldwide. That he is slowing losing his eyesight made it even more urgent to help Colleen bring the book to fruition quickly, and I was pleased that I could direct Colleen to a nearby publishing company so her cherished project remained local and completely within her control, fulfilling an important commitment she'd made to herself and her father.

All of these ingredients made for an excellent use of self-publishing, I thought. When I finally saw the finished book, and the art which I had only seen online, jumped off the pages at me, I had a new feeling of satisfaction for the small part I'd played in helping Colleen and her father. The feeling lingered, and it was about more than words, pictures and a lovely finished product in my hands. This book seemed to haunt me, and I was about to find out way.

Watching and listening to Colleen at her book launch party a few weeks later, I realized that for me, this project was also about something else, something sad and yet also wonderful to finally acknowledge: My own father was a frustrated artist who created pencil sketches, and wrote poems, short stories and essays, but almost always in secret; and I only realized after he'd died four years ago, that we may have had some interesting conversations about his creative endeavors (instead of mine) had I only stopped long enough to notice.

How lucky Colleen and her father were, I thought, to have had this book-length "conversation" while he's still here, and vibrant. Colleen thanked me on the book's acknowledgments page. But maybe I should be thanking her. And so I am.

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