by Hugh Gilmore
Some people saaay there’s a woooman to blame, but, it’s my own damned fault. Last refuge of a scoundrel: using Jimmy Buffet-Parrothead-speak to make light of my mistakes.
Late in December last year I submitted my novel “Last Night on the Gorilla Tour” to CreateSpace, the publishing branch of Amazon.com, My book-launch party and first public reading from the book were scheduled for Feb. 22 at Musehouse.
The publishers warned that it would be a close race to get finished copies to me in time for my signing. They said they needed eight weeks. With the Christmas, New Year, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holidays coming up, it would be a very tight squeeze. In fact, there was a good chance that I’d do my Musehouse reading on a Friday, and the books wouldn’t arrive till Monday or Tuesday.
As Machiavelli said, however, “Fortune favors the bold,” so I pushed on with my publicity campaign. That included emailing friends, being interviewed for a feature story in the Local, and putting notices on my blog. Also, for the first time, in response to the now-universal advice given to anyone with a project to promote, I joined Facebook.
The way I understood it, one simply got a Facebook page and name and started squawking. In fact, I created two Facebook pages. One was meant to be “personal,” the other “professional.” The personal page had a photo icon showing me happily blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. The “professional writer” page showed me as a Mafia-like, sunglass-wearing, Mr. Nasty deNiro Pacino, the noir novel writer.
I’ll come back to that double-identity situation in a moment, after I explain that the whole time I was preparing for my book launch I was unaware that I left the water running, book-wise. That is, I mean, the gas jets had been left on. I mean the mice were nibbling the cheese I’d planned to serve.
What I’m saying here is that on Jan. 25 my physical proof arrived and, despite my earlier editorial efforts and those of three other sharp-eyed readers, I still found errors in the text. Not just one or two, which might be acceptable in a 100,000-word book, but more than a dozen. Misplaced commas, dropped lines and inconsistent spelling were the leading flaws.
Now, if you found ants in the sugar bowl just as your guests were sitting down to tea, you’d probably hurry back to the kitchen and brush the ants away or dump the bowl and refill it cleanly. But that was a tough call here. If I ordered another round of edits from CreateSpace, they’d reset the publishing process and I’d lose about eight days of momentum. I might not have copies for my book-launch party.
I edited the book anyway and hoped for the best. By Feb. 2, I had dragged a fine tooth comb over the text another half-dozen times and re-sent the manuscript. I then called CreateSpace every day, begging them to let me jump the line.
On Feb. 8 my digital proof was ready (a file I could download online). Without rereading the file, anxious to get copies for my launch party, feeling totally bulletproof about now having error-free copy, I ordered 50 copies of the book, paying extra for expedited shipping. The bill was close to $400.
Two days later the physical proof (i.e., a physical copy of the book exactly as it would appear) arrived. I admired its beauty. I purred at its sleekness. I opened its crisp pages and nearly puked. I saw more errors. How could that be? It seemed as though some insidious creeping disease had gotten into the book and spread. Nonetheless, 50 imperfect copies for the book launch were on their way because I’d already approved the book.
I tried to console myself. Every writer makes technical mistakes, right? It’s the story that matters, right? And the nuggets of wisdom. And interesting characters. That’s what I told myself anyway. I’d warn people the book needed brushing up, and go ahead with my plans for the launch. In the interim, I’d re-edit the book and publish another edition, revised yet again.
The tainted copies arrived the day before the launch. I brought them with me to the reading. There was a full house that night. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Somehow I overrode my queasiness and put on a good show. I sold lots of copies of “Gorilla Tour.” We all enjoyed a fine author’s reception afterward. Great party.
Later that night I went to bed glowing, happy that I’d briefly been the evening’s star attraction, proud that I’d given a good reading, and delighted that I’d had the pleasure of talking merrily with people I really enjoy and respect.
How nice. But as I turned out the light, another reality intruded. I shuddered at the sudden thought that, after twelve years of struggle to get that book written and into the public eye, my troubles might just be beginning.
Next week we’ll meet the mystery woman, I promise.
Hugh Gilmore is also the author of “Scenes from a Bookshop,” a collection of stories gathered from his bookshop days. The book is available in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon.com and leading bookstores everywhere.