Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #104

ABS Bible for the visually impaired
After a few short extensions and some late nights, my manuscript "The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society" has finally been sent to Oxford University Press and the process of transforming the manuscript into a book is underway.

Submitting a book manuscript requires a lot more than simply hitting the "send" button.   Here is what Oxford requires:

  • The manuscript, of course.  It needs to be formatted in 12 point font and double spaced. Each chapter needs to be sent as a separate file. This includes the table of contents, the acknowledgments, the dedication page., the bibliography, etc...
  • An "Author's Questionnaire."  This is a very important document because it helps the publisher promote the book.  Oxford's questionnaire has close to forty questions. If you are thorough, filling this thing out could take several hours or maybe even a full day.  This is the point when the author writes the material that will appear on the cover jacket.  In addition, shorter statements (50 or so words) need to be written for catalog copy and the website.  For me, one of the fun parts of the questionnaire is picking potential blurbers and suggested places where the book should be reviewed and advertised.   
  • A "Manuscript Submission Form."  On this form the author answers questions about the production process.  Will you be creating the index yourself or do you want to pay the publisher to do it? Do you want a "light" copy-edit or something more extensive?  Have you secured permission to publish all of the images and pictures that will appear in the book? Fortunately, all of my images come from the archives of the American Bible Society and I was granted free permission to use them. 
  • The"Oxford Scholarship Online Key Word and Abstract Form".  This thing is a beast.  It requires 3-5 sentences abstracts for every chapter in the book and 3-10 key words for each chapter.  The "Bible Cause," as it now stands, has twenty-eight chapters. Enough said.
The submission of a book like this also comes with some anxiety.  Oxford offered me a book contract based on the first two chapters.  They have not seen anything since then.  After spending so much time on a book project you start to lose perspective. Is this thing really any good?  Is my editor going to like it?  Is he/she going to send it back with orders to conduct a complete overhaul? How painful will the copy-editing process be? 

In my case the number of words in the manuscript that I submitted is much greater than the contracted word-count. How will the editor respond to this? Authors think that such extra words are absolutely necessary to tell the story that they want to tell.  Will the editor agree?

On the other hand, it is nice to be done--at least for now.