The deadly limbo of pre-publication
As some readers of this blog know, my book, How Tradition Works, is coming out later this year from Arizona Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. The book was sent in to the press in the summer of 2002, accepted in January 2003, then edited and revised in both March and September of 2003. Since then I have been waiting. A brilliant friend read the manuscript and gave me a lot of good ideas, so I revised again in November of 2004. The galleys are supposed to arrive sometime this month, and simultaneously another brilliant friend is reading the manuscript, so it is quite possible that she will find more errors and problems for me before the galleys come.
Also, I have been trying to boil down three chapters (well over 160 pages) into a 20-30 page article for Oral Tradition. During this re-writing process, I've come across so many things that I can no longer bear, but fixing them would require re-writing the book. I'm simply not the same writer I was in 2000-2001, when the book was really written, and so my writing seems glaringly awful. I'm very proud of the argument, though, because even after all this time it seems to hang together very tightly. But revising this stylistic mess out of the galleys is going to be nearly impossible. [To be a little more sanguine, it's not a mess, per se, but a collection of grammatical stuctures, turns of phrase and rhythms that I don't use any more -- as such it will, one hopes, bother me but not my readers. ]
For a while I was very mad at my press for taking so long, becuase you know that some nimrod is going to attack me for not citing some particular work published in 2004. Sorry. Book was already written. But after speaking to the publisher and seeing the immense back-list of books that were in line in front of me. I understood. Another participant in the same conversation said "Why do you accept so many books when you have a big backlog?" Said the publisher: "People need tenure and promotion materials. If their materials are good, and can be reviewed anonymously and accepted, then they can have their work eventually recognized and, more importantly, they'll have something to give to their tenure committees." Good point, and a very humane approach. Plus, I'm sure he has to deal with a lot of authors whining about getting things accepted and published.
But my larger point is that still having this over me creates a liminal situation in which I'm not done or free of the book, but I also can't really work on it any more. It's driving me crazy. Only a few more weeks -- one hopes-- and it's out of my hands.