By Claire Eamer
I HAVE A NEW BOOK COMING OUT JUNE 1!!!
(Oops. Did I shout? Sorry. It’s just that the birth of a new book is really quite exciting.)
Actually, let me tell you a bit about the book – and then I’ll move on to the “exciting.”
It’s called Extremely Gross Animals: Stinky, Slimy and Strange Animal Adaptations, published by my good friends at Kids Can Press. And it’s disgusting, in the best of all possible ways!
|Note the tasteful use of both snot-green and puke-green on the book cover.|
For example, did you know that baby elephants eat their mothers’ poop? And it’s good for them. Or that horned lizards shoot blood out of their eyes? (Okay, it’s from glands right near their eyes, but the effect is pretty much the same.) Or that giraffes can stick their tongues up their noses? And do!
The book has that and more – and I find it all fascinating. In fact, behaviour that looks icky at first glance usually turns out to be an unexpected but extremely useful way for an animal to survive and prosper. You can read all about it in my new book (did I mention that it’s called Extremely Gross Animals?) on June 1.
But back to the “exciting” bit….
A book isn't born either painlessly or quickly. It has a long, long gestation period. An elephant goes from fertilized egg to newborn baby in about 645 days, or about 21.5 months. Compared to a book, that’s downright speedy.
I checked back through my emails and found that I first mentioned the idea of Extremely Gross Animals to my editor at the end of August 2017. That means it will have had a gestion period of 44 months by the time it’s released to the world – more than twice the time it takes to produce an elephant. And all that for a book that’s just 40 pages long.
So what takes so long? Here’s a summary, based on my overflowing email archive (which I really should prune):
August 31, 2017: I mention in an email “…an old book idea I tinkered with a bit – gross and disgusting animals. I’m sure the world’s 8 to 12 year olds need this book!” My editor agreed, so we both started looking through lists of existing books to see if anyone had already written this book.
September 17, 2017: I submit a preliminary proposal for the book, designed not to duplicate any of the books we found in our search. The proposal bounces back and forth between me and the editor for a few months as we refine it.
January 9, 2018: I submit a full proposal to Kids Can Press (KCP): a detailed outline of the book, an explanation of the rationale behind it, a review of similar or competing titles, and suggestions about how it fits into the curriculum of several different school systems.
March 8, 2018: The KCP editorial board approves going ahead with the proposal, as long as there are enough good, kid-friendly photos of the animals. (There are.)
Long pause filled with personnel changes at KCP, publication schedule planning, and other mysterious goings-on. In other words, my proposal seems to have disappeared into a black hole.
November 8, 2018: After another editorial board meeting, input from the sales department, and more mysterious publisher activity, I’m told the book is a go. Yay!?! But that doesn’t mean the book is underway yet. I still don’t have a contract.
January 17, 2019: I receive a contract proposal from KCP. Then we (KCP, my literary consultant, and I) negotiate.
February 15, 2019: I have a contract with deadlines, royalty rates, lots and lots of fine print – and the book is officially underway! (At this point, of course, I have been researching my chosen animals for some time. But nothing’s official until it’s signed-official.)
…writing…researching…reorganizing…writing…more researching...more writing....
May 6, 2019: I submit the first draft of Extremely Gross Animals (although it doesn’t have that title yet).
May 28, 2019: Draft manuscript returned with editor’s comments.
June 6, 2019: I submit the second draft, along with a draft glossary and list of scientific names for some animals. A few days later, it starts circulating around the editorial department at KCP.
July 14, 2019: I receive editor’s comments on the second draft of the manuscript. I return the manuscript with a few changes a couple of days later, and then go on to work on the back matter, including the index word list, glossary, etc.
August 25, 2019: I receive a revised publication schedule from the publisher. The book has been moved forward to Spring 2021 publication instead of Fall 2021 (which still seems like a long way off). At this point, the designer, photo researcher, and printers get involved, with each stage checked by multiple people.
September 19, 2019: I receive the final edited version of the manuscript, along with the edited version of the end matter we’ve all been working on. Now we make decisions, such as figuring out which animals need to be identified by scientific name and how we do that without confusing the reader.
November 29, 2019: I receive the manuscript with the copy editor’s comments. These are usually the nitpicky bits related to the publisher’s house style, but it's also a chance for a fresh set of eyes to spot where something isn’t as clear as it should be. By this time, both the editor and I have read the manuscript so many times that we can’t reliably pick those moments out. So – yet a few more changes. At this point, I’m well over two years into this book.
April 29, 2020: The photo research is almost complete. The editor checks with me about a few of the photos – mainly whether they match the scientific information in the book.
May 7, 2020: I receive the first set pages (illustrated and laid out as they’ll appear in the book). My job is to check the text one more time, check all the photos to make sure they are scientifically accurate, and add any little touches that might seem necessary (for example, size references where it’s not clear how big or small the animal is). Comment from the editor: “And my advice is to do your review well before or well after eating -- after seeing the photos of the horsehair worms, I won't be eating spaghettini for quite a while.”
August 27, 2020: I receive a PDF file of the first complete colour version of the interior pages of the book. So pretty! And one more chance to catch problems. There aren’t many, but I send back my list of tweaks the next day.
September 9, 2020: I receive a draft of the cover copy (the text on the book’s back cover) for review.
September 22, 2020: I get my first look at the cover. Wow!
November 2, 2020: The final title is confirmed –
Extremely Gross Animals: Stinky, Slimy and Strange Animal Adaptations – and I have official permission to start talking about the book.
Author's delight -- a boxful of beautiful books!
And the rest is a matter of waiting to meet my book in person, face to …er…cover. That happened April 13 (less than four years after I started thinking about it), when my box of author's copies arrived. The rest of you will have to wait a few more weeks.
But you can pre-order the book at your local bookstore or online. It's called Extremely Gross Animals: Stinky, Slimy and Strange Animal Adaptations. Or did I already mention that?