February 11, 2020


There’s not much to tell; my editor and I were talking in Twitter DMs about a preorder campaign for my debut novel, ‘Beneath the Rising,’ and I said something like ‘Well, let me know when to send you the dedication and acknowledgements,’ because I hadn’t heard anything about the book since the copyedit and I assumed (ha!) that there was some kind of checklist or something that I’d be asked to fill out before everything was finalized, and that
those would be on there. And my editor replied ‘Oh my God! I am so sorry! I forgot to ask you and it’s already gone to press!’

My entire reply, verbatim, was ‘!!!’

(Easy to remember.)

He was very apologetic, he admitted it was absolutely his fault, and I was Extremely

Distressed for a couple of days, and then merely Upset And A Little Weepy. Now I’m just resigned. It’s been fixed about as well as could be managed for free (always a consideration with publishing): they obviously didn’t want to pull and re-print a proper version so the paperbacks will be incomplete, but the e-book version should be OK, and apparently there’s an audiobook? I don’t know. But that’ll be OK too apparently because they’re not done it or something. I rushed the acknowledgements to get them handed in a couple hours after the discovery (and very notably, and hilariously, left several people out, but oh well).

Just noticed: Christ! Got it wrong in the blog post as well.

That’s supposed to read

‘To my friends, who pulled me from the darkness
And into the light’

It’s just so fucking disappointing, you know? Because it seems so preventable. I thought for sure I was prepared for every kind of publishing disaster after reading Martin Amis’ ‘The Information’ about a dozen times long before I ever decided to try to get published (book tours, for instance; radio interviews; hand-selling; writerly nemeses; signings; nearly killing editors; etc). It’s funny, looking back, I just assumed the book itself would be the least of everybody’s worries. That there’d be some kind of quality control spreadsheet or something, and that more than one person would be looking it over, as has been the case in literally every single industry I’ve ever worked in (and listen, I’ve worked in flower stores and been a barista and done dishwashing and worked at a nickel plant and at an oil company and done consulting and data entry and etc etc; they’re standard everywhere). But the process of creating the book turns out to be just as much of a random clusterfuck as everything else related to getting the book to the public. (Which, by the way: completely random! As I am discovering! It’s absolutely opaque! You don’t know where your manuscript is or what stage it’s at or who’s looking at it or what they’re doing with it! It’s a black box! You put your book in one end and at the other end, two years later, you realize it’s not a black box at all but an Infinite Improbability Engine!)

The dedication was incredibly important to me, and I wrote it long before I even finished the book in 2002. It ties directly to a super important part of the novel, and echoes it in a way that means a lot to me.

And the acknowledgements are, of course, a way to express my gratitude for the many people who either helped me as a writer, or without whom the book never would have been published. And that’s also really important to me, and I hate that without it, to readers that aren’t Twitter addicts and didn’t see either of these blog posts, I just look like a self-centred, ungrateful megalomaniac. (NB: I feel like a few months ago I saw someone sneering at book acknowledgements, saying something like they were just a way to kiss-ass ‘important people,’ and I was like, Wow, what an amazing author you must be, having your book personally ushered into existence by the raw forces of literary magic that swirl through the universe! I am in awe at your prowess! And you’ll have to picture me muttering, under my breath, You entitled fucking ingrate. What, you think you did this entirely yourself? Your agent had nothing to do with it? Your editor had nothing to do with it? You designed the cover yourself? You copyedited it yourself? You typeset it? You called bookstores? Get your head out of your colon; it seems to have gotten lodged in there whilst you were kissing your own ass.)

Anyway. Venting.

I do not want to be that guy and I do not want to appear to be that guy because that was not my intent, not from the microsecond I signed the contract.

As I was discussing with a friend, it’s not that it in and of itself is really a huge deal, it’s just that it’s one of those very visible fuckups that makes me look bad rather than the publisher, you know? It’s like… it’s my first book. That’s only going to happen once. The analogy we used was the caterer forgetting to bring food to your wedding. A wedding is a big deal! It’s supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for you! And it’s not that the guests are coming for the food, but it’s an expected part of the wedding, and it’s both disappointing and baffling for everybody who helped the wedding happen (parents, friends, family, etc) to see those empty buffet tables. Oh geez, they think. I thought we were going to get fed? Like every other wedding I took the time and money to attend? What a selfish couple. And there’s me, up at the front in my white tux or whatever, sweating, going ‘Oh my God, how do I explain this? Do I throw the caterer under the bus?’ Which is also terrible, because I do want to make it clear that it’s not my fault and I didn’t not feed people deliberately, because I think better of them than that, and while I never expected a perfect wedding, I did expect the catering to come together, because this caterer has done a lot of weddings, but the caterer was under a lot of pressure and things get missed.

I will say, I’m super grateful for the public blog post that they put up, and that they also put up the missing dedication and acknowledgements (even if wrong, which did not even occur to me to do). It’s hard to admit a mistake, it’s especially hard to admit a mistake that affected someone else, it’s especially especially hard to admit that it’s affected a special experience that someone was looking forward to, and it’s practically impossible to put it on blast. So this was a tremendous gesture really, and on top of that I think we’ve all learned a useful lesson  about quality control here, so hopefully this doesn’t happen to anyone else!

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