Beyond the Hustle

Phew! “Academaze” is out, we’ve done a giveaway raffle, and I am ready to talk about something else. But perhaps not just yet.

Those of you who have read the book — thank you and I hope you enjoyed it! Whether you liked it or not, if you feel inclined to write an honest review (Amazon, Goodreads, your personal blog, etc.) or help us spread the word on social media, it will be greatly appreciated by both me and my publisher. Thank you!

I have to say, this promoting-a-book business is not for the faint of heart. While I understand it’s necessary, it is not a comfortable mode to be in for an introverted academic, pulling people by the sleeve with “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my boooooook!” I know how annoying it is to be on the receiving end of people’s attempts to extract money from you, yet here I am, doing just that. I am really sorry! And, yeah, buy my book.

Seriously now, I thought I would share my experiences about the process that led to the book being out in the world, in all its copyedited, cover-arted, ISBN-ed glory.

First, I have to thank Melanie of Annorlunda Books. She has been really wonderful throughout the whole process. Melanie has learned her publishing trade (she’s got several trades under her belt, such as being a PhD with considerable experience working in the biotech industry) by first self-publishing, as well as by having a couple of her own books published by others. There are many details regarding book formatting and distribution that would have required considerable time for me to learn, and I am glad I didn’t have to do it.

Overall, I am really happy I went with a small publisher and only had to ever work with Melanie, whom I trusted. I mostly knew Melanie from the blogosphere (although we met briefly in person a few years ago when I was traveling through her city), but I think that, when you interact with someone for years, even if it’s “just” online, you eventually do get a fairly good sense of who they are. I had gotten to know her as a kind and level-headed person, so I was comfortable trusting her with the book. She was great to work with; she was very accommodating of my preferences in terms of layout and put a lot of effort into making something we were both happy with.

Second, I now admire more than ever those writers who are able to churn out more than one book per year. It’s not just the writing; it’s the editing, going over the text again and again, revising, revising, revising, and then proofreading, proofreading, proofreading. Uuuuuuugh. Writers like Stephen King or Brandon Sanderson, who produce multiple books per year, are freakin’ superheroes. Somebody fetch each of them a cape! Even if their genres aren’t your cup of tea, you have to admire the work ethics, literary talent, and fecund imagination that together enable them to publish as prolifically as they do the kinds of books that many other people enjoy reading.

In my case, there was a lot of raw material to start from, and I might have underestimated just how much there was and just how raw much of it was. Paring down from about 400k to about 150k words was not too onerous; that’s the level at which whole essays were removed as too personal or too ranty. Getting down to what the book is now, about 83k (i.e., about 20% of the starting material), was considerably more laborious; it required going through the text with a fine tooth comb, along with trying to find a reasonably coherent thread. Several essays are actually amalgams of two or three blog posts. Many pieces that worked on the blog simply did not otherwise; often, a sentence or a paragraph is all that survived.

I have reread the book probably a dozen times now, and as much as I am in love with it, I am also a little (alright, a lot) sick of it. I think I need to leave it be for a little while.

But I am extremely pleased that several people said they found it easy to read. I highly value readability of anything I write; when referees say my paper is technically complicated but easy to follow and compelling to read anyway, it really warms my heart; it means I have achieved what I was supposed to — presented new science, new findings, in a way that other humans can appreciate. So when reviews speak of the book as an easy read, I think I did my job right.

There are spots in the book that I would have liked to polish some more, but between it being a sizable text, me having a demanding day job, this being my first book (i.e., me not really knowing what I was doing), and several of us involved working hard to make the deadline despite varied other obligations, I think the book turned out really, really, really well. I am very proud of it.

I thought you might like to know that, after many weeks of agonizing, I have decided to send a copy to my former postdoc, after I had sworn him to secrecy. When I offered him the book I immediately felt it was the right thing to do, as opposed to an awful mistake. He is a trustworthy guy with a great sense of humor, and he’s going through the growing pains with his own group, being midway through the tenure track, so I think he’ll enjoy the book and also keep my secret.




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