Book Breakdown Before Publication

When I first received the PDF version of Running in Silence, I was in awe of the layout (props to Koehler Books!). But this soon turned into somewhat of a horror film as I began to make a final round of SMALL EDITS/CORRECTIONS (emphasis, my publisher).

Thoughts: It’s almost a book! So many things to fix that I hadn’t seen before! I can’t publish this right now!!!

I asked my publisher if we could get more time. I asked if we could change multiple sentences and paragraphs, and I questioned myself as an author. Deep down, I knew what was happening–I realized I was in what I now call “pre-publication freak-out,” a stage that my editor admitted she experienced as well with her book Looking for Lydia, Looking for God.

The book is in no way broken. Most of the “fixes” I wanted made are probably invisible to most readers. But as an author, a writer–someone who critiques, analyzes, and reads so many other books, works to hone the craft, and who wrote most of the book at the age of 22, I am now a 25-year-old author who constantly finds ways to improve and wants to put her best work out there.

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The thing is, I’m not afraid of negative reviews. If anything, I want to have some of those among the positive reviews. I want to see ways in which I can improve. Because I am an author, and I am a writer–still writing, still wanting to produce future books (having already written my second). And I know that all positive reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a perfect book. I want readers to express themselves. I want the book to start a discussion, to speak for a community of sufferers, and both positive and negative reviews will get that conversation going.

I’m putting myself out there, yes–but it’s not the story itself that terrifies me. I’ve told my story hundreds of times, and it no longer frightens me to share the epic binges or the way in which I abused food or how I felt about my body and running. What scares me is the way in which I tell my story, the way in which I hope to come across to the readers, the way in which others may view me for describing the other people in my book. This has real people, real events, and is part of an eating disorder community that can be critical of books with possible triggers or alternative methods of recovery.

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I keep reminding myself that my greatest wish is not to make this the perfect book, really, but to connect, encourage, support, and offer advice based on my own experiences. It is, above all, a self-help book, and that’s what helped me to look at those sentences and paragraphs one last time, sit with them, and acknowledge their bravery, their worth, and their imperfection, which made them perfect.

And slowly, happily, I let them go.

2 replies
  1. Dean Robertson
    Dean Robertson says:

    Rachael, I am thrilled to watch your excitement/fear/obsession/surrender from the sidelines. And, yes, that first pdf, when all those Word documents suddenly look like a book, is beyond description. I don’t recall ever even thinking the word “book” until that day. I always called it my manuscript. Safer. And I absolutely drove dear John Koehler close to hair-tearing with my TINY LITTLE EDITS (rewrites of entire paragraphs because it was obvious to me that the “manuscript” could stand some improvement. He finally pointed out to me that what I was being asked to do was a final PROOFREADING which differs from editing by about a hundred miles. I did stop eventually, though not with as much grace as you managed. The book got published. It’s a good book. John still speaks to me. All is well. Good luck going forward.

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