Onward through the fog: Peer review and other rituals

Returning to our narrative of how “Losering” came to be, you may recall that I turned in the manuscript more than a year ago, in August 2011. But it’s only now making its way into the world. I’m used to banging things out and having them appear in public a day or two later; maybe a few weeks later, if I’m working ahead, or a few months later if it’s for a magazine — or even instantaneously, if it’s going online immediately.

Books, on the other hand, move along at a much more deliberate pace. Most of them, anyway. The book business can move very fast when there’s a reason to; like when somebody famous dies and there’s a lot of money at stake (see: “Steve Jobs,”  a biography that had its publication date accelerated by six months and was in stores mere weeks after its subject died last year).

But that’s the fast track. For most of us lesser mortals, getting a book out takes a lot longer. And if you’re working with a university press, you also go through a round of formal “peer review” — although it’s more low-impact than what that phrase typically implies. I didn’t have to defend my book to a tenure committee or anything like that. But UT Press sent the manuscript to a pair of outside readers for feedback, and their reviews were in by mid-October.

Both recommended publication, with some revisions. I tried not to bristle at the suggestions, not all of which I agreed with; one reviewer asked for details that I felt like I already had in the manuscript. But I dutifully wrote a response in which I gave thanks for the feedback and promised to incorporate their suggestions. Many of which, I must confess, I wound up ignoring.

On the plus side, the reviewers did have some good ideas about how to make the book more accessible beyond Ryan’s immediate fanbase, and those suggestions I took. I even worked up a “nut graph” entry-point explainer about Why Ryan Matters for the preface (sometimes this really was just like writing for the newspaper). I was already well into the final write-through, including the addition of a segment about Ryan’s then-recently released Ashes and Fire album, when UT’s faculty advisory committee formally approved “Losering” for publication on Nov. 4, 2011.

I got the word from Allison Faust via e-mail: “Congratulations! There’s no turning back now.”

No indeed. I spent the rest of that month giving “Losering” one last tinker, buff and shine. The additions pushed the final word count up just a bit, to about 56,000 words. Just after Thanksgiving, I hit “Send” again.

But I still wasn’t done. The book went through a couple of rounds of copy-editing that stretched into early 2012. I double- and triple-checked every detail until my bloodshot eyes were a perfect chromatic match for my red pen. Typeset page proofs came back to me in early April and I checked everything all over again before sending the whole mess back for the last time. The book went to the printer in July, and UT Press had copies ready to ship by mid-August.

And now it’s out in the world. Finally. Whew…

Image by Gideon Burton

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2 thoughts on “Onward through the fog: Peer review and other rituals

  1. Pingback: You could look it up: T Bone Burnett also on the way for 2016 | Losering Books

  2. Pingback: Alina Simone’s ray of light | Losering Books

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