Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Behind-the-Scenes of Editing James Bond and Popular Culture

Rodol  Forever Skyfall Poster - awesome fan made poster

My journey to editing a book about the influence of James Bond on popular culture came about three years ago. It started when I accepted a nomination to take over the Area Chair position for James Bond in Popular Culture panels for Southwest Popular/American Culture Association’s (SWPACA) annual conference. At that point, I probably had been like any other casual fan of the James Bond films. I had been entertained by them, but honestly had not put much thought into the franchise otherwise. I think the thought of a book was not on my mind at that time.

I hosted my first panel at the conference, held in Albuquerque, in 2012 and gave a Spyfi & Superspies 101 presentation to a crowd of James Bond enthusiasts. Granted the room was filled with those with an interest in James Bond, but I hadn’t realized just how passionate people could be about this suave British secret agent. I think it was fortuitous that my first year serving as Area Chair would coincide with the 50th anniversary of filmic Bond. The media and pop culture interest developed into a feverish pitch – everyone appeared to be a Bond fan, from Queen Elizabeth II to Nathan Fillion – that only found release that autumn with Skyfall starring Daniel Craig in his third outing as Bond and directed by the masterful Sam Mendes. It was nominated in almost 60 categories via 15 various awards’ organizations that included the Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globe, Grammy Awards, etc, and winning a total of 17 awards (according to Wiki: “Skyfall”). Freshly inspired by the conference and seeing all of the mounting interest and retrospectives regarding Bond, planted a seed in my mind.  

Nathan Fillion celebrates James Bond - hot!

Fast-forward to February 2013, downtown Albuquerque, for the annual SWPACA conference and my second year as Area Chair of James Bond, Espionage & Eurospy in Popular Culture. Along with the obvious networking opportunities that a conference provides, one of the other benefits is that there are usually a handful of academic oriented book sellers on hand to showcase their books and scout out viable book proposals. I got up the courage to talk with one of the publishers I had bought books from in the past and I figured they would likely be the best match for the book idea I had in mind.  I talked with the acquisitions editor and he was enthusiastic about my idea. He gave me a proposal form to fill out and return to him. So, for the next couple of hours, I fleshed out my idea into a handful of paragraphs. I returned with a hand-written proposal and was told I would hear back from the editor in a few weeks.

In the interim of waiting to hear from the publisher, I mocked up a call for papers and compiled a list of venues for advertising my call. I also drafted a proposed timeline and asked for advice from colleagues who had edited collections of essays in the past and particularly with the publisher I had contacted. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long before hearing back from the editor and by April, I had signed my first book contract. It was a surreal moment and I definitely felt like I was on the precipice, where I could either fall into a massive lump of failure or soar on the wind of success. It was up to me and I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

Signing the contract! 

With contract signed and on its way back to the publisher, I started putting the word out to the various online sources and through social networking, that I was accepting proposals. It started out slow, and by late May, the responses had picked up, but I was concerned that my deadline of June 1 was a roadblock for some who were trying to finish academic commitments. I had built in some flexibility to my timeline; so, I extended my call to mid June.

Once the deadline past, I quickly reviewed all the proposals at one time and responded back to everyone who submitted a proposal. The majority I received had interesting thesis statements and in the end, I chose 20 essays for inclusion, figuring that I might have writers drop out by the time the essays were due at the beginning of November.

As November approached, about a fourth of the essays came in, but I also had a few writers ask for extensions. Thankfully, I still felt I had a little cushion in my schedule, so I offered extensions to everyone who had not turned in their essays, which at that point was about a week before the November 1 deadline. Several took an extension and by December 1, I had 14 essays. (I held onto the idea that my essay would make 15, but that went out the window when I got into the editing stage.)

Editing started in early December. With Brian Garant and Nicholas Diak assistance, we read through the essays for grammatical, format, and theoretical errors. I then went through them again and in mid January, I emailed out the edited essays for revisions by the writers, with the proviso that they return their corrected essays within three weeks. And it seemed to be a reasonable amount of time based on the timely responses I received back.

All the revised essays were back by late February. As I started verifying sources and adherence to the Chicago Manual of Style for each essay, things got dicey. This third, in depth pass was challenging and the process got bogged down. My deadline for the completed manuscript was March 31. Even with taking time off from work (without pay for most of it unfortunately), I asked the publisher for a one-month extension. They graciously granted me the extra time and I was truly relieved for the additional month.
That's the manuscript printing!

The extra month allowed me to complete a thorough editing job and present as clean a manuscript as possible without my eyes becoming permanently crossed. I felt very proud of what I was submitting and as crazy as it sounds, I was already thinking about a second volume at a future date (yeah, I probably need my head examined). With the month of May was just a few short days away, I had 14 essays, a foreword and afterword, an introduction (so I did get a little of my writing in there after all!), table of contents, and contributors section collected into over 400 pages! After some bumpy format issues, I was off to the local FedEx to print off the manuscript and put together the various physical pieces – manuscript, contributor releases, graphics – into a mailer for the publisher.

That's 400+ pages and boy did it take a while!

I think it was as I stood at the printer, watching page after page land in the printer tray that the weight of the past year manifested physically before my eyes. Yes, I had printed the essays a few times during the editing process, but this time with all components together in one document, the realization that all the past year’s efforts washed over me with a myriad of emotions settling in my mind. I was shaken by the monumental task I had completed; a sense of relief and calm filled me as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Contents to send

The weight of 400+ pages was heavy and a little expensive! Along with contributors’ releases and a thumb drive (electronic copy of everything), I stepped up to the counter so I could ship everything off. I mentioned it was a manuscript and that I was documenting the moment when I took a photo of the box on the scale. However, when I saw the mailing label with the publisher’s details on it, I was thankful to have the transaction near completion, because tears were forming. I put on a brave face and as soon as I left the counter, yeah, tears of relief, accomplishment, pride, welled up in my eyes. And the dam broke as I reached the door of the shop. 

Here's where the tears started to well in my eyes

Last week, I got an update from the publisher. The book now as a title, a cover (so glad it was Sean Connery, my very distant clansman), an ISBN, a price tag, and now a home on the publisher’s online catalogue. Pre-orders welcome by the way! I was at work when I saw the email and well, I’ll be honest, I could barely contain my excitement. And at home, yeah, I found the book listed at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (yay Portland!) plus Foyles (UK) and a few other book retailers online. It was the big leagues! And, one step closer to holding MY book!

This week, the publisher finished up their preliminary editing and there were a couple items: clarification of a publishing date and the need to paraphrase two songs rather than have the actual lyrics. Not bad. Next is the deep editing dive prior to producing the proofs that I’ll review and create my index from. I haven’t created an index before and I’m keen to learn. No release date yet, but I’m anticipating one for later this year or early 2015.

Oh yeah baby, that's the publisher and Amazon websites!

Post Script - I'll add a link shortly since Blogger decided it wasn't going to link properly. In the meantime, you can find James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy, edited by me, Michele Brittany, at McFarland & Company.