My Convoluted Route To Lost Art Press

Richard Jones - 208-Chlorociboria-MKuo

Chlorociboria fungus, which causes green stain in wood. Photo courtesy of Michael Kuo.

Editor’s Note: As Richard states below, his tome on timber technology is, indeed, nearing the finish line.

For some people it appears it’s easy to release a book. Publishers occasionally give the impression of falling over themselves to offer improbably favourable deals to those such as C-list celebrities for their as-yet-non-existent but soon-to-be-ghost-written vacuous blathering.

I don’t fit that category, but by 2014 my behemoth was near completion – nearly 180,000 words and more than 400 figures.

How to publish it?

Self-publish? Nope. I lacked the skills. It had to be a real publisher.

I didn’t expect finding a publisher would be especially challenging. My optimism, perhaps, came from earlier publishing experience. My woodworking articles had appeared in magazines since the 1990s. A first submission sold quickly at first attempt and success continued. All but one or two articles sold easily, sometimes twice – once in the U.K. and again in the U.S.

How hard could it be to sell a book? I was about to find out. There were possibly 10 unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher, a frustratingly slow process. It’s perhaps unwritten, but I’m convinced there is an ‘unofficial’ code of conduct between an aspiring author and a publisher. You send sample text to one and they sit on it for months, then they reject it. You move to the next publisher and do it all again. Try sending your manuscript to multiple publishers simultaneously – remember the ‘code of conduct’ – and word seems to get around the small world of craft publishers swiftly, and you’re blackballed by them all.

Eventually, a publisher bought the publishing rights, paid the advance and then … dissembled and prevaricated. A year later they changed their mind and relinquished the publishing rights. I was back on the dispiriting merry-go-round of publisher hunting and rejections somewhat softened by comments such as, “Great manuscript, but, er, not for us.”

Finally, a stroke of luck, or perhaps destiny – I don’t know. A couple or so years ago I asked Lost Art Press to review my manuscript. They expressed interest, but at that time were overwhelmed with ongoing projects. They felt it would be unfair to me to hold my manuscript for probably years until they could turn their attention to it, so they said I should try other publishers. Come spring of 2017, I’d unsuccessfully tried more publishers, and then contacted Lost Art Press again, explained the situation and, well, what was the worst that could happen? Another rejection maybe? I was taken aback: Their response was rapid and positive. And here we are, barely six months later, seemingly very near print ready.

— Richard Jones

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18 Responses to My Convoluted Route To Lost Art Press

  1. nrhiller says:

    Oh, I can so relate, even to the abortive relationship with another publisher. Very glad that the stars have aligned for you to publish with Lost Art Press. This promises to be an impressive work.

    • Richard Jones says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. I just wonder how many people who write, whether it be a novel or other form of writing, never actually find a publisher. I admit to feeling I had a certain amount of luck in finally getting it together with LAP. At the same time I also have the feeling they saw something a bit different in my approach to the subject matter – perhaps a point of view or perspective not previously utilised by previous writers on the subject.

  2. fitz says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading it!

  3. Writers versus publishers. You’ve entered the deepest of all the deep black pits. Go Back Now!

  4. Ed Clarke says:

    I just went up and looked at my woodworking library. There are only three publishers of “new” ( 1980 – now ) woodworking hard cover text books there. Taunton, Rodale (only one) and LAP. The remainder are “coffee table” books or reprints of magazine article compilations. LAP exceeds all other text book publishers combined as I have seen NO new text books from the other two in years.

    For your kind of book there was realistically only one publisher – LAP. I’m looking forward to getting a copy when it becomes available.

    • Richard Jones says:

      Ed, an interesting perspective. On the other hand you’d have thought maybe one or two of the timber research industry bodies might have been more interested than they were, e.g., here in the UK, TRADA or BRE – both had the opportunity to pick up on my manuscript, but declined, in each case with kind words on the quality, breadth and depth of information I’d covered.

  5. We are entering a world where many authors simply won’t need publishers anymore. And I think publishers must take note of this, and make some big changes if they wish to remain relevant. (I should say that I have no idea if LAP operates in the same way as other publishers, so this may not apply as much to them.)

    If the writer already has an established online presence (as is becoming the case more and more these days), and the financial means, what does he need the publisher for? Marketing? Someone at a well-known woodworking publisher admitted to me that they rely upon the authors to market their own books, and that has been precisely my experience as an author. I find that to be tremendously disappointing.

    If the author is expected to write AND market his work, and if he can use Amazon and other online resources to sell his books (nobody buys woodworking books at Barnes & Noble anymore), isn’t the publisher merely functioning as a wildly expensive editing/design service? Sure, printing is expensive. But a first-time author only gets about 10% of the publisher’s sale price (not cover price) of each book. (That works out to about $1 per $25 book.) I am sure an author could afford to hire the printing, editing and design services he needs with that extra 90%.

    I think the perception of self-publishing is evolving as well. Sure, it still may get you black-balled among the few woodworking publishers that remain. But as publishers being to see how they need authors more than the authors need them, that attitude is bound to change.

    I’ve remained with my publisher out of loyalty. They helped me get started (they contacted and asked me to write my first book, so I didn’t have to shop around). I appreciate that they took a chance on me, and so when I decided to write more books, I went back to them rather than self publish. But, if I write a fourth book, I’m not as certain I will go back.

    If woodworking publishers wish to remain relevant, they have to change the way they do things. They have to become more valuable to the author. If they are unable, or unwilling to give the author a greater piece of the pie, they must begin offering more services. They must show that they will market the books to a far greater extent than the author can on his own. And they must work more closely with new authors. For example, I had no idea how to prepare my first manuscript for my publisher. In order to show them how the photos went with the text, I actually used design software to lay out each page myself. Then I sent them a PDF of the page, along with the raw text in a separate file, and all of the photos. It was a massive waste of time that could have been avoided if the publisher had just sent me an example of a chapter from a more experienced author’s manuscript. (I eventually got my hands on one of their article submissions, but not until much later.) What about arranging book signings or meet-and-greets at woodworking shows? These are the things the publisher should be doing, rather than leaving it up to the author. Otherwise, more and more authors are going to self-publish. And those authors are going to go for the most economical ways to do it. That means e-books. And who wants that?

    At least that’s my take on it.

    • Hey James,

      You are a clean writer. And a self-starter.

      What most authors need is good, hard and brutal editing, plus a big pile of money (if you want to make a book that isn’t print-on-demand) and access to markets.

      Some authors like yourself have a following. Many do not.

      I still think a publisher who cares can make a big difference in turning a manuscript to a book. Not everyone needs a publisher – I encourage many people to go that route. But some do.

      Plus, we pay our authors a lot more (about four or five times the traditional royalty) than traditional publishers. And that also makes a difference.

      I am not disagreeing with your assessment of the publishing world – you are mostly spot-on. Just trying to explain some nuances in my experience.

      • Thanks for your perspective. Your experience is certainly more extensive than mine. I do admire the relationships you build with your authors, which I can see through some of the posts on this blog. I suppose that’s one of the many things that makes LAP different.

    • Richard Jones says:

      James, I think you make interesting points, but in my case I always wanted someone else to publish my manuscript. There are a whole raft of skills that have been used in transferring my raw manuscript into book form that I simply don’t possess. Even the pretty standard thing for any writing form of proof reading is very difficult for the self publisher. I read my text over and over and mistakes elude me, but they stand out clear as day to a fresh set of eyes at first reading. I am notorious for spotting cock-ups first time in the text of other people, but with my own text I somehow become ‘word blind’.

      I think self publishing for something like a novel is probably relatively straightforward, but for an academically formatted relatively image heavy document of the type I wrote I really do think having a partner to take it to the next stage, i.e., the publisher, is almost certainly essential. The product can be either be a book or something digital, or both I suppose, but the actual publishing expertise I lack I strongly suspect can be offset by a good and sympathetic publisher. In the best case scenario the publisher can turn something with promise into something professional, and will deal with all the other tasks and functions I know nothing about, e.g., printing, distribution, marketing, etc.

      In the end, my expertise is in woodworking as a furniture designer maker, and I’m not too bad at cobbling together some words – I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a schoolkid, and there’s a limit to how many skills I can take on, and being my own publisher and all it entails to do the job properly and professionally are skills I’ve never wanted to take on. I always reckoned that if I tried to self publish my manuscript in some way it would probably end up as a bit of a pig in a poke. How would something like that be of benefit to me or to anyone that buys and reads it?

    • tsstahl says:

      I just had to offer my experience as a book reader and buyer. Publishers, for all their parsitical actions, serve one critically important function: toilet paper. They protect me from the vast sea of complete and utter crap that should never see the aura of a book light. And they can polish a turd when something with great content, but horribly presented, does come along.

      Even after filtering, there is no guarantee I’ll like it.

      We are ever increasingly bombarded by ‘content’; I will take anything I can get to improve the signal to noise ratio.

      I’m sure you have seen my dissertation of fly wing dissolution in salicylic acid and subsequent use in gelatin molds. Riveting stuff that not everyone can produce, if I do say so myself.

      • Richard Jones says:

        I have to admit I’ve not come across your dissertation of fly wing dissolution in salicylic acid … etc. That may be because it’s not a subject I’ve had much cause to study in my working life.

        I do really hope that LAP haven’t had to polish my ‘turd’ of a manuscript too hard and for too long to bring it up to something close to an acceptable ‘shine’. Maybe you’ll be able to assess the brilliance, or not, of the ‘shine’ if you get to see/read a copy of the finished project.

        All the above was said with plenty of ha, ha’s for any reader to hopefully note.

  6. Mike777 says:

    I look forward to the release of this book; I find Hoadley’s two fine volumes to be outstanding resources but sometimes mind-numbingly too scientifically detailed when I want a simple explanation. This book sounds like it will be an excellent middle-ground.

    • Richard Jones says:

      Hopefully you’ll find what you need in my book Mike. It’s impossible to avoid all the science when discussing the subject of course, but I worked hard to find ways to explain essentials through such strategies as analogies, saying the same thing is different ways, and through examples in, for example, calculations.

      I do appreciate your expression of interest in the forthcoming release. Hopefully that isn’t too far away now.

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