Editor’s Note: I came back a day earlier than expected because this was important to say. I’ll be back Monday with regular news, journalism, media and other odd posts for the official start of the semester.
If you’re like me, when you spend three years of your life on a project, you tend to get a bit territorial, anxious and borderline psychotic when the ground shifts under your feet.
The “Dynamics of Media Writing” book was just heading to press when I got an email from Matt Byrnie, the guy who convinced me to write this thing. He had been promoted and he would no longer be riding over the top of my book. My new contact, who was on vacation at that time, would be a woman named Terri Accomazzo, who was coming over from another division in SAGE to take Matt’s place.
This seems like a little thing, if you don’t know publishing and if you haven’t had the publishing experiences I had up to that point. SAGE had been the fourth publishing house I had worked with (five or six, if you want to count the merry-go-round approach Focal got through mergers and acquisitions). In the previous two, the editor at the company who signed me to a contract had moved or quit the company during my writing process, leaving my books as “orphans” in the system.
When your book becomes an “orphan,” it usually spells disaster. In one case, I had to wait 11 years to do a second edition of a book because nobody had an interest in working with me at that publisher. (Oddly enough, I finally found someone who had faith in me, pushed for the book, got it set up for a second edition and got it published. She resigned shortly after that and I’ve never heard from those folks again.) In another case, the approach and the content of the book kept shifting, as each new person at the publishing house had a “great new idea” on what we could do. The book essentially died on the vine.
When Matt told me on Aug. 24, 2015 that I was getting this new contact, I thought, “Dammit. Here we go again…” I was going to end up on the street corner selling bags of oranges with a free copy of “Dynamics of Media Writing” inside, I figured, thanks to this Terri person.
Three years, five books and one blog later, I’m sad to say that “this Terri person” is completing her last day at SAGE today. In even writing that sentence, I have a wave of oddly contradictory emotions: sad that she’s leaving, happy that she found her dream job, worried about what happens next and amazed at how much we managed to do together in such a short period of time.
Over those three years, there was never a time where I didn’t have a giant Post-It Note full of book deadlines on my wall. I owed a chapter, an edit, an email, a proof copy or something else to Terri every day of my life over that span of time. With the final copy edit of the “Dynamics of Media Editing” book this week, that last note comes down as she hangs up her spurs at SAGE. It’s an odd confluence of timing that is both fitting and amazing.
Over those three years, Terri also had to put up with a lot from me as we learned to trust each other and find common ground. Our first big discussion was about a book cover. It began when I said the original set of cover proofs for the media writing book looked like “a muppet’s ransom note.” OK, a bit harsh, but tell me I’m wrong:
After that, we worked together on every cover to make sure it was something we both could proudly hand out to people and say, “This book is great from cover to cover.” Her willingness to collaborate was different from my previous experiences in publishing. (In one case at another publishing house, the cover suggestions sucked so badly, I ended up hiring a designer on my own dime to help develop the cover. When the publisher balked at using the cover design she had created, I threatened to stop working on it until I got the cover. Childish? Maybe. Stupid? Not a chance, as what they had couldn’t have been more generic if they just put out a white cover with the word “BOOK” on it in black Comic Sans.)
Terri also had to put up with what I called my “needy girlfriend” emails over the years. “What did the publications committee say about the book?” “What did the reviewers say about the chapters?” “Why are the reviewers so meeeeeeen?????” “Are you going to be at XYZ conference?” “Are you mad at me?” Somehow, even though she had a squillion other authors to deal with, she managed to email me back each time to tell me, “They don’t just like you. They “like you” like you!” or whatever you tell angst-riddled authors to get them to stop listening to The Cure and acting like Tickle Me Emo.
Terri was also willing to push the envelope to see what we were capable of. When the media writing book did better than expected, she pushed for a revision that added more content and improved the product. When I was looking for a home for an editing book that had some baggage with it, she signed me to a contract and put me in contact with some smart people to get it into shape. When someone mentioned an idea that would succeed only if the author REALLY bought into it, she pitched it to me as a “I know you can do this” concept.
I could always tell when she had more work for me, as her tone of voice was like that of my mother when she called me to get some help with her computer. I was fine with whatever she wanted and I always worked harder for Terri, because I knew she was working even harder for me. That’s why I ended up working on three books at once. It’s why I tried to beat her deadlines by weeks or months. It’s why I added chapters or workbooks or whatever. We were a team, and I know I’m going to really miss that. Even though I know SAGE has my back and that the company will get someone great to take her place, I am going to miss Terri and her enthusiasm for my work.
Perhaps my favorite Terri moment came right when she got the green light to sign me up to do the editing book. She called me to tell me the good news and I filled her in on a couple other things. She discussed how the publication cycles would work and what she would need from me and when.
Then she stopped and laughed.
“If all of these projects are as successful as I know they’re going to be,” she said, “you’re going to end up doing one book per year for me for the rest of your life.”
I might end up writing a book a year for life, but I won’t be doing it for Terri now. Still, I have no doubt I never would be where I am today with any of these books if it weren’t for her.
So, thanks, Terri. For everything.