I always imagined writers as slaving away for months over a typewriter before handing over their precious manuscript to a publisher, then waiting in a state of expectation for the day of publication which would arrive with great fanfare and a glamorous launch party. I have to say, though, that my own experience as a published “author” has been far less glamorous and, to be honest, something of an anticlimax!
Working on dictionaries, you are, of course, just one member of a large team and working on just part of an often long, complex project. You might spend months, even years, working on a particular dictionary, with electronic documents whizzing back and forth every day. Then you come to a set deadline and your involvement suddenly finishes and you move onto the next project. It could then be many months before the final product is published, and in my experience, you’re not always even told (or sent a copy!) but sometimes just find out by accident. I recently chanced upon a dictionary on a publisher’s website that I’d worked on full time for over a year and had heard nothing about since, that had finally been published more than 3 years after I’d finished my work on it. I don’t even know yet whether I get a credit, somewhere on a list of contributors, as I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy of it yet.
When I first had the opportunity to write a book of which I would be the sole ‘author’, I was told that it was a great opportunity and very prestigious (perhaps to take my attention away from the pathetic royalties!). And yes, it was exciting when I first saw my name on the cover of a book, but otherwise, the experience has been rather unexceptional. Book number two, which was published recently, was a very low-key affair indeed. A few months of sending Word documents back and forth to an editor, then nothing until a parcel arrived unexpectedly the other morning containing my author’s copies and a brief handwritten note – no fanfare, no thanks, no congratulations. At least the cover was a nice shade of purple!
I didn’t get any input into the cover design and, as a football fan, I have quite strong allegiances surrounding colours and would have been utterly mortified if it had turned out to be bright red!
Perhaps more fun was the arrival of a Japanese version of my first book. It had been organised via a series of emails and I hadn’t thought much about it. But then when my copies turned up in the post, it was very funny to see a book cover on which the only words I understood were my own name!