Publication chronology

Date Progress

November 21, 1996
(I think)

Sam Freedman holds a meeting for aspiring authors to discuss his book writing seminar, which will be held the following spring at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  I attend and learn getting into the class is a competitive effort -- the first 16 students to present him with an idea he thinks is publishable will be allowed to take it.  That night I fire him a a few ideas -- including one about mapping the ocean floor.

November 26, 1996

After a few days of negotiation Sam tells me, "Consider yourself admitted."

Spring 1997

I take Sam's seminar and write an initial proposal for a book called Illuminating the Abyss.

My son, Malcolm Owain, is born on February 7, a week or two after the class begins.

By the time the class ends, I have a book proposal consisting of an overview essay and one sample chapter.

May 1998

I graduate from Columbia with no publisher or agent in sight.

November 1998

I send an e-mail whining about my lack of contacts to the two J-school alumni lists I subscribe to.

December 2, 1998

A classmate who subscribes to one of the lists refers me to an editor at John Wiley.

December 8, 1998

I send a revised proposal -- with a new title, Upheaval from the Abyss -- to the editor at Wiley. At this point the proposal still consists of an overview essay and one sample chapter.

December 1998

Bridgit Kinsella's report on Sam's book seminar appears in the 14 December 1998 issue of Publisher's Weekly.  Soon after, Marlie Wasserman, director of Rutgers University Press, talks to Sam about the class and asks if he could suggest appropriate proposals.  My proposal was one of at least two that he recommends.  He calls and tells me to send my proposal to him -- fast.  I do.

January 12, 1999

Helen Hsu, science editor at Rutgers, e-mails Sam and I to tell us that she is interested in talking to me about possible publication.

February-March 1999

Both Helen and the editor at Wiley want to see an additional sample chapter.  I research, write and submit to them an updated proposal containing a revised overview essay, the new sample chapter, and the more or less original sample chapter.

April-May 1999

I am working as a copy editor for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.  I consequently keep rather strange hours, usually barely getting in bed before sunrise.

One morning (I do not remember the date) I am awakened by a phone call from Helen, who tells me that my new sample chapter wasn't the page turner that she had expected.  While she doesn't want to give up on my book, she thinks we should take a timeout to think about what to do next.  I am not too thrilled to hear the news, but I manage to get back to sleep.

That afternoon, not long after I really wake up, I get another phone call from Helen.  She had been rather overwhelmed the last few weeks preparing for a big book conference on the west coast.  Knowing that she was not in the best frame of mind, she had asked a trusted editorial assistant, Sarah Blackwood, to look at the proposal before she left.  After our morning phone conversation Helen cleans off her desk and finds a note from the assistant -- who loved my writing!  Helen says she wants to offer me a contract, pending review of the proposal by two scientists.

June 15, 1999

I receive the reviewers' comments and am given a few days to respond.

June 24, 1999

Helen presents my book to the Rutgers editorial board, which then votes to offer me a contract.

June 28, 1999

Helen offers a contract.

July 7, 1999

After some haggling, I sign the contract.  Marlie Wasserman signs for Rutgers two days later.

July 17-24, 1999

I take a cruise on board the S/V Mandalay, a cruise ship owned by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.  I know that a week in the Caribbean may not sound like rough duty to you -- and it wasn't -- but the ship, formerly named the R/V Vema, had been the workhorse flagship of Lamont Geological Observatory and was the first research vessel to log more than a million miles at sea.  My previous nautical experiences -- on a johnboat in Louisiana and Texas swamps -- were inadequate preparation for telling a story about life and work on the ocean.  The cruise definitely helps when I begin writing.

Three days after I return from the cruise, my impatient daughter, Mei Seul -- who wasn't expected until early August -- makes her debut at Henrico Doctors' Hospital.

August 1999
 - June 2000

I spend as much time as I can reporting for the book.

July 2000

I begin July with just about two chapters written (the original sample chapters).  One of those is the first chapter, which is intended to draw the reader into the book.  It takes me the entire month to write the second chapter, a crucial passage in which I set up the scientific context for the rest of the story.

August 2000

I complete about three more chapters during the first three weeks of August before taking time off from my day job in a frantic effort to complete the manuscript.

September 18, 2000

During the previous 3-1/2 weeks I write 13 chapters, bringing my total to 19 -- all but a denouement chapter and an epilogue.  I have enough to send a draft to Rutgers, only about 3 weeks after the September 1 deadline stipulated in the contract.

October 15, 2000

Helen sends an e-mail saying that she feels the book was ready for a final peer review.

November 12, 2000

For my birthday I fax Rutgers a draft of the final chapter -- but not the epilogue -- so they can forward it to the peer reviewer.

January 2, 2001

I receive the reviewer's comments and begin preparing readying the manuscript for production.

March 2, 2001

Malcolm and I drop a complete draft of the manuscript off at Rutgers.  The book is finally in production!

March 26, 2001

Marilyn Campbell, director of the Prepress Department at Rutgers, sends me a letter telling me that the book is on its way to a copy editor.

May 15, 2001

After days of hearing of the existence of Rutgers' fall/winter 2001-2002 catalog, I receive a fax of my book's page.  Four days later I receive the actual catalog in the mail from Jill Stuart, Helen's new editorial assistant.

May 17, 2001

I receive the edited version of the manuscript from the copy editor, Will Hively, and begin working on revisions.

May 25, 2001

I receive two copies of the catalog from Rutgers marketing department, along with general information on how the press markets its books.

June 4, 2001

I send the revised manuscript back to Will.

June 11, 2001

Will returns the manuscript to Rutgers.

June 14, 2001

I fax some last-minute changes to the epilogue to Marilyn.  She has already received the manuscript from Will and is waiting for a designer to begin planning the look of the book. 

June 15, 2001

I receive a copy of the marketing plan from Amy Rashap, marketing and sales director at Rutgers.

July 30, 2001

I receive design sheets for the manuscript from Marilyn.  Other than requesting a more conservative design for the Table of Contents -- I tell Marilyn that I approve of the design the next day.  The manuscript is now on its way to the typesetter .

August 14, 2001

I receive the proofs for the book from Marilyn. It is time for me to give the book one more thorough read, correct any remaining mistakes, and get it back to her so that the printing can begin.

August 16, 2001

I submit a copy of the manuscript to the organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book in the hopes that it will be added to the 2002 program.

September 10, 2001

I send corrected proofs back to Marilyn.

September 11, 2001

I receive the draft index from Marilyn. The index was prepared by Twin Oaks Indexing, run by the Twin Oaks Community, a commune in nearby Louisa County, Virginia.

September 16, 2001

I return the corrected draft index to Marilyn.

September 22, 2001

I meet with Raymond H. Brooks, a local photographer that I work with at the Virginia Deparment of Environmental Quality, to obtain some photos of myself to use for the book jacket. He and I travel to four locations around Richmond to get shots of me in different settings. Despite temperatures in the 80s, I am wearing a tweed cap and long black trench coat for ambiance. I weathered the warmth fairly well, but have a new respect for models.

Raymond, with his medium format camera, brings both black and white print film as well as color transparencies, i.e., slides. We shoot from Chamborazo Park, on a hill overlooking Richmond from the east; from along the restored Kanawha Canal -- which was originally built by George Washington -- in downtown Richmond; from along the city's new flood wall on the southern bank of the James River; and from a bridge across the James River with the Richmond skyline in the background.

September 26, 2001

Raymond gets the film back. The photo shop screwed up the black and white film by improperly loading it onto a developing spool. A kink prevented the developing chemicals from reaching all the photo surfaces equally, so the development was very uneven.

The color slide film came out well, and after a few days of thought I selected two shots from along the Kanawha Canal.

October 1, 2001

I send the selected color tranparencies to Marilyn.

October 2, 2001

Marilyn sends me an e-mail that tells me, among other things, that "I just got your author photos. They look fine. You don't look like our typical academic author (bald, glasseses, books in background), and that's good!"

October 22, 2001

I learn that my book has been selected to be featured at the 2002 Virginia Festival of the Book, which will be held from March 20-24 in Charlottesville, Va.

October 26, 2001

I receive a proof of the cover art and approve it.

November 8, 2001

Kevin McFadden, of the Virginia Festival of the Book, tells me that I am scheduled to appear on March 22, 2002, in a session with Daniel Lenihan, author of Submerged: Adventures of America's Most Elite Underwater Archeology Team.

November 12, 2001

Helen, my editor at Rutgers University Press, sends me an e-mail to say she is resigning from the press.

November 27, 2001

I learn the shipping date from the printer has been moved up from January 28 to January 2.

December 3, 2001

I receive a few copies of the book jacket!

January 2, 2002

Upheaval from the Abyss leaves the printer!

January 7, 2002

I receive my first book!

February 9, 2002

I see my book on a store shelf for the first time!

February 16, 2002

I do my first reading and booksigning!