Diary of a (non-fiction) book

This is the story of The End.

I’m sharing it because before I had a book published, I had no idea how the whole process worked and I learned quite a few things the hard way (such as the fact that nothing happens quickly in publishing unless you’re the biographer of a prematurely dead celebrity). So here’s the diary of The End. May it illuminate you and not bore you into a early grave.

23 September, 2010

I’m four months pregnant. What better time to pitch a book idea to my publisher! Having been brewing up the idea of a book about death since the death of my grandmother in 2008, something finally convinced me to give it a shot.

However, I was absolutely confident they would turn it down, in which case I figured I could shelve it for a couple of years until I resurfaced from the fug of motherhood, and could take another look.

So I sent a vague email to my publisher hinting I had another non-fiction book in me, and what did they need me to send over to consider it. The answer was an outline of the project, and a synopsis. Thankfully, having already proven I could string a vaguely readable sentence together, I wasn’t under pressure to submit a chapter or two as is normally the case in these pitches.

24 October 2010

I finally collect enough ideas together to form a coherent pitch, which you can read here.

4 November 2010

The publisher gets back to me with some specific questions about the pitch, and challenges me to clarify how this book will differ from the many other non-fiction books about death.

17 November 2010

After much figurative chewing of the end of my pencil, I resubmit my pitch to the publisher with more details. She says it’s ready to take to their monthly acquisitions meeting so now begins the wait.

14 December 2010

Oh. My. Gooseberry.

They said yes.

They actually said yes.

This gif accurately sums up my reaction. You could have collected my jaw from the inner mantle of Earth. Shortly after, cue mad, screaming charge around the house.

Then the shock and panic sets in as I realise that once again, I have set myself up to write a book whilst looking after a newborn baby. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson the first time.

21 January 2011

The contract is signed, the first installment of the advance is paid. No turning back now, at least not without financial pain, guilt and contractual grief. The due date is 1 March, 2012.

9 February 2011

My son Pascal is born. No analogies here, no sirree.

29 February 2012

After a year of more than one hundred often gut-wrenching interviews (usually conducted while breast-feeding), countless research papers, several books and long, hard hours of writing, rewriting, editing, despairing, deleting, head-in-handsing, writing again and more editing, the manuscript is finished. And because my Teacher’s Pet instincts die hard and I’m forever chasing that gold star, I submit it to the publishers one day early.

24 September 2012

After an agonising seven months wait, I get the first feedback from my publisher. She has a few queries and suggestions, so I get to work.

14 October 2012

The slightly reworked manuscript is resubmitted.

6 November 2012

The first cover ideas come through – ten of them, from a talented cover designer. I immediately fall in love with one involving a skull covered with flowers.

I send the samples to friends and family who have helped with the book. Everyone else hates my favourite. Traitors.

Strangely, everyone picks a different favourite but in the end, it’s the publisher’s decision because they know the game better than any of us. They pick the excellent text-based cover that I now love.


4 December 2012

I get the first major review of the manuscript from my editor and it’s so wonderfully positive and encouraging that I dance around the house then burst into tears.

20 December 2012

The editor’s first edits come through and I have to sit down and go through them with a fine-toothed comb, adding stuff in, taking stuff out and rethinking some parts.

14 January 2013

My reworked manuscript goes back to the editor.

25 January 2013

Page proofs! Shit just got real, kids.


Seeing the book in a sexy laid-out form for the first time takes my breath away. Then I get it all back in a rush when I realise the enormous task ahead of going through this word by word.

11 February 2013

My edited page proofs go back to the publisher. My work here is done.

1 May 2013

The End: the human experience of death is released into the world. What a feeling.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s