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Why My Books are Not My Babies

From time to time, you come across authors talking about how their books are their babies.  I’ve been thinking about the release of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], and decided to see how well the analogy holds up.

Part 1: Creation.  It took me one year to finish the manuscript that would become The Mermaid’s Madness, and that’s without my editor’s revision requests.  It took me mumble minutes to finish … er … well, to finish my part in the creation of what would become my child.  (On the other hand, at least my wife didn’t ask for revisions!)

Part 2: Prepublication.  It takes roughly nine months for a human baby to develop and be born.  It took about ten months for finished copies of Mermaid to start showing up in bookstores.  In both case, you have some beautiful milestones along the way.  The first ultrasound and the first glimpse of your cover art.  Preparing the baby’s room, and redesigning the web site to make room for the new book.  The baby analogy holds up better here.

Part 3: Release.  Labor is not a fun experience.  We were back and forth to the hospital several times.  The doctors tried and failed to induce labor.  In the end, both of my children were born via C-section, basically cutting my wife open and tugging the kids out.  This is not a gentle process, folks.  It was like trying to remove a basketball from a too-tight package.  The books, on the other hand?  My publisher shipped ’em to me in a Fed Ex. box.

Part 4: The Real World.  Very few people will tell you your newborn baby looks like a cross between a bulldog and a California Raisin.  People have no such reluctance when it comes to reviewing your new book.  The real baby is snuggled, fed, burped, bathed, and rocked to sleep.  Your books will receive no such love.  Some will be forgotten in the back room.  Others will linger on the shelves, along with tens of thousands of others.  Those lucky enough to find a home will have their spines cracked, and after a brief relationship, will end up squeezed onto a bookshelf and left there for months or years to come.

Part 5: Letting Go.  Your baby will likely be with you for at least 18 years.  Your book?  You’ll be lucky if it’s still on the bookstore shelves to celebrate its first birthday.  Within a month, many of those books will be setting out on their new career: stripping.  Front covers are wantonly ripped away in an orgy of shelf reorganization, and soon you’ll find these prematurely aged paperbacks discarded in back alley dumpsters.

Part 6: The Next Child.  I’ll be honest, I rarely think about Mermaid these days.  I’m lavishing all of my love and affection on Snow Queen.  This will be my seventh book.  I hope to pop out at least thirty over the course of my career.  Forget octomom, I wanna be tridecadad!  Children, on the other hand?  I love both of my children dearly, but I don’t know whether I could handle a third.

In conclusion, myth busted.  A book is not a baby.  Tune in next week when I talk about how dingos ate my book.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 71 comments — Leave a comment )
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kelly_swails
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Was this whole post a way to get a gratutious baby pic on the web? For shame! ;)
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Actually, the picture was a last-minute gratuitous addition, because I decided the post needed more color.
seanan_mcguire
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Also, when people cut up your book to make art, you smile and say "great, now buy a replacement." This is not generally the response when they cut up your baby.
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
Only because jewelry from human remains works better with cremation.
not_from_stars
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
This gave me more first giggle of the day. Thank you. :)
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it :-)
kyrielle
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
Excuse me please while I ignore all the content in favor of going "awwww, cute baby!" :)
tygerversionx
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
Are you going to be working with Lifetime for a special next week starring Valerie Bertinelli? And the dingos. ;)
bookmobiler
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
(Photo used with the baby's permission.)
How old is that photo?

Has that kid reached the age of consent yet?

jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: (Photo used with the baby's permission.)
Baby is four now, but said he was okay with it. I also have permission from the boy's father ;-)
barbarienne
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Neither a baby nor a book necessarily comes out exactly the way you planned, but usually you're pretty happy with the result anyway.
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
A few more years, and genetic technology should allow us to send the baby back for final page proof corrections before it's actually published...
(no subject) - barbarienne - Nov. 23rd, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
mtlawson
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
(On the other hand, at least my wife didn’t ask for revisions!)

Ah, but did she critique your work?

In the end, both of my children were born via C-section, basically cutting my wife open and tugging the kids out. This is not a gentle process, folks. It was like trying to remove a basketball from a too-tight package. The books, on the other hand? My publisher shipped ’em to me in a Fed Ex. box.

Bikini cut both times? Our kids were born by c-section (fibroids blocking the cervix) and the docs did the across the uterine muscle cut, with the intestines out in all their glory.

Oh, and shipping in a Fed Ex box is much easier.
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
"Ah, but did she critique your work?"

No comment.

I'd have to ask on the C-section. They refused to let me see what they were doing. Too many fainting Dads, I guess.
(no subject) - mtlawson - Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cissa - Nov. 24th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Nov. 24th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
merriehaskell
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
You have won the internet today. Congrats!
jimvanpelt
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Once again, interesting, funny and relevant. I like how your mind works.
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jim :-)
(Anonymous)
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
What about the characters?
Books may not be babies, but are the character's in them your babies?
jimhines
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Re: What about the characters?
Nope. I could never deliberately put my own children through some of the things I make my characters go through.
Re: What about the characters? - thelauderdale - Nov. 23rd, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: What about the characters? - string_on_desk - Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
apricot_tree
Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
That's a nice book cover. But that is a really cute baby.

Sounds like the analogy might work better if books were spider babies - where they all went out into the world basically without their dad.
professor
Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
The image is what sells the whole post.
leahbobet
Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
*snerk*

Would you like your internet in paper or plastic?
threeoutside
Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
LOL - I love your poster! (And the baby's pretty cute, btw. Prudent to help her dad along with her model release form, too. Um - she *did* sign one, right?)
threeoutside
Nov. 23rd, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
HIM I meant, HIM.
(no subject) - jimhines - Nov. 23rd, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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