Believe it or not I am making good progress on the book. This week I got comments back from my editor (more on her below). For some reason I had an odd idea that an editor was a ghost writer - NOPE - this one is a coach. In our first conversation last Spring she commented "After all you are the author here."
The original design included three sections - One on my namesake (Jonathan Archer) and then a series of reflections on family. A second section dealt with several ideas that have been important to me over my lifetime. (That one exchanged photos for footnotes!). And then a third section of questions that were generated by either Storyworth (which my daughter gifted me for Christmas a couple of years ago) or things which interested me but were allegedly on the theme of the book.
Early in the year at the suggestion of a friend in the Dominican Republic I hired an editor to take a deep dive into the project. It turns out she lives in Sacramento. At the same time I identified a designer who could help put the book into a form which publishers will accept. He lives in Denver. Both of those things were focused on improving both the readability of this book and the look and feel. In the world of somewhat DIY publishing there are a lot of details.
Book publishing has changed a lot in the last decade. A year ago I got a feeler from an unnamed company (who had two Ss in their name) who said they would read my manuscript for a fee of about $2000 and if they thought it publish worthy they would send me back part of the fee and agree to publish the book. If they did not like it they would keep most of my fee. I thought that was a silly deal, but it did show me some of the things which companies we call publishers now have to think about. There are tons of new titles every year and as Tracy Kidder said in his 1995 Book Good Prose - which is a series of reflections on writing good non-fiction - the number of books each year exceeds the populations Pomona and Escondido (Combined!) so the expectations of both authors and publishers have changed. Some of the most entertaining books I've read in the last few years were DIY efforts. But as Kidder suggested content and design are still critical. Hence some outside and professional assistance was merited.
This week I got 10 pages of evaluation from my editor. She recommended reorganizing the book into five sections from the three- Family and Childhood; Education and Work Life; There's More to Life than Work; Mexico; and Ideas and Values 2020 and Beyond. It was what one of my professors used to call an "Aha" experience. It allowed me to focus some underlying thoughts I had on my own. In addition to the structural comments she made a series of suggestions which will materially improve the flow of the text.
So what are the next steps? Well, first of all, I am going to work through the comments. Second, I will begin the process of reorganizing and rewriting. We agreed to have her a copy of the manuscript by September which would then get the book into final form in late Q3 or Q4.
When our daughter Emily first suggested this project, she argued it was a good way to keep me off the streets. It now looks like her original plan will continue a bit longer. Thomas Sowell quoted Benjamin Disraeli who suggested that many of us create a genre of writing called "anecdotage" when we are later in life. That was a good term for a memoir.
Two other footnotes. One of the questions I was trying to answer in writing this book was why the ancestor I was named after chose to undertake the arduous trip around the horn in 1849 to seek his fortune while his younger brother chose to stay in New York. The younger brother, Oliver Hazard Perry Archer, became very successful and according to family lore was a buddy of Jay Gould. Research dispelled that story. It turns out that OHPA was part of the group that ousted Gould from the Erie in the mid-1870s. Although Jonathan lived only a year in California, succumbing to either Cholera or a burst appendix, he seems to have come with the same entrepreneurial spirit that his younger brother had in New York. But as Paul Harvey used to say, if you want the rest of the story, you will need to tune in later in the year.