Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another podcast

You can here me being interviewed here by Judyth Piazza of the Student Operated Press. This is a bit shorter than the Small World interview, and a bit less about the science and what's in the book and more about influences, motivation, and me, me, me.


postblogger said...

You are a shameless self-publicist; I'm really envious! I'm working at home at the moment, haven't heard the interview (only a v. slow modem connexion) and this may be asking something which it covers, but how long did it take to write ITBOAH? How did you fit it into your daily schedule? Did you do a day a week, or take a few months off?

John Whitfield said...

Short answer - about a year, working on it 2/3-3/4 of
the time.

Long answer...

From having the idea to publication took about 5 years (!). I used to work as a science writer for Nature, and the idea grew out of a piece I wrote for them in 2001 on metabolic scaling etc. (it's linked as 'All creatures great and small' on the blog).

I thought there might be a book in it at the time, and someone in the books division at Macmillan (nature's parent company) got in touch saying the same thing.

They told me to write a proposal - a kind of long
synopsis with chapter breakdowns, on which a
commissioning editor would base a decision. I also got an agent, who said the same thing, but I didn't really get going on that until about six months later, and even then only half-heartedly.

Beginning of 2003, I went down to 4 days a week at
Nature, and got down to working on the proposal
properly. That was in reasonable shape (although I
didn't really know what I was doing, and hardly any of it made the finished book) by the autumn of 2003. My agent flogged it round publishers, and eventually got a deal with the Joseph Henry Press (no one in the UK was interested).

The proposal experience had made me realize that I
wasn't going to write a book and hold down a day job (although lots of people do), so I left Nature at the end of 2003 to go freelance.

I didn't work much on the book at first, because the
contract wasn't signed until about May 2003. From then until June 2004 (the deadline) I worked on it about 2/3 - 3/4 of the time. The advance wasn't big enough to live on, so I did other journalism and editing the rest of the time.

Once I submitted the book manuscript, everything went quiet for several months, then I went through two rounds of editing with the commissioning editor, one round of copyediting, and one of proofreading (plus I had to do my own picture research, getting permissions and so on). But that's only been about 10-20% of the past year. It was originally slated for spring this year, but the production schedule slipped, so it ended
up in the autumn list.

postblogger said...

Well, I've had a chance to listen to the SOP interview; you don't sound too bad! Judy, on the other hand, may be a lovely girl, but she's a little peremptory as an interviewer...

D'Arcy W's one of my favourite's as well - have you come across his classical stuff ('Science and the Classics', 'Glossary of Greek Fishes', 'Glossary of Greek Birds', if I remember right)? They're not as biological as OGAF, and the two 'Glossaries' are hard to get hold of anymore, but the writing is still good and baroque.

And I remember the metabolic scaling article; glad something came of it! I'll be buying my copy of ITBOAH; hope you get a decent percentage...

postblogger said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the ad pop-up when I went to the SOP interview was for 'Answers in Genesis'...

Thought you might like that!