early on in the writing process, i mentioned that i wanted to to give you a peek into all aspects of getting a book published. as part of that transparency, i asked if you had any questions for my editor. well, here are the answers to your questions (additional commentary from me in brown).
Will the book be available for eReading? iPad, Nook, or Kindle?
You bet it will!
Will the audio book be abridged or will it be the ENTIRE book?
The audio book will be the ENTIRE book. It isn’t a particularly long book, but either way, there aren’t really parts that could have been left out!
How many Ibuprofen did you pop while editing the book? A rough estimate will do!
Ummm, I honestly went through at least two bottles of Advil—the large bottles. I also started drinking and became addicted to coffee, which is not something I had ever done before. If you read my letter notifying Matt that I was officially accepting his manuscript… none of it was a joke.
Why are Matt’s lovely wrist tattoos obscured by the title on the cover?
They are, in fact, not! Only his left wrist is showing in the picture, and you can see his tattoo. You’ll have to check it out when you pick up your copy : )
Do you know if the book will the book be published in other languages – I’m thinking of Spanish, specifically?
I sure hope so! Grand Central is not overseeing the sale of foreign rights for this book, so Matt’s agents will have to answer that one for you. I’m sure Matt will update you (and me!) as he gets news.
my agents have secured two foreign rights contracts thus far…the book will be printed in traditional chinese characters (for the market outside of mainland china) and in indonesian.
Before you met Matt, did you ever think it was possible that a single blog could capture the hearts and attention of millions of strangers around the world the way Matt’s has? Did you ever dream you’d be editing the book of a blogger?
I have to say, the whole blog-to-book movement kind of has this awful stigma about it. Mostly because everyone’s trying to do it, and a lot of times there’s not much else to say after what’s already been published on the internet for free reading.
I didn’t necessarily fall in love with Matt’s blog, though; I fell in love with his story. Granted, the blog gave me (and many others) access to the story, and helped Matt and Maddy get the attention of a ton of important people. But when we boil it all down, it’s the story and the people involved in that story that have really captured strangers’ attention. I knew there was more here—and I am so glad I was so right!
Is there a specific word count that you ask your memoirists to shoot for, or does it really depend on the story?
There’s definitely not a specific word count for memoirs in general—most every book’s contract includes a range with about 10,000 words between the minimum and maximum. With 2K4M, we knew we wanted a small, sweet package, and we knew the book would cover just about one year. Matt was always cognizant of the word count, but it was never really a concern to me.
Matt’s story is quite unique (and tragic), but there must have been something about it that made you believe it would appeal to a broad audience (not just people who have lost a spouse, for instance). What was it?
Here’s the thing: I’m not a widow. I’m not a spouse. I’m not a parent. But I couldn’t stop reading Matt’s blog. Not only will 2K4M appeal to all of these segments, but there’s a huge human interest factor… what do you do when your entire world unexpectedly crumbles in an instant, right before your eyes? You can either retreat and wallow, or you can stare life in the face and challenge it. Challenge yourself. And doing that latter thing… that’s freaking scary! But Matt did it, and he brought us all along for the ride—and I think that’s what’s appealing.
Plus, Maddy is unreal kinds of cute. So that helps.
Obviously Matt is a very likable person. I think that most of us who read the blog have a soft spot in our hearts for him (and Maddy). As an editor, you obviously have to be kind of tough with your authors to ensure they meet deadlines, etc. Was it difficult to separate yourself from Matt’s likability to be tough with him?
I think Matt is an awesome person. We are totally friends and probably will be for a long time even after this book comes out. We have even drunk texted. (TMI?)
Matt, however, is a pain in the ass author. As he has mentioned to you, he did not meet any deadlines. I had to put on my grumpy editor hat and chide him quite a few times, which was not difficult, because I really was a grumpy editor. It was difficult at times, but there’s so much pressure on the editor coming from marketing, sales, art, every department in-house, that you just gotta do what you gotta do to get it done. EVENTUALLY we did, at the eleventh hour. And if I told you I hadn’t thought about getting on a plane to LA to physically pry the story out of his hands on at least one occasion… well then I’d just be lying.
I’m sure Matt will tell you I was plentyyyyy tough.
she was indeed tough, and that’s exactly what i needed to not only finish writing the book, but also to make it the best book i could possibly write. we will for sure be friends for a long time.
Most readers know that Matt’s potty mouth makes puppies cry. Maybe it has been addressed on the blog before now– but I am curious if his colourful use of the English language has been censored for the book.
Nope! It’s Matt’s book and we wanted Matt’s true voice to be the one telling the story. I actually think there was at least one place in which I requested he add more cursing…
yes. there are a few swear words in the book. but they’re well placed, and used to convey an emotion that i otherwise couldn’t. as i mentioned before, there are 140 or so instances of “fuck” in the book so that should serve as proof that amanda and grand central didn’t censor me. and yeah, amanda encouraged me at one point to add a fuck into one of my sentences.
What are the challenges of editing a book that someone like Matt has written from real life, often tragic, experience? How do you walk the line between being compassionate to the real person, the author, who experienced the events of the story, and editing the writing and storytelling to end up with the best possible book that does justice to that experience?
Straddling this line was one of the toughest parts of working on 2K4M, and I warned Matt from the start that he had to be okay with us looking at it as a work of writing, rather than as his life on paper. I don’t think Matt will mind if I tell you that writing this book was tremendously difficult for him. The first part of the book, once he started, just kind of came out—it’s a story he had been holding in since the day Liz died. But he really struggled with where to go from there, as his instructions were basically just to cover the first year of his life with Maddy. We sort of came to a place where I told him to just blurt everything out on paper, and we could shape it from there. Luckily, Matt really felt confident in my editorial vision for this book and was so, so cooperative in listening to what I believed we needed more of, or what I thought just didn’t fit into the story he was sharing.
There is one moment I can remember—we were way past deadline on these old pictures of Liz that we needed for a presentation, and I called Matt up and demanded the material immediately—and he just totally lost it and started yelling at me. Rightfully so. He had just spent the day looking through pictures of his dead wife, you know? So it was tough for both of us at moments, but for the most part, we were just really on the same page and able to be very open with one another.
amanda’s right. this book was supremely difficult for me to write, and not just because i’m not a writer. as you may imagine, writing everything out took an emotional toll on me in ways i didn’t fully expect.
i felt tons of pressure to get this book done. amanda, as my editor and as an employee of grand central, was tasked with making sure this book got finished in a timely manner in order to satisfy the deadlines that are part of publishing a book with a major publisher. because this book is to be released for the world to read, it is a commodity and real money had been invested in the process of getting it on the market. i know, i know…i put myself in this position, but sometimes the thought of my book (read: my life) as a commodity scared the shit out of me. i wasn’t just writing this for my own good, or for maddy, or for my family (like the blog). people’s jobs were at stake because of my writing, and because i’d quit my job to write this thing, my livelihood was also at stake. when my emotions (particularly sadness) got in the way of deadlines, well, sometimes i just couldn’t always control them.
and yeah, there was a moment i sort of lost my shit on amanda after a particularly tough day (that’s not something i typically do). and there’s no excuse for it, but if you’ve ever worked closely with someone (no matter what industry you’re in), you know that conflict often arrises, but for the most part we got along pretty damn well. and i really did trust amanda’s editorial vision. it wasn’t just what she cut or how she helped me rearrange the words…she knew my story and more importantly, she knew me, which allowed her to bring out bits of stories and memories, forcing me to recall things that i had long since pushed to the back of my mind.
to many who read this book, it will be a “story.” a story that’s based on actual experiences, but still, a story. for me, it’s my life. and as the writer, i found that examining my life with such precision and economy was really, really hard to do. but it was also an amazingly cathartic process and i wouldn’t be where i am without the book.
Have you dealt with memoirs before? I can only imagine how tough it must be to critique someone’s fiction work, let alone their life story. I have a hard enough time editing my third graders’ work!
I talked a lot about this just above, but yes, I have edited memoirs before. I will say that every author is different: why they’re writing the book, how they’re approaching the book, what their intention is for the book, etc. It’s really a matter of understanding each writer individually, building trust, and communicating openly—most especially when the topic is so personal.
Did you find it harder to edit Matt’s writing because his writing style is not traditional or did that make it easier?
Matt actually wrote the book in traditional prose. Writing in the style of the blog was neither practical (can you imagine the amount of paper?!) nor appealing (and headache?!). The one thing that drove—drives—me nuts is that he doesn’t use capital letters in emails! I actually sent him an email once with the subject Serious Question. The body of the message read: “What did capital letters ever do to you?”
You will, however, find the blog incorporated into the book… as for how, I’ll leave that as a surprise for you to discover!
holding down the shift key is a lot of work.
Do you anticipate that Matt’s memoir will cause an increase in books written by widows/widowers?
Hard to say. I think that writing will always be a wonderful way for people to release their emotions, widows/widowers included. If the book “works,” there could be more like it, sure. But I think (hope!!!) that people will recognize what’s special about this story and what differentiates it.
there are already some great books out there written by widows and widowers…definitely check out the alchemy of loss by abigail carter.
I would imagine you have worked with new writers and experienced writers and everything in between. How did Matt fall in this scale? Did you find it easier or harder as the days turned into weeks? And what plans do you have for Matt and Maddy after the book comes out?
Matt was definitely a new writer. Actually, [spoiler alert!] the first line of the book is: “I am not a writer.”
The thought of putting together a whole BOOK can be extremely daunting—just staring at the blank screen in front of you? Yikes. I had enough trouble with my senior honors thesis! Matt was also used to writing the blog: no one to answer to, no deadlines, no critical feedback, no deadlines, no revisions, no deadlines… I think it was difficult for him to adjust to thought of having an editor and being an author.
These things start out slowly: you kind of don’t talk to your editor the first few months after you strike a deal because you’re supposed to be, uh, writing the book. Yeah, so Matt sat idly for four months, and when I was like “Hey, where’s draft 1?” he was like “Oh shit, I should write that now.” We hit a lot of bumps in the road, but once we finally got into our groove, we were like a well-oiled machine. He would hand in a part to me, and while I was editing it, he would be working on the next part. Then we’d switch. So while the concept got easier, the actual work load increased. But as I’ve said, as horrible he was about handing things in, he was one of the best authors I’ve had in terms of accepting criticism and not pushing back on my edits.
As for after the book comes out? Who knows! I guess Matt’s officially off my watch when that happens. But if they could come to NYC to hang out with me, that’d be great. Kthanksbye.
everything about this task was daunting. for someone to say, “start writing your book” without a ton of instruction was to me, tantamount to someone saying, “start building a house” or “speak to me only in mandarin.” in other words, it was damn near impossible. but as amanda said, we eventually got on the same page and things flowed pretty smoothly. and i was open to everything amanda had to say…and why shouldn’t i have been? i mean, she’s the expert.
How long have you been a reader of Matt’s blog? How has his “blog presence” affected the book-writing/publishing process if at all?
I actually found Matt’s blog via Christine Coppa’s old Storked! blog on Glamour.com. I started reading back in spring of 2008 and haven’t stopped yet! I think the greatest effect of the blog on the book remains to be seen, as the book gets closer and closer to its pub date, but I do think it’s been awesome for him and for all of you to see the process of this book documented every step of the way. I love to see you all share in his excitement when he posts book news! Also, it makes me feel famous by association… so there’s that.
How much of the actual writing was edited? Was it edited for content or grammatical/spelling/punctuation, both? Was/were any part(s) omitted after the writing was done?
We edited the HELL out of this book. As I mentioned, I advised Matt just to put it all on paper. I nixed chapters, requested more, and “copied and pasted” in real life by physically rearranging pages in my living room. There were a few chapters in the middle that after reading, I immediately got Matt on the phone and on GChat concurrently, and had him literally rewrite the damn thing right then and there. (Neither of us slept; time zones mattered very little.)
When I finished with it many moons later, I accepted it and sent it on to our production department, after which it went out to a copyeditor who worked on grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency, etc. All in all, it went through six or seven drafts on my desk (which is probably above the norm), and then three passes in production (which is standard).
Sucks to have a perfectionist for an editor, huh? Just last week I gave the final okay to print the book!
Maybe if you guys are realllllllly good, we can share an outtake…
amanda is nothing if not a perfectionist. and everything she said above is true.
What piques your interest in a story and makes her follow up to ask for more (a draft, a meeting, etc.)?
Well, Matt’s book came about in an unusual way because I sought him out to ask if he was interested in writing one. Most projects come in through agents, who have pitched the project to me first. Exactly what piques my interest can be any number of things—the writing is particularly fantastic, the author’s voice is endearing, the story is charming… But in order for me to move to the next step with a proposal, all of the stars have to align. If you have an amazing story to tell but can’t write for your life? Well, I kinda don’t want to read your book. It’s hard to put my finger on a specific quality of a project, as it’s more of a “whole package” type thing. A really good word to use here is COMPELLED. Sometimes something just compels me to ask for more!
How long did the process take from first meeting/email/whatever to finish?
Lucky for you all, I save emails and calendars. My very first email to Matt was on January 8, 2009. We spoke on the phone for the first time on January 13, 2009.
His proposal landed on my desk (errrr, in my email) on May 14, 2009. I was basically dying with anticipation for the entirety of those five months.
We finished edits and transmitted the manuscript to production on July 12, 2010.
And you will have the book in your hands on April 14, 2011! So what is that… just under two and a half years? PHEW.
that’s it? it felt like decades.
Have you always done nonfiction or did you move into that area?
This is a funny question, because I think that a lot of people starting out in publishing think they want to work on fiction—I know I did, anyway! But as I got started, I realized that I was definitely a nonfiction person. I work on a sort of funny mix between narrative nonfiction like Matt’s memoir and prescriptive nonfiction such as diet, parenting, dating, and cookbooks. If nothing else, this has preserved the enjoyment I get in reading novels for pleasure.
What is your favorite part of the book editing process?
Hmmm… that’s a good question. I think it can be different with each book and author—sometimes seeing the cover come together can be really fun, or figuring out the interior design. Other times the best part is getting the final copy in your hands, because you kind of never thought it would actually get done.
With 2K4M, I think my favorite part was brainstorming with Matt and really becoming involved as he conceptualized the shape his story. Now if you had asked me at the time (and by “the time” I mean 2am on a week night) if I enjoyed agonizing over detail inclusion and word choice, I definitely wouldn’t have said yes. But I really, really care about this book, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of its process.
Could you give us a quick overview of your personal work history?
Wellllll, I used to be a trapeze artist and then I decided that maybe I wanted to do something a little more literary. JKLOLZ. I knew pretty early that I wanted to work in publishing. My first internship was at Glamour Magazine in the fashion department… and it helped me weed that sector of publishing out pretty quickly.
I went on to work at W. W. Norton in the college division (as in, The Norton Anthology of English Literature) and Peachtree Publishers, a children’s house down in Atlanta, GA. After that, I landed at Grand Central Publishing in the big city, and here I’ve been ever since!
thanks for taking the time to answer all of those questions, amanda.
in addition to the questions for my editor, some of you had questions for me. here they are, along with some answers:
Any plans to publish a hard copy of your blog? Complete with tweets, pictures and the “easter egg posts” (I believe someone called them once).
if i published a hard copy of my blog (complete with tweets, pictures and easter egg posts) it would be one of the thickest books ever. so the answer to the one is, probably not.
what about a book tour? will you come to ________ and sign my book?
well, that’s a great question. as i mentioned in a previous post, my publicist at grand central, erica gelbard, is working hard to set up signings/readings around the country. at the moment, we have two confirmed signings, one in austin, texas at book people on april 26th at 7:00pm, and one in minneapolis at magers & quinn on april 28th at 7:30pm i’ll certainly be updating you as we add more dates.
if you want me to come to your town, make sure that you, your friends, family, coworkers (basically everyone you’ve ever met) tell your local bookstore/library/store/school that you want me there, then have them contact erica to try to set up a reading/signing. you can reach her by sending an email to:
(you know the drill…replace the (dot) with a “.” and the (at) with an “@”).
a few related questions:
Do you plan to continue writing (in addition to the blog) after this book is done? Did you enjoy it? Are you comfortable with being an author now, or does it still seem foreign?
Will you write another book? Was this a one time thing and you are going back to your old job full time or have you found a new passion in writing? And will you still keep the blog (I certainly hope so!)?
I am wondering if this experience has inspired you to further creative endeavours.
I am not sure how snug you are sporting the role of “Author” as of yet.
I have wondered how this process has impacted your perception of your creative self- would you ever consider writing another book- or was this writing so much a part of your grieving process that you never looked past “Two kisses for Maddy.”
Any more books? would you ever or have you ever considered fiction?
Hey do you think if you had called your book “Maddy and Me” Grogan would have told you lot to bite it?
oh i asked three questions.
i’ll continue writing as long as it’s helpful to me. in what form, it’s hard to say. i’d love to write another book (but that means someone has to give me another publishing contract (hint, hint grand central)). and i don’t think i’ll ever be comfortable being an author. i used to thrive on anonymity, so this is totally weird for me. and it’s not what i expected to be doing with my life, but i really do enjoy it. i especially love the lifestyle it’s afforded me over the past two years (extra time with maddy, flexibility, travel, not sitting in an office, etc.). that said, i’m realistic about things and always set really low expectations, so i assume that i’ll be heading back to an office, working the same kind of middle management position i’m accustomed to, possibly as soon as later this year. the blog will continue until i no longer wish to write it, or until maddy tells me to stop.
as far as how the writing process has impacted my perception of my creative self, well, that’s covered in the forward of the book. let’s just say it’s not the writing, but liz’s death that brought out the creative side in me.
as i mentioned above, i’d love to write another book, possibly a work of fiction. i mostly read fiction, and i would love to try my hand at it someday(if you want to see what my literary interests are, you can check out my recently-read book list on goodreads),
in the early stages of writing, my agents (as a joke) sent me a list of titles that they thought i should consider. “maddy and me” was one of those titles (i really should try to dig up that email and post it).
i’m not sure mr. grogan would have liked my book as much if we had ripped off his title.
are you still there?
after all of that, i figured i should share another review…
here’s what the library journal said about two kisses for maddy:
Logelin, Matthew. Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. Grand Central. Apr. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9780446564304. $24.99. MEMOIR
Logelin becomes a new father and a widower within 27 hours. The next year of his life speeds past in a haze of tears; diapers; memories of his wife, Liz; and, eventually, blogging. Though gutted by grief, Logelin creates a life for himself and his daughter, Maddy, with the help of family and friends of both the in-person and online kind. And he misses Liz every minute.
What I Am Telling My Friends Don’t underestimate the importance of your “invisible” friends. The thing that distinguishes this sad, sad, story from other misery memoirs is the sweet but not sappy credit Logelin pays to those who helped him along the way. Read it and weep.