Several years later, an article in the aforementioned Globe & Mail described how Terry Fallis, an old PR buddy of mine, had taken the self-publishing route which led to his much-deserved winning of the Leacock Award for Humour in 2008 for his hilarious The Best Laid Plans. I spoke with Terry a couple of times, wrote a couple of more times and settled on Terry’s best laid plans to use Bloomington-based iUniverse. That was late 2009 when I signed the contract and started the post-writing phase. iUniverse has a very precise process in which you are passed along to a series of people depending on the stage of the book’s production. All swell people and all conscientious as hell. They also offer a series of marketing services (booth space at AARP conventions, videotaped interviews, e-mail blasts, etc) some or all of which might be valuable and none of which I could afford. But they also supplied a detailed and very perceptive evaluation of all 700 pages which commented on what they liked about On the Rails and what they thought blew.
Back to the proverbial drawing board on where I thought they were right. That led to a re-organization of sections and chopping about 50 pages. They also suggested the book had much promise in the States and so persuaded me to go with American spellings and grammar – something I had not thought a lot about.
While a year has passed, I can only fault myself for what seems like an unnecessary passage of time. Simply: Proofreading ‘R NOT US. Armed with the Chicago Manual of Style and Webster’s US Dictionary, we (my burdened wife, Maggie, and I) went at it. I was appalled at the crap I let through – mostly of the “what the fuck was I thinking when I wrote that word?” variety. There were also some historical inaccuracies, stupidly made and easily corrected. E.g. George VI was King of England in WWII, not George V. Or RCMP crossed rifle patches are on the sleeve, not the shoulder. In either case, I’m convinced that some objective distance from the book which had consumed me for years (plus, blowing up the pages to 200%) was handy in having me cast a colder eye on the work.
There were other things to consider, such as the website and, of course, the url of the website. The dotcom version of my name is a Massachusetts-based commercial photographer, so that was out. Google ‘John Owens’ today and you also get a reserve tight end for my beloved Oakland Raiders, a 19th century British merchant or Australian politician, and a present day, California-based Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the same ‘hood are Johnny Owens, a Toronto rock drummer and John Owen, a 17th century Puritan theologian with whom I should never be confused!
A Google ad gets you to Alibris which offers a list of books to buy, one of whose titles is Understanding and Controlling the German Cockroach. Great title and it’s edited by a John M. Owens (also my middle initial). As much as I’d like to both understand and control the German cockroach, it also ain’t me.
We settled on johnowens.ca which at least identifies the Canadianess of it all. By ‘we’, I mean me and McGillBuckley, the wonderful marketing firm who did my website. The McGill part of the company (that would be my old and slightly less cantankerous friend Stephen) handled the marketing end, while the Buckley part – Nadine - she of unrelenting taste and talent - put together the website and the cover design. Gosh, I hope people will, at first anyway, judge this book by its cover!
Both Steve and Nadine are in the painful process of teaching me to add my own goddamned content to site, reminding me of the great Far Side cartoon about what a dog hears of its master’s instructions: “Blah, blah, blah, Fido. Blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido.” For an old fart like myself, who does not own a cell phone, cannot do anything meaningful with a PVR and is still of the belief that computer screens can somehow capture your spirit, it’s an uphill battle.