Feeling Like the Official Author of a Real Book

Images of America, Hannah Karena Jones

This week has been terrible. It’s been one thing after another ever since Monday. Each day I would wake up and think that it couldn’t possibly get worse, and then it would: the latest fiasco was that my washing machine–which I got repaired less than three months ago for a pretty penny–broke again. Curses.

So that’s why it was an extra special treat this morning when I noticed that my book is up for display on the publisher’s website. [eeeeee!] And that it’s available for preorder on Amazon and B&N.com [OMG!] And that, even though the beautiful cover you’ve all seen and admired isn’t displayed there yet, the book is on Goodreads and you can mark it to read. Guys, it has an ISBN number and everything!!

Feel free to do all of the above. Go on. I’ll wait.

[taps toes]


Before this, it didn’t really feel real yet. But now I can tweet, Facebook, pin–EVERYTHING–the real life link to share it’s existence. (Feel free to do this too, if you’re so inclined.) But now there is so much PROOF all over the INTERNET in all these places where I learn about, drool over, and admire beautiful, lovely books that I love desperately or am desperate to read. It’s REAL. May 20, 2013, I will officially be the author of a published book.

Before today, I’ve been a little lackluster in real life about the release of this book. I think this is because my real, not-so-secret, heartfelt dream has always been to be a fiction writer. Specifically, a children’s book/YA fiction writer. And for some reason, this book has been feeling like a deviation from that path; like it’s not as worthy of celebration as a novel would be because it’s only 10,000 words long and relies a lot on photographs telling the story rather than my own words. Maybe I’m not as proud of it as I would be a novel because it isn’t a complete creation of my own imagination: I didn’t build a detailed world, construct amazing characters, or pen tear-jerking plot lines. This is just…history. It exists. It’s always existed. I just organized it and wrote some clear interesting sentences to present that information. For some reason all these feelings and hang-ups had me thinking that this accomplishment wasn’t really an accomplishment at all. It wasn’t all that impressive and it wasn’t something to be proud of, because its mere existence means I’ve failed to write and publish a fiction book yet.

I know, how completely ridiculous do I sound?

But now, seeing it in all these official places, all these online bookstores, I’m finally starting to be rational about it all, and proud. I remember how much work and research I put into it. I mean, I sifted through archives and dug up old photographs and hand-written diaries and read dry annual reports to create this thing, this 128-page volume compilation of history that’s never been compiled and published before. It’s a book people are going to read because they want to know things. How cool is that?

Definitely something worthy of celebration, I think. So in that theme, I’m inviting all of you to celebrate with me and tweet, Facebook, pin, preorder, and put my book on your to-read list. I know Amazon and B&N.com have the book listed at $14.95 and $14.65 respectively, but I’d ask you to hold your horses and consider ordering a copy from me. (I’ll be adding a buy button to this blog, and I intend to link it through PayPal, as soon as I find someone tech-savvy enough to help me design it and put it up.) It has something to do with royalties and something to do with the fact that there will be some swag and other personalization involved, if you’re interested–stuff I’ll talk about at a later date–but I wanted to warn you that, contractually, I’m required to sell the book at the list price of $21.99. I can’t offer discounts and compete with the publisher, the way bookstores can. So if that six dollar difference is really important, I completely understand. Really, no matter whether or where you preorder it, borrow it from the library, or simply mark it to-read for some far off date in the future, I’m going to love you and appreciate it a million.

I’m really excited how this is starting to feel real. But I’m even more excited for when you all read it. That’s going to make it even more real, and I can’t wait!

How I Got a Book Deal from My Blog!

Yes, you read that right. Officially, I, Hannah Karena Jones, am going to be a published author.

It’s not a blog to book deal in the traditional sense, like the way Postsecret, Julie & Julia, and Awkward Family Photos content became so popular a publisher begged the bloggers to put it in book form. No, The (Writer’s) Waiting Room will not be available on bookshelves near you any time soon.

Do you remember a few weeks back when I was encouraging readers to read local? I mentioned how I love locally-set history and fiction books in general and the Images of America series specifically, mostly because I found a picture of my dad in the Yardley, Pennsylvania book at Barnes & Nobles a few years after he died. You might have glossed over it, but I also mentioned that I think Byberry State Hospital–an abandoned institution near my childhood home, which has always piqued my curiosity–deserves its own book.

Well, an editor at Arcadia Publishing agreed. She happened to read that post and emailed me asking if I would be interested in submitting an official book proposal. Of course I was!

After I submitted the proposal, I was ready to wait a good long time to hear back–I’ve waited over a year just to get a rejection from small literary journals–but they approved it within a week! Byberry State Hospital (release date to be announced) will be a pictorial history and part of the ever popular Images of America series. I signed and mailed the contract a few days ago and now I have a deadline.

My entire book is due in November.
Yikes! [deep breath] I’m terrified not by the deadline, per se, but what that deadline means. In eight months, my huge lifelong dream of being published will come true (or, at least, will be closer to coming true. The book won’t appear on the shelves as soon as I turn in the materials, obviously).

This is where you all come in. I know a lot of you readers are from the Pennsylvania and local New Jersey area. If you have any family stories or photographs of Byberry buildings or Byberry staff in uniform up until it was closed in 1987, or know somebody who does (do you have a family member who was a nurse there? A doctor? A contentious objector? Did you grow up across the highway from the hospital?), I’d love for you to contact me! Feel free to send me an email at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com

This book will have a minimum of 180 photographs and I want to collect the greatest variety and most representative photographs I can. If you have a photograph you’d be willing to share (I would just need a scan of it, I wouldn’t keep the original print), you will, of course, get full credit in the published book.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

The Joys of Reading Local

I love curated bookstores that celebrate and pridefully promote local interests, local stories, and regional history. When I attended the Juniper Summer Writing Institute two summers ago, it was my first experience in New England and I LOVED how all the books were set there. It’s how I was introduced to An Arsonist’s Guide to New England (the title is a lot better than the actual content, in my opinion, but it was cool to read a book that hopped around a lot of places I had recently visited, like the Emily Dickinson house and the Mark Twain house) and several other books centered around the Salem Witch trials, the descendents of the Salem Witch trial participants etc. I’ve noticed that books specific to New England, the South, and the Midwest aren’t typically available in bookstores near me, unless they become national bestsellers.

Set in Savannah, Georgia, this book is sold EVERYWHERE in the city.

This is why I am magnetically attracted to local bookstores–and the corners of gift shops dedicated to books–when I travel. I never come home without at least one new book reminiscent of my vacation. In my experience, I’ve found that museum gift shops are one of the best places for a great collection of regional books.

I got this from a gold mine museum in (ironically) Golden, Colorado

I wish there were more books about my local area. I would love to read a book about Byberry Mental Hospital, for example. Until it was knocked down a few years ago, it was always looming next to the road on my way to the roller skating rink, and my parents would tell stories about how they used to be good friends with the former head doctor, a “good man” who honestly thought lobotomies were the best medical practice; everyone did, at the time. And stories about how my mom had to visit the hospital for a college psychology class and how the nurses had pointed out the door that led to the criminally insane patients corridor.

Admittedly, I do appreciate that Barnes and Noble tries to celebrate local-ness; at least, mine does. They give extra promotion to books published by local presses–Philadelphia is not the publishing capital of the world, by any means, but it is the home of Quirk Books, the publisher of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which gets a lot of local-pride attention–and they stock regional history picture books such as the Images of America series with volumes dedicated to Yardley Borough, Bucks County, historic Langhorne Borough, and Newtown.

I love that series, by the way. My Dad liked to drive my sister and I around to point out places and buildings associated with  his memories growing up in the 1930s and 40s, but a lot of things had changed since then so it was often hard to visualize his stories. The asparagus farm field where my dad had cut the vegetable–a nickel for a bunch–every morning before school, for example, has since become a cookie-cutter neighborhood development.

Now, skip forward to Christmastime 2010, with my boyfriend and I wandering through the local Barnes and Noble when I casually picked up the Yardley Borough book. I was flipping through and excitedly pointing out pictures of things I remembered from my Dad’s growing-up stories: there was a picture of the school hill upon which my Dad’s brand new scooter had denigrated–the wheels falling off and everything–underneath him, a picture of the teacher who used to beat him for being left-handed (yes, it was a public school), a picture of Yardley Borough’s first ambulance in the 1950s, the one he drove as one of the first members of the town’s first-ever EMT squad.

And then I found a picture of my Dad. No more than ten years old, sitting cross-legged on the floor in his Boy Scout uniform. Dad died in 2008 and suddenly seeing his face in a published book was more than special. It made it feel like he was important in history, not just my family. I don’t know how many copies of that book have sold, but the fact that he’s there, on other people’s bookshelves, in dozens, maybe hundred’s of homes . . .

Let’s just say I think reading local has its rewards.