Today’s mail brought my first of three checks from Beacon Press—not to be be confused with Beacon Hill Press!—for my forthcoming book, Saving Adam. Although I knew the check would arrive eventually, it was still nice to get it. I am amazed though, at how long it took. It was back in the late summer—August 11— when I got the email message from my agent that Beacon Press had made me an offer. Here is how it worked and why it took so long.
The offer from Beacon was a second offer, matching a slightly earlier one from Palgrave Macmillan. I was pretty happy to have two offers but had to make a decision of course. My agent set up conference calls with the individuals at each publishing house who would be my editors so I could get a feel for what it would like to work with them. This step was important to me, as I learned long ago that an active, engaged editor is a writer’s best friend. Some of my books, especially Species of Origins and Oracles of Science received no real editing beyond a final stage of copy editing to correct grammar mistakes and make sure the footnotes were in the right form. My editors at those publishers contributed almost nothing to the quality of the final project in terms of the writing. In contrast, my editors for Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed made meaningful contributions. Joyce Seltzer—one of the most acclaimed editors in the country—edited The Anointed, and she pushed Randall Stephens and I very hard, chopping thousands of words and keeping us focused. Her voice still echoes in my head: “On every page, as you write, keep asking yourself: ‘What question am I addressing for the reader?’”
My conversations with the editors at Palgrave and Beacon went really well and I concluded that I couldn’t go wrong in either case. In the final analysis I went with Beacon because the editor there, Amy Caldwell, had some really creative ideas that took the book in a slightly different direction that I thought was more interesting. In particular she pushed me to use the story of Adam to show how conservative evangelicals had gradually marginalized themselves over the past two centuries either by hanging on to a literal reading of the Adam story in the face of evidence to the contrary; or by developing implausible interpretations of the Adam story that, while compatible with new evidence, twisted the Biblical story beyond recognition. This editorial suggestion provide a sort of “spine” that would run through the book, holding things together.
So I went with Beacon.
Next post will pick up the story here.