Maybe you will remember a day, more than two years ago now, when I announced that I was writing a new book, and that, if all went according to plan, it would be out in the spring of 2013? And then maybe you will also remember that nothing went according to plan, in ways that were hard and good-but-hard and then great and really, really great, and here we are, with no book, in July of 2013. Maybe you will join me, then, in heaving a giant sigh of relief – more than that: a great wind, a hurricane-force gust – that Delancey is not only done, donedonedone, but that it now has a cover. A cover! This thing is ON.
I will tell you something: the process of arriving at a book cover is, as an author, somewhat harrowing. First, you write a book. You do this by huddling over your computer for a while, alternately feeling like a Nobel laureate and something lower than a bacterium, eating a lot of peanut butter (on bread, on toast, on a spoon) and making mental lists of what you wish you were doing instead of writing. When you can’t stand your manuscript anymore but can’t think of anything else to do with it, you send it to your editor, and she edits it and sends it back, and then you revise it, and you repeat these last steps a couple more times – or three, in my latest case. Then your book goes to a copyeditor for fine-tuning, and you crack open a beer and start doing all that stuff you had wanted to do back when you were lashed to the desk, writing, and then, just when you’re starting to relax and think about filling up the kiddie pool and sitting in it all evening, you get an e-mail from your editor with a proposed cover attached. Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn.
Before I wrote my first book, and before we opened Delancey and Essex, I was briefly a book publicist at a university publishing house. We mostly published scholarly monographs, the kind you would use in a graduate school course, and my job was primarily to drum up reviews and other media attention for them – not an easy task, and one at which I did not excel – but one tiny part of my job was also to weigh in on potential covers for our books. This usually involved me and my colleagues in the marketing department staring at a wall of mock-ups, our chins in our hands, trying to figure out which cover a) best fit the book in question, b) would be legible online when reduced to the size of a thumbnail, and c) would appeal to readers and, most importantly, sell. Striking that balance was a tricky proposition, and that was even before the author, who would have her own very strong opinion, was consulted. Now, as the author in that equation, I feel slightly queasy when I think about the negotiations and the back-and-forth that go into producing a book cover. I try not to think about it – kiddie pool kiddie pool kiddie pool – until I have to.
So it was with trepidation that I opened the e-mail from my editor with “Delancey jpegs” in the subject line, and with relief that I saw the cover up there, the one with the photo of the exterior of Delancey, warm and glowy, chalkboard in the window, people on the bar stools, chipped paint on the facade and ugly doorknob and all. I had no idea what kind of cover this book would get, but this one feels exactly right. Delancey is not really a cookbook, though it does contain twenty recipes, and it’s not really a book about opening a restaurant, per se, although it is. It’s a book about a man with a big idea and a woman (hi!) who wasn’t entirely sold on that idea, a book about learning to work with yeast, fire, heavy machinery, and each other. It’s a book about muddling through, figuring it out, eating a lot of pizza, making the most of what we got. And though there were many moments when I wished the book would just write itself and leave me out of it and hurry up, I can now say that I’m glad the writing took as long as it did, that it was interrupted the way it was, that I was granted time to live the story and tell it in a way that feels honest and complete. I am now so excited, and totally terrified, to share it with you. Of course, it won’t be released until next May, but after all this time, that’s nothing. Nothing! Right? (RIGHT.)
Thanks, always, for being here.
Update: In the days since I posted this, I have learned that the photograph on the cover was taken by a fellow blogger who came to Delancey as a result of reading my first book and this blog. Incredible! I love that. Thank you, Conni, for taking such a beautiful shot, and for letting us use it.