My friends and family members don’t great with me “hello,” or “How are you?” anymore. Instead, I get: “Are you done yet?”
What started out as something between a bucket list check-off and an amusing side hustle—writing a local fly fishing guide—has somehow come to dominate most discretionary hours of my life over the past three years. It has been an adventure. Or, rather, a series of adventures.
Wanna know how sausage is made? No … you don’t. Not really. Not even if you really, really like sausage. A behind-the-scenes peek at a book project is probably only slightly less discomfiting, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.
Back in March, I wrote about some of what has gone into this book, including my literal and figurative stumbles. A summer later, I could add a few hundred miles to the driving tally, and a few dozen to the wading log, but for the most part I’ve been busy editing and revising and double-checking GPS coordinates and directions.
I sorted through more than 6,000 photos to select 300 or so for the book. I lobbied for a few last-minute revisions and made some difficult decisions about what needed to go in order to fit 84,000 words into 384 pages. I wore out four editors, and drove my publisher to consider the virtues of expensive whiskey.
Imbrifex Books is a traditional small press, releasing half a dozen fiction and non-fiction titles each year. Not having done this before, I don’t know how it works at an academic press, a major commercial publishing house, or on a self-publishing platform, but my experience with Imbrifex Books is that, even after the manuscript was complete, I continued to have what seems like an extraordinary amount of input into the final product.
I’m grateful. Because, after all, my name is literally on the cover.
My publisher has at his disposal a team of editors, cartographers, and designers who do the heavy lifting, and he makes many of the final decisions—some of which I might not agree with, but for which he no doubt has good reasons. And contractual authority. But since we share an overarching goal—creating the most useful and user-friendly and accurate Texas fly fishing guide printed to date—I’m confident my work is in good hands.
So … am I done yet?
Pretty much. Sort of. Mostly.
Over the summer, there were countless manuscript revisions, three revisions of the layout, and, finally, indexing. We just got it back from the gentleman responsible for that last part, and I have a final look—one more opportunity to make minor corrections—before the file is locked and fired off to the printer.
Sometime in January, I’ll get to hold an express-shipped copy of the book in my hands for the first time. I’m told it’s quite an experience for a new author. By March, shrink-wrapped pallets of the book will arrive in a U.S. warehouse, and shortly thereafter review copies will be mailed out.
In the meantime, a publicity team is busy laying the groundwork for promoting the title across social and traditional media channels, setting-up author appearances, and so on. It’s a little bit uncomfortable for me, a natural introvert (INFP, or J, depending on the week, if you must know).
On May 2, at the Flies & Flames Expo in southwest Austin, the general public will have the opportunity to purchase the book for the first time. The following Tuesday, May 5, it will be available nationwide in fly shops, bookstores, and on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble … wherever you buy your books. On May 7, Imbrifex Books will host the official launch party at Mesquite Creek Outfitters in Georgetown, Texas. On Saturday, May 9, I’ll be giving a presentation and signing books at my local fly shop, Living Waters Fly Fishing, in Round Rock, Texas.
And so it goes for the rest of the spring and into the summer … you’ll be able to find me at various fly shops and shows and FFI clubs around the state. I might go to the IFTD Show in Denver in October. Event locations, dates and times will be updated on this Fly Fishing Austin Events page.
Now, at the beginning of fall (or, as we call it in Texas: “summer with pumpkins”), there’s a bit of a lull. I went fishing three times in a single week last month without any agenda other than to enjoy the water. It was glorious.
I have a significant backlog of magazine articles to finish, and (don’t tell my wife) I’m already thinking about the next book project, something that seemed unimaginable just a few, short months ago. But whether or not to embark on another adventure depends on a couple of things, not least of which is how this book is received.
The Big Question
The question no one ever asks—at least they don’t ask me—is the one I think about the most: “Is the book any good?”
I think it’s a good book with lots of useful information, but I’ve been so close to it for so long, it’s hard to know for sure. My publisher likes it. My kids think it’s cool, mostly because there are pictures of them in it. Stella, the fishing dog, says it’s good.
I’ll tell you this: if it isn’t, it’s not for lack of trying.
Here’s the thing, or a couple of things. I wouldn’t have written Fly Fishing Austin (nor would my publisher have backed the project) if I didn’t think it would be useful to a lot of people. I wouldn’t have written it if I thought someone else could write it a whole lot better. And by that, I don’t mean that I know more about fly fishing in Central Texas than anyone else. I don’t. At this point I probably know more about fly fishing more of Central Texas than most anglers, but individual rivers have their own gurus. I hope you’ll meet some of them and benefit from their knowledge, just as I have.
What I have done, I hope, is translated to the page what I experience when I go fishing. I hope the context comes across—the flora and fauna and history and appreciation for these corridors of wildness that run through ever-growing suburban and urban Texas. I hope I make you laugh a time or two, and also think about the future a little bit, the challenges we must grapple with if we want our kids and grandkids to have the same experiences.
I hope, if you are fly-curious, or new to the sport, you’ll find enough information to confidently jump in at least knee-deep. Those are my hopes.
I am aware that I’m no John Graves or John Gierach or Jim Harrison, my river-minded literary heroes. It is, believe me, a painful realization. Still, I tried to pack a lot in to 384 pages. I mean, I’m 50 … who knows how many more chances I’ll get to have my say?
So, anyhow, we’re counting down to publication now, and I hope you like the book when it’s finally in your hands. Either way, I’m sure y’all will let me now.