manuscript: submitted

It’s done! It’s done.

Submitting the final manuscript is a weird process. Because, as far as I can tell, no one outside of people who have already done it (and editors) really knows what it is — if you had asked me a year ago what step in the book-writing process “Submitting the final manuscript” is, I would have no idea. After all, in the last couple years I’ve submitted to my publisher (Oxford UP) a proposal and two chapters; a full manuscript for peer review; and a full manuscript for my editor to give feedback on. After this “final” version, I’ll get a copyedited manuscript to look at and correct (so that’s, I guess, the final final), and after that, I get a PDF of proofs to look at, correct, and index (that’s the final final final?). And who knows, maybe there’s another step in there I don’t know about.

So, the final manuscript: basically, it’s your full book, with everything super-duper-done and as final as you want it to be, with the understanding that there is a little bit of wiggle room in subsequent backs-and-forths (copy-editing, proofs) to make some changes. I went into it thinking, okay, if this were printed out and stapled together and handed out at bookstores, I would be okay with it, even if it it looked like it was written by a crazyperson because it was printed out and stapled and handed out at bookstores.

I am pretty good at being done with my writing and simply “letting go” when it feels right to — I’ve done enough different kinds of public writing with hard deadlines that it’s impossible not to be — but it was still hard to be done with this. One of the final stages turned out to be one of the most rewarding: my wife and I took turns reading the manuscript aloud to our unborn child, which was fun. It helped me catch a LOT of mistakes: I always tell students to read their work aloud, but usually when I supposedly do it, I’m more half-reading aloud — if you actually read it out loud, especially to another person, or have them read it, you will notice a lot of stuff! It also meant that my whole family (Georgia listened, sometimes) now knows my book pretty well!

Anyway, as to what a final manuscript is. Because it’s not just Chapters 1–7, plus introduction and epilogue.

Here is what Oxford asks you to submit, when you submit your final manuscript (you can read their full submission handbook here):

I will not bore you with a Borges-esque list of everything that this included for me, but it’s a lot.

First off, there’s a ton of additional writing that’s not just “the book itself”: within the “manuscript elements” there’s the acknowledgements (very hard to write!), the bibliography (okay that one’s obvious), the title page and table of contents (thankfully, unlike a dissertation, you don’t have to kill yourself formatting this), the photo/figure captions (this can take a while to figure out!). Then, outside of the “manuscript,” there’s also abstracts that you have to write for every chapter and the book (for online purposes), and a ton of information about publication in an author questionnaire — from your own short bio to your synopsis of the book for marketing to your thoughts on the cover to your thoughts on blurbers and potential reviewers (as in, post-publication reviews, not peer reviews). This, too, takes a long time.

Then there’s all the non-writing stuff! Gathering permissions for all images and archival stuff, which I’ve written a bit about in the past; making sure all your photos and figures are high-resolution, correctly labeled, and formatted; and a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten by now. My Dropbox folder titled “William Robin, Industry submission” contains 94 items. 94! Only 9 of those are chapters of my book (7 body chapers, 1 intro, 1 epilogue).

But now, now, now it’s done. Well, for now, at least, until I get those sweet sweet copyedits. The team at Oxford is working on a production schedule right now, but the potential plan for publication is very likely spring 2021. Less than a year from now, my book will be in your hands! If you choose to buy it. Crazy stuff.

Here’s the table of contents, btw:


So what else is going on? I wrote a piece for the Times a little while ago about the 1918–19 flu pandemic’s effects on musical life in the United States. Honestly this is probably a topic that some enterprising grad student should seize for their dissertation, because it’s pretty shocking that there is virtually no existing scholarly literature on the topic (as far as I can tell, nothing at all on the influence of the influenza pandemic on music-making, here or elsewhere, besides scattered discussions in WWI books and composer biographies). The robust historical literature on the flu mentions various influenza blues songs, the closure of theaters, etc., but there’s definitely a lot more to dig up: I only looked at a couple periodicals in-depth, Musical America and the Musical Courier (issues from the 1910s are available on Google Books and Hathi Trust; CNTRL-F “influenza” in a 1,200 page PDF and you can find lots of stuff!). There was a ton of stuff I couldn’t fit in the piece, stuff I wanted to follow up on. Lots of dangling threads. Doug Bomberger, author of the great recent book “Making Music American: 1917 and the Transformation of Culture,” also helped fill in some gaps, and supplied a few great archival nuggets like this advertisement:

Capitalizing on a potential trend toward listening at home, the nascent record industry marketed Edison phonographs.

The semester is officially dunzo, and my public musicology seminar students put together some really awesome projects. Not all of them are publicly online yet, but a few great ones to share thus far:

  • Allie Pecoraro and Allison Coe’s COVID-19 Performing ARTSchive, an online archive of materials related to the pandemic and the performing arts (with contributions from Nicole Steinberg) — lots of fascinating material to explore, including oral history interviews, handwashing memes, and more.

  • Syneva Colle’s podcast Cello Century: each episode explores a different 20th century cello concerto. It’s a really good podcast, and you should subscribe now. — the new Shostakovich episode is really superb (and maybe the first time that one of my students has done something on Shostakovich that doesn’t resort to the “tragic hero” cliches).

  • Patrick Allies’s video series "Renaissance Sacred Music in 100 motets,” short and fascinating videos on Renaissance motets. The initial Byrd video is great, and there are more to come!

I’m particularly proud of the students for coming up with creative alternatives to initial project ideas that required some live performance/talking aspect, and for being able to do such compelling work under hellish circumstances.

As for my music appreciation class, it went fine post-pandemic — better than I could have hoped in some regards, worse in others. I held a final class day live on Zoom, for those who could show up, and it was nice, and also sad. I’m extraordinarily grateful to my teaching assistant, Meghan Creek, who also just won our outstanding TA award!

Colloquium: Music Scholarship at a Distance is done, for now. It was really, really great: we presented around 35 papers/panels in the first weeks of the pandemic, and built a really engaging and vital community over Zoom. In a lot of ways, it was actually better than the conventional in-person conference format. I have a bajillion thoughts on why it worked and what lessons can be taken from it; Paula and I may co-author something soon-ish with advice for your own virtual conferences. We may revive the project in some form down the road, so keep your eyes peeled.

What next, for this newsletter, now that the book is out of my hands for a bit? I’ve been thinking about doing a series on “things that didn’t make it into the book and I hope people rake me over the coals for not including in reviews,” so perhaps that.

And after this book? Well, besides the way-more-important-than-all-of-this baby, two projects: one is a book I’m working on in collaboration with an awesome scholar and friend, which will become less secret in the near future. The other you should hear in the coming weeks. It’s a podcast, called Sound Expertise, and it will launch soon.