So, I leave for Kzoo (AKA Massive Medieval Conference) in two days (well, two and a bit - Wednesday morning), and yet all I can do is plot whether or not I'll be able to find a pair of new black shoes out shopping tomorrow. Do I really need a pair of black shoes? No, probably not. Would I be better off grading the two sets of papers that need to get done before I leave? Yes, probably. Shouldn't I really finish polishing the remarks I'm making? Definitely (although it wouldn't really be Kzoo if I wasn't finishing my presentation the night before). Am I projecting my anxiety about the conference onto the clothes? Absolutely - if I have the right outfits for the conference, everything else will go smoothly, right? Right? (I had vowed to myself that I was NOT going to buy any new clothes for this conference, but apparently I am compelled to do so, as I went out today and bought this blouse, in black, although I really wanted it in cocoa brown, and am even considering trekking out to the far suburbs to see if the other Talbots in town has it in the right color. But if I can't exchange the black for the brown, then clearly I need some new black shoes to go with it. Obviously.)
Apart from tying my self-confidence to the purchase of new, "perfect" shoes, and needing to undertake the ritual purchase of nifty travel-sized toiletries sometimes tomorrow or the next day, I do have an actual substantive concern about the conference: I'm at that point in my book project when I need to think of
harassing begging starting conversations with editors, to see who might be interested. I have a couple of specific presses in mind (one expressed generic interest in my dissertation topic, and publishes a lot in my specific area; the other has an AWESOME series in medieval European stuff, and I know the series editor pretty well), and then of course there are always lots of others to try. But I've never done this before; the project has metamorphized so much from the dissertation that for a long time I didn't have a very clear picture of where it was going, but now I finally do.
So, dear readers, two questions: any tips for bearding the fearsome editors in their dens? And, since I was debating this with a grad school friend earlier tonight, what's the best point at which to approach people/aim for a contract? I have always heard of the process working like this: write proposal, send proposal (often with a chapter or two) to a bunch of presses, get expressions of interest back, pick an interested press and send off the manuscript, the manuscript goes to readers, readers say it's brilliant, innovative, and fascinating, and the press offers you a contract (followed by revising and all the mechanics of publication). My friend was insisting that people often get contracts prior to the manuscript going out to readers, and that the idea was to hook up with an editor and get a contract prior to the manuscript going out to readers. Along these lines, we were debating how much one should revise one's manuscript before sending it out (on the theory that there's no point in agonizing over extensive revisions if readers are just going to tell you what they want changed anyway). Since I'm so extensively revising my dissertation, such that the original is just a small kernel of the book manuscript, I have to rewrite the thing anyway before sending it off to someone, as it really doesn't exist at the moment. Obviously that's different if you have a more polished/complete manuscript/dissertation already. In any case, I would love to see everyone's responses (comments from other humanities folks are doubtless most relevant, but others are welcomed too).
Meanwhile, I'm off to excavate my sink...