Encounters in Publishing #21: The Day the Books Arrive, by Maria Gagliano

Here’s a funny thing about my job: I rarely touch my books. I’m talking about physical touching. They’re abstractions for the entire year (or more) that I work on them. They are proposals in Word documents. They are hundreds of emails about manuscripts, covers, titles, flap copy, catalog spreads, author photos, and publicity strategies. They are phone calls and meetings, lunch dates and even text messages. I edit electronically, so a red pencil never gets involved. The words never even touch paper. Everything about my books exists only as pixels and conversations. During its evolution, a book will migrate from a manuscript in a Word doc to a designed PDF. This is big progress. The book looks different, but still, nothing on my desk. Nothing in my hands.

Editors usually finish working on books several months before they’re printed. At that point we shift to congratulations, publicity conversations, and deep sighs of relief. We did it. But still, nothing to see. Nothing to touch. We start on new manuscripts for the upcoming year as the author’s publicist takes over. The author’s email address is no longer a mainstay in your Inbox. It’s not that you’ve forgotten about the book, but its days of requiring constant attention have passed. Your focus shifts to something else.

Then one day, always out of nowhere, a package arrives. I try to remember if I’d ordered something. I hadn’t. Might someone have sent me a gift? No. I cut open the box and everything stops: It’s my book. It’s real. It’s here. It had filled my days for a year and this is the first time I’m holding it in my hands.

This moment always shakes me. How can it be that I’ve spent so much time with this book, helping the author make it the best it can be, arguing and laughing, worrying and celebrating, and I hadn’t even seen it until now?

It’s late September and I have seven books publishing this fall. It happens that four of those seven arrived today. It was a good day. Each box I opened was filled with a year’s worth of energy and memories. And they were all tied up in a single, real book in my hands.


Maria Gagliano is a writer, editor, baker, and co-publisher of Slice. Her writing has appeared in BUST magazine, the Huffington Post, Salon, and, among other publications. When she’s not playing with words, she’s teaching herself to sew, garden, pickle, preserve, and cook like her Sicilian parents. She shares her (mis)adventures at