In This Case, to a Publisher
I don’t like to talk about my own books in this blog — I see myself here as an advocate for great non-fiction for young readers, not an author shilling for his own works. But there is a story I have to tell, and it happens to have to do with a book of mine. As I’ve written here, I had the good fortune of meeting and working with the Riverside Project (the archaeological team at Stonehenge) during their digs in 2007 and 2008. I learned about their work, and wrote about it in a book due to be published this spring (If Stones Could Speak). The ms. was done on time — my packaging partner John W. Glenn and I got all of the photos and maps, finished up the backmatter, copy editors and proof readers did their close checking and we sent the files off to be printed.
And then, in the fall of 2009, just as books began to roll off the press, Mike Parker Pearson — lead archaeologist and spokesman for the Riverside team — told us that they had made a new discovery. They had found a new stone circle, and had good reason to believe some of those "bluestones" were later moved up the hill to Stonehenge. This was big, very, very big. It left us, and, more to the point, National Geographic, with a big decision — finish printing a book that was already outdated, or trash the printing, fix the book (which would mean not only adding photos of the new discovery, but changing all the linked timelines, biographies, descriptions of year by year work, and overall summary of the goals and accomplishments of the Riverside Team). This was no light decision — it would mean losing money in order to get something right. I have to credit National Geographic — they did the right thing. They took the book off press. They mocked up a few corrected copies to show reviewers, they gave us a weekend to fix everything — which we did — and they reprinted the book.
Sure our book was fine — and we could have waited to print a "revised edition" a year or two later. But that would not have been fair either to readers or buyers. Instead the publisher took the hit. Once again I don’t like using this space to say anything about my own work — but in this case, the hero is the publisher, and so Thanks National Geographic, you done good.