No One Knows Everything – my book and how it came to be


really, my very own nameholy heck my name’s on a bookWell I guess I officially wrote a book. It’s only 90 pages, and it’s awfully nerdy, chock full of references to different open source software products, politics and communities, but fully inspired by the very first months of putting together Indyish. It’s called No One Knows Everything, and it’s about independent media in history. I connect the independent periodicals that helped bring progressive change to the UK in the 1850′s, and their shifting relationship to the state-protected monopoly of the London Times, to the more recent (starting 1960′s) history of open and closed source computing.

I tried really hard throughout the writing process to write about these potentially dry and dude-dominated discourses using language that was, for me, pleasurable. I wanted it to be a good read, not just because it’s the writing I love most, but almost out of a feminist impulse to paint my own metaphors and interpretations over a world largely built without my gender. As though I won’t feel excluded by the knowledge if I can get enough understanding to play with it’s words and ideas. Anyway – if you’re interested in how a text like this could become a book, here’s the quick breakdown:

1. I applied to the Concordia MA in Media Studies, in the dept of Communications, with a thesis proposal about hip hop and post-colonial theory. I did some work on hip hop, including this book review, but my interests were shifting all the time and fortunately the people at Concordia were really supportive (sometimes sarcastic, but always supportive) of my roaming tangents. (I think there’s a system relationship between open source and hip hop I still might write more about someday, actually, so there.)

2. I was hired by my History of Media prof, Dr. Buxton, to footnote a speech by a great Canadian Communications theorist, which he’d found in the University of Toronto archives, and which had never been published, potentially because the audience and would be publishers, the Associated Press and Periodicals Association of Canada had asked the author, Harold Innis, if he could just add a little paragraph about the importance and value of advertising before they published and circulated his speech. Far as well can tell, Innis never replied and the speech sunk out of notice for 65 years.

3. I decided this speech had enough powerful ideas about opinion and open systems that it could cast a lot of light on Innis’s more cryptic but incredibly insightful and creative writings, and also cast light forward on what evolved over subsequent decades – both the incredible consolidation of the instruments of public opinion, and the incredible opening of routes on the internet made possible by open source software and communities.

4. I did a lot of research and note taking, and convinced my very open minded advisor, Dr. Buxton, that this whole scheme was an ok idea.

5. Over 1 month I wrote 2 pages a day, in order, going from the beginning to the end to create a complete first draft.

6. over the next months I polished, finally finished, defended it and graduated, yay!

7. I put the thing I’d written up on the internet in two places – on Scribd and on OJM. I did this in the spirit of openness and also in the spirit of:

8. Out of the blue, VDM Verlag, a German open access academic publisher focused on getting thesis into wider circulation contacted me.. They had found my work online and thought it might have an audience and asked me to officially submit it to the acquisitions editor, who liked it.

9. I got the contract from VDM and sent it around to my advisor, family, some legal friends for advice. I also asked Jim from No Media Kings for advice and his input made it clear to me that the royalty breakdown they were offering me was not great, but not abnormal either, especially for an academic text. Frequently academics are charged for their publications, so this was definitely a better deal. Jim recommended I make sure the contract said I had approval over the cover, so I could change things. This was good advice. My advisor urged me to go for it- since it’s an open access publisher, and I wasn’t actually seeking publication, the contract met my needs, and a book publication would be helpful come Phd time, etc. So I went for it, only half believing it was really happening.

10. I got Serah-Marie from Worn to help me take the picture for the cover, because for some reason the picture really freaked me out. As a side note, when and if I continue my writing on this, I’ll definitely be drawing on my experience with Worn and Lickety-Split to discuss contemporary indie periodicals..

11. I got the cover proofs and sent them round to friends who gave me great critical-eye advice.

12. I got the advance copies in the mail! I still can’t really believe it, but there they are. They’ll be available here and on Amazon soon as possible. Copies of a book I wrote, and not self-published! Wild. Until then, here’s the full pdf, have a read if you like:
No One Knows Everything – PDF

5 Responses to “No One Knows Everything – my book and how it came to be”

  1. Lise Treutler said:

    the best part of those photos (i mean, aside from the awesomeness of it being YOUR BOOK) is that the book is propped up against a computer!!!

  2. Risa Dickens said:

    yeah, so meta =)

  3. sarah pearson said:

    you are inspiring.
    hollar and praise!

  4. Elizabeth Johnston said:

    Congratulations on your publishing journey. Great read!

  5. Risa Dickens said:

    thanks so much! and turns out – not an isolated fluke – another publisher just contacted me about it having seen the abstract online- colour me surprised!

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