Updated: Jun 2
The Wonder of Jazz has been published this week on Amazon, Ingram Sparks and is available through Waterstones and all good book stores.
I called the book The Wonder of Jazz because jazz music has provided a fascination and the means to a journey of discovery, making connections, finding myself part of a world-wide family of musicians, writers, artists, and record labels. From a single article published on London Jazz to getting a call from the editor of All About Jazz and offering two columns, it has been a fascinating, music-filled journey.
I enjoyed working with publishers and basically working hard but leaving the nitty-gritty to them, as I had with Hamlyn Octopus for my botanical books. My first books came out with traditional publishing houses behind them - 8th House for two and Tomahawk for another. I had no idea of the processes involved in publishing, really - I just delivered the manuscripts, mostly on time, and then worked on any additional material they needed. I did work with an American editor on a book on gender in UK jazz, but she did most of the technical things - including uploading it on publication sites - and I did one with the help of many technically savvy people when the pandemic was on, but again, people helped and I just interviewed people and wrote about the music.
When The Wonder of Jazz -originally called Jazz Uncut- was first commissioned by a US publisher, I was pleased. We worked out the synopsis and the way the book would go. They were happy to allow me to do something I had wanted to do for a while, which was to give voice to the people in jazz - ask the questions everyone wanted to know, like how they make their money if gigs and streaming are not generating much income? How has streaming affected them, and how much do they get from it? Where do they see jazz in the future, and do they feel problems like gender issues have been resolved? I also wanted to bring in information that would give someone new to jazz or a passing interest a good background into the music's origin, development, and just how much it has impacted our social lives, culture, politics, art, fashion, and civil rights issue.
I wanted readers to meet the game changers, not just those we all hear about but who the musicians feel made a real difference. All these questions I asked - mainly on social media, and the responses were incredible. First responses with just a comment, then direct messages, and then emails until we built up a natural rapport about the book, and I asked more questions - and got surprising answers.
Then, just when the synopsis and direction of the book were coming together, the publisher's management decided to go their separate ways, and I was left high and dry. The editor I then found after a recommendation got offered a dream job, so I wished her well but wondered what to do. Did I shelve all that information? Did I close the door on the musicians? Did I leave unanswered all the questions?
I decided to see if it was possible to self-publish, but I didn't want to rely on a single market like Amazon, and I wanted a top-notch editor. Soon I realised that to produce a quality book, you need an excellent copy editor, a typesetter, a cover artist, and a proofreader. You need people who will discuss aspects with you like where to publish, how to market it, etc. There is a lot to getting a book out there. Of course, it starts with the writing but so much more happens.
I had begun to think it was far too big a project to undertake alone - and then things began to happen. First, I found an editor - initially, I had to consider the cost, but he offered to proofread as well, and a huge plus was he was interested in music and had edited rock music books plus came with recommendations and a good track record.
Then I connected with some artists, and an idea for the cover emerged but finding someone to put the idea in place was the problem - until I connected with a great cover artist, who seemed to understand what I wanted. So edits, proofs, and cover art sorted. I now needed a formatter and typesetter. The cover artist put me in contact with a typesetter. I asked her about formats and how I would go about this from the manuscripts she would typeset. She said there would be no problem, as she could format for different platforms. So, it looked like everything was in place. Each component, of course, came with a cost, but with all the people I had spoken with, I felt I had a good team, so I engaged all of them.
This, I have to say, was my best decision. The research paid off, and once we started, the editor worked in such a way the files were easy for the typesetter to use; she acted on his comments and recommendations, the cover artist worked, and soon I had six cover designs to select from. Once the manuscript had been edited several times ( we were up to version 6 now), the cover artist worked out the thickness of the spine, and the size of each front and back design for different publishing sites, and it gradually came together. Meanwhile, in true author style, I was introducing changes as I found new facts I wanted to include. Each time I did this, the team collectively sighed, but everything was added in, the pages tweaked and edits made, and finally, it all came together after a very long time. A final edit and check, a table of contents added, and all links, names, dates, etc., checked, and I felt we were there.
Then came the doubts. Had I done enough? Had I written the quotes as the musicians wanted? Had I thanked everyone? Had I included enough people in the acknowledgments? Was the book understandable? Was the order OK? It was too late, we were going to publish, and the information I had put together, together with input from over 100 musicians and jazz people, was out there.
I waited a day, then shared and tried to include as many people as possible who had contributed. I was nervous, wondering what on earth people would think. Was I being arrogant? I wanted the book to engage people familiar with jazz and those new to it with a passing interest. I wanted to let them understand jazz's impact on nearly every part of our lives somehow, even if they did not realise it, from hip hop to the raising of social issues through music. I wanted people to understand that jazz is not elite. I wanted them to see there is a place in jazz for everyone.
I need not have worried. The reception was incredible. Many people messaged me and said congratulations, well done, and so on. I had let some people see files of the finished book before publication, and writer Geisa Fernandes gave me some lovely comments as a review for the book, which I have put on the site.
Radio stations, musicians, podcasts, and journal columns have offered to spread the word about the book, and all of them have said they completely understand what I am trying to do. With my last book, I supported venues during the pandemic - not much, I grant you, but I figured that without venues, jazz musicians would have nowhere to come back to once we opened up again. I intend to continue supporting jazz music and give the musicians a voice with this book. What a journey, but I hope I can honestly say, what a book.
The Wonder of Jazz: Music That Changed The World: Amazon.co.uk: Stein, Sammy: 9781800688728: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wonder-Jazz-Music-Changed-World/dp/1800688725/ref=sr_1_1?crid=8I0XWCNW1VFT&keywords=sammy+stein+the+wonder+of+jazz&qid=1654206634&sprefix=%2Caps%2C216&sr=8-1