Dodd’s DIY Cottage

by | Sep 10, 2005

Mary Minow of Library Law Blog had the good fortune to see a pre-release copy of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics (Free Press: forthcoming in October, 2005), by editor and annotator, David Dodd. Dodd is also chair of the California Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and director of the San Rafael Public Library.

MM: How unusual to see a Deadhead who is a library director!

DD: Actually, there are a few of us around—there’s even a Deadhead Librarian listserv. I hear from people all the time!

MM (a little taken aback): Really. The Grateful Dead is well-known for allowing and even encouraging fans to make recordings of their live performances and even to distribute them to their friends. Did you have any problem getting permission to publish the lyrics in your book?

DD: I think that taper ethic goes a long way to differentiating the Dead from pretty much anything else in the business world. The marketing model of allowing free distribution of the music just flew in the face of all the common wisdom. In a way, the file-sharing programs that are the target of such vilification from the mainstream music business world today are the direct descendants of the Dead’s approach. That said, they have been (rightfully) quite cautious in allowing this project to go forward as a print-on-paper book. Over the years, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with Ice Nine Publishing, who granted permission to me to use the full text of the lyrics on my Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics website, but the permission to publish that site as a book came after a long period of having the project back-burnered. Problems, no; patience, yes.

MM: What’s it like, really, to publish a book?

DD: I really think that the writing and publishing of books in the US today is a cottage industry. This is my third book, and each has carried with it a greater or lesser degree of do-it-yourselfness. The first book, an annotated bibliography about the Dead, published by Greenwood Press in 1997, was pretty much completely DIY: I delivered camera-ready copy, complete with index. The second book, The Grateful Dead Reader, published by Oxford Univ. Press in 2000, was laid out by Oxford, but my wife Diana and I did all of the permissions work on our own. We even held an Amish-style proofreading party, with a group of Deadhead writer friends spending the day going over the entire book! And this book has required that I do all the permissions work, hire a reference librarian to do fact-checking, coordinate the illustrations, and be very hands-on with the design of the book, and with the indexing. You don’t just sign a contract, turn over a manuscript, and sit back and wait for the book to appear.

MM: So, why do it?

DD: Each time, I’ve said “never again!” But I think it’s like going backpacking: you forget how painful it is, and you remember the good stuff. And if, like me, you love books, then there’s something extremely appealing about helping to make books happen. Fame and fortune are elusive, but at least I can walk into almost any public library in the country and find my books on their shelves. That’s very satisfying.