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Published on December 2nd, 2011 | by DerbyLife

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Behind NO MERCY: The Making of the Book

by Dawn Frederick

For anyone involved in any aspect of roller derby, we all agree that there is real life (work, career, life goals) – and derby life. When those two worlds intersect and result in greater creative collaboration, words cannot truly describe the overall positive experience.

After spending 5 years archiving the growth of many roller derby leagues, Jules finally decided to take the leap; to actively pursue getting his photos into a book. Fans and skaters had requested such a thing; Jules’ family had been asking, and by this point he had catalogued approximately 250,000 photos.

In the summer of 2009, Jules queried Red Sofa Literary, my agency based in the Twin Cities (MN). He had learned through Literary Marketplace that I’d be interested in a book of this nature. Thus began the general process of querying Red Sofa. This of course resulted in the usual extended time of materials getting prepped (by Jules), multiple questions from me, and the normal snail’s pace that most authors experience when pursuing book publication.

During that time, it seems that we ALMOST met in person. We both were at the East Coast Derby Extravaganza – literally corresponding by email during tournament and entirely unaware the other was in the same venue at the same time. As some may you already know, meeting one’s agent and editor in person doesn’t always happen, hence why we are still surprised about this coincidence even today.

In August 2009, we agreed it would be a great idea to work together. So began the process of fine-tuning Jules’s book proposal, general preparation for taking NO MERCY to publishers (on my part), and more.

Unfortunately timing was going to be our largest barrier, as our country (and publishing industry) were smack in the middle of a recession. The majority of editors who saw the book really liked the concept, but with the high production costs for a book of this nature – and several not seeing the potential growth that roller derby would soon experience – we knew it would be a challenge. A challenge we were willing to take head on.

Hence, Jules began to work actively on social media presence, i.e. his author platform. Many hours were spent making a website, building a presence with the Axle Adams Facebook page and Twitter, and generally keeping the cogs moving with new photo opportunities.

Then we met Schiffer Publishing. By early 2010, we had inked Jules first book deal. To say we were excited would be an understatement. Right, Jules?

Of course we had only completed the 1st leg of NO MERCY’s publishing path. There was the problem of choosing which photos to include. (Remember, we’re talking about 250K photos!)
Over the next ten months, Jules spent a lot of time with those photos. He narrowed down his choices to 2100 pictures. Printed every single photo, and put the figurative pieces together. Mapping together those choices took time, and as many would agree, the choices were fantastic – and noticeably thoughtful in theme and layout when one looks at the final copy of NO MERCY.

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Making these choices was difficult, so Jules requested that more pages could be added to the book without dramatically increasing the cost of NO MERCY. Schiffer gave the official nod (thank goodness).

Of course that was only one part of the overall process, the minor issue of getting correct captions was another huge undertaking for Jules. Here’s where many many folks in the derby community made that process easier. From helping identify skaters in photos, to confirming dates and places, the captions were eventually completed. To everyone’s relief, including Jules’ & my own.

At the beginning of 2011, all materials were shipped off to Schiffer – with the 2nd leg of NO MERCY’s publishing complete. Thus began the waiting. And the waiting. And the waiting.
As some of you may know already, and have witnessed personally, NO MERCY was finally available this Fall. Seeing the excitement on Jules’ face when he saw his reader’s copy, and the excitement of skaters, has already been an incredible experience.

Jules pulled off the main goal of this book – that all of us in roller derby would be able to look back and celebrate our colorful history over the last five years. He has managed to capture the athleticism, emotion, and pure joy that all of us in roller derby have shared with fans, friends and family during this time. His photos capture the grace of skaters, as well as their tenacity, toughness, and tender moments.

Looking at NO MERCY reminds me of just how much I love this sport. How much I love our skaters. How much I love the referees. How much I love our eccentric, colorful personalities. And I truly, madly believe that anyone who sees NO MERCY will want to dive headfirst into the experience – as a skater, as a fan, as a volunteer, and as an advocate for strong women’s sports.
And for all the people who made this happen, we both are extremely appreciative of your support. I can’t help but encourage anyone who claims to love roller derby to get NO MERCY into as many people’s hands as possible. This book is only a small representation of the sport we love so much. And the more we can get the general public to show up in person at our bouts, the better. Wouldn’t you agree?

To get your copy of NO MERCY (holiday present, anyone?), visit Jules’s website, where he links to many derby-owned retailers that support the book.

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