Cathryn Jakobson Ramin: Crooked

Cover: Crooked

Cover: Crooked

CROOKED:
OUTWITTING THE BACK PAIN INDUSTRY
AND GETTING ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin
HarperCollins, May 9, 2017, $27.99
ISBN-10: 0062641786; ISBN-13: 978-0062641786

Ramin reports:

After years of struggling to resolve my back and hip pain, I decided to take a serious look at what passed for treatment in the U.S., and globally. There was very little evidence for most of what patients were being offered. Worse, “conventional” treatment could be harmful. In early 2009, my agent sold my proposal to the Crown trade imprint. The offer I signed required me to produce a manuscript in 18 months.

When I didn’t deliver in 24 months, having barely dipped my toes in the research, Crown cancelled my deal. I kept working.

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, photo by Howard Schatz

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, photo by Howard Schatz

I did almost all my interviews (about 500) in person or on Skype, maintaining audio recordings, which usually had to be transcribed. I talked to sources in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Crooked is a hybrid of investigative reporting and “guinea pig” journalism. The narrative structure took a long time to reveal itself. I used WorkFlowy software, which bills itself as a tool “to organize your brain.” It’s a searchable outlining tool that helped me make sense of my notes. It took dozens of drafts of each chapter to arrive at the style and tone I was after, which I call “Hold my hand while I walk you through some incredibly complex science, and make you like it.” I used Dropbox and the filename method of Chapter Number- Name-DayMonthYear (e.g., Chapter 3-Hazardous Images-02132016), which I learned from an ex-paralegal colleague.

I assembled a team of fact-checkers, researchers, copyeditors, and endnote managers. One of my fact-checkers, for legally complex aspects of the book, was attorney Rob Liguori, whose business is called The Verificationist. Because these are litigious times, I bought an insurance policy with Chubb, called Mediaguard.

After repaying my advance to Crown, I regained rights to the manuscript. In 2016, we sold Crooked to HarperCollins, in a deal for a finished manuscript that netted about 40 percent more than the Crown deal had.

What I wish I had known? Do not think you can rush complex investigative reporting. And never think you will remember where anything came from. Maintain sources like your life and livelihood depend on it.

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