There is some subjectivity, certainly. Each publisher, anyway, has its own ethos, its own style, and targeted readership. And within the company there will be differing opinions. At that point, we must have some objectivity. All of these opinions must converge and everyone must be able to get behind the book. The book must attract a consensus of positive opinion.
The commissioning editor
The book must be well-written by this person’s standards. And it must have the right sort of story. This is the first person who needs to get excited.
This person is going to work with the author on polishing the text. So, the text must not be in too much need of change. And the particular author must be someone who seems as if they would be able to work with the particular editor.
This person must be able to share the vision with the editors and the author of what the book will look like. We’re not necessarily talking illustrated books here but rather which shape book, which type of paper, which font, what sort of line-spacing and what might go at the beginning and the end.
This may just be for the cover or for other illustrations as well. Can they share the vision of the others for the book? It’s difficult – and often an author may be disappointed. There is more to a book cover than something responding to the author’s imagination. It has to catch the eye of the reader, the bookseller and the critic.
This person has to find the angles that will make the book visible. They’re not necessarily the ones that the author and the editor would choose. Sometimes they will be ones that the author finds less easy to engage with. No, s/he can’t see themselves flying a kite on a local beach.
Yes, they will exist even amongst this group that basically share the opinion that this book is excellent. But the argument is the vehicle that takes everyone to the place where they can make the book be the best it possibly can be. There mustn’t be compromise. There must be agreement. The fight has to go on until a third, fourth or fifth way is found. Opinion soup.
Synergy even so
Yesterday I received an illustration from one of our regular artists for a picture book. There’s a long story behind this. But I’m glad we’re now working with this artist. He knows ethos, our taste, our house style and our targeted readership. And the picture is superb.