Saturday 25 June 2011

Fascinating projects – where love is more important than money

You don’t get rich in publishing. Mind you. Some do okay. Or they wouldn’t have posh offices on the Strand or in other locations in London. Even so, compared with other big companies and multi-nationals, publishing houses are the poor cousins. Most of us are in the industry because we love books and writers.
I went to a seminar on design yesterday at the InternationalAnthony Burgess Foundation, run by Literature North West. Talks in the forms of Power Point presentations were given by David Pearson and Alistair Hall.
Pearson designs for Penguin, mainly covers. He knows his stuff, and as well as showing us many beautiful examples of his work, he talked with enthusiasm about how he worked.
Hall, equally talented and very diverse in the projects he undertakes, showed us some of his work but talked at length about a project that is run mainly by volunteers.
Pearson has also set up his own publishing company with a partner. They don’t make much money but they do publish exquisite art-rich books.
Both designers have to work on spec as well as on commission. They obviously do manage to make a living by their art but because they do so much and to such perfection, the hourly rate is not good.
But do they care? I suspect not. Goodness, I work all hours God sends on writing, publishing and promoting them both. I do have to ensure that I get paid properly so that my work is valued correctly. Often that is not easy. But it is a vocation, not a job, in the end. The days and weeks whizz by. I no longer feel the need for holiday or retail therapy, though relaxation and inspirations is important and attending this seminar was a form of both.  
Perhaps Hall’s project demonstrates very well what I’m what I’m saying. Check out                 

Thursday 2 June 2011

Story is king - but alone does not make a good book

I’m reading a self-published book. It was sent to me because the author wanted a mainstream publisher to take it on. Very flattering: our little indie has been labelled “mainstream”.
There is a lot wrong with the book, and I hope my publishing company would never publish anything as bad. Lots of run-on sentences. Punctuation all over the place. Chapter titles in the wrong places. Even hideous mistakes in the blurb. Overwriting. Wasted words. More legal information than a lay person can cope with.   
And yet: I keep on reading. The story is gripping. I’m a just a few pages from the end and there are still twists and turns. I’m resisting the urge to look at the last page. I’m sure this would make an excellent six-part drama.  
The book has sold 500 copies on the efforts of the author. It has a good endorsement from a person in the same trade as one of its main characters.
Sadly, though, it makes a fool of its author.
It should have been edited.
Self-publishers must get their work edited. Unfortunately, this is one of the major costs in publishing a book. The most successful self-publishers do this. I’m about to self-publish a book and I am paying an editor. I’m fairly certain they won’t have too much work to do, but they’ll spot any incongruities, things that aren’t clear and the odd typo or grammatical mistake.    
Sadly, the book I’ve been asked to read would take so much fixing that a publishing house hasn’t got enough editor hours to do that. A free-lance would earn quite a lot editing this book, but can the author afford to pay? The editor would have to rewrite the book, in effect. So, it would be rejected by a publisher. Shame! It’s a great story.