Sunday 27 October 2013

A book comes to life

The call
We put out the call for submissions. We watch as they come in. We don’t look yet. We’re mildly curious as to how the writers have found us. Was it social media?  Did they visit our web site? Did someone in the know recommend us to them?
We recognise some old friends and we are flattered that some very established writers turn to us now. There are some new voices too: will they bring us that smart new gobsmacking, stunning, life-changing short story?
Still we don’t look.

The selection
The last day for submission comes and goes. We start reading. The short stories we sort into three categories: yes, maybe, definitely no. The yeses we’ll all publish unless there are too many. Then we’ll put them in rank order and publish the better ones. The maybes we’ll publish if we don’t have enough definites. This will take a bit of work but we think we can do it. The yesses need minimal attention.
With novels it’s often a question of do we like the story and the writing? Does it need much work? Do we think we can get this into shape? Can we get excited about it? 
Letting authors know
It’s a joy letting successful authors know. Sometimes it’s their first publication and that’s nice. It’s less pleasant sending out the rejections. We delete the “nos” from our folders but keep the maybes – you never know there might be a gap one day.  Then may be, just may be.  It’s a bit of a long shot. But may be.
Some parts don’t work so well. We point them out and make our suggestions. Our suggestions aren’t always accepted but fortunately then the author comes up with something even better. Occasionally they can’t and our suggestion has to stay. Always the author’s own ideas are better. Occasionally, and I’m afraid it’s usually the newbies, the author will argue and stubbornly refuse to make improvements. Then we might have to consider terminating the contract. It’s only got that far once though on a few occasions the editors have had to make the alterations themselves. It’s a necessary skill for any writer who want to survive and earn the right to carry on writing; you must be able to respond to editorial comment. Happily, most of the time there’s a healthy toing and froing of the text until it is the best it can possibly be.   
This means turning into a file that the printer can use to produce a book. And then we stumble across some peculiar formatting a writer has put in. Please keep it simple.  Please follow our guidelines. We ask texts to be formatted in a certain way for a reason.     
Proofs out
We ask our writers to check that we’ve got it right now, though of course we check ourselves, too. Please get them back promptly. If you’re in an anthology with twenty or so other writers there can be many snags. Please help us to keep them to a minimum.
Cover design
We might commission an artist, do it ourselves with a photograph or buy a stock picture. Whichever we choose the design team has to make it look right. The blurb, the title and the author name must be in the right place and look good. The title, the author name and our logo must be on the spine. It’s technical and artistic at the same time.
Proof copy
Yes, we still get excited when we hold that first book in our hands. You can smell the ink. You can feel the paper and you know that the text is good.
Getting it out there
Registering with Nielsen’s, hooking it up to the distributors, creating information sheets and press releases, and getting it on to all the social media. And reviews. Oh yes, reviews. Encouraging authors to do their bit. This book is real. It’s going out there. And of course, there’s also the e-book.
Watching the sales       
A gush at first and then a trickle. Many trickles make a stream and then a river. Small indie publishers rarely sell millions. It’s still satisfying seeing the cash come in, though.  And we must all remember the story of Bloomsbury and the boy wizard.
Then on to the next book.   

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