Friday 26 September 2014

The Proof Read: the trickiest edit

On average, there are fifteen spelling or grammatical mistakes, typos or formatting quirks per published book. To get to this average we include some self-published books that are dire, some absolutely perfect ones (rare) and the vast majority that have between five and twenty such problems.
Can we improve this? And how do we get to even this level of what is, after all, mainly correctness? There is more right than wrong and we want to keep it that way.

Monday 15 September 2014

Print-on-demand – why not?

I was somewhat saddened to see that authors whose publishers use print-on-demand are precluded from the Sunday Times’ short storycompetition. Yet print-on-demand is a gift to small press. The big companies that operate this system can link publishers up to distributors and provide small presses with a system whereby they don’t pay for any printing until the book is sold. Admittedly unit cost is a lot higher but there are no warehousing or shipping costs and books don’t lie around aging: they are only printed as they are needed. The higher unit cost to the publisher results in only a slightly higher recommended retail price. Print-on-demand has been used for educational and academic books for some time now.

Confusion with self-publishing
Yes, many companies that provide self-publishing services to writers will use print-on-demand. Again this will avoid warehousing costs and guarantee freshly printed books.  But some self-publishing companies and self-publishers themselves use other methods. And several small presses use print-on-demand technology. These include Bridge House, Crooked Cat and Unthank. These houses use the normal selection processes, rejecting a lot, and each book is treated to a full editorial process by experienced editors.  
At that point, doesn’t print-on-demand become quite virtuous? There are no wasted resources, it is better for the environment and for the customer. Even the writer benefits; the publisher can take a risk with a title that is not going to sell millions but is still useful to a niche group of readers.

Self-publishing has come of age
In any case, self-publishing is a more respected act these days. Many self-published books are actually better written than some traditionally produced ones. More often than not a full editorial process has taken place. Sometimes, an out-of-print title can be brought back to life. It’s a good option for a “how to” manual, a writing experiment or for any book with an unusual readership.
The main problem for many fiction writers who self-publish is finding their readership. Again, because the writer uses print-on-demand, at least they are risking no cash even if they have risked a fair amount of time.   

Hopefully soon print-on-demand will be more widely accepted, even by the Sunday Times.