Thursday, 8 October 2009

Publishing a Second Edition

Well, the second edition of the Porlock novel has been sent off to the printers at last and it's too late to change any errors now... Decisions, decisions. The first cover was rather too dark and emphasized the sci fi aspect, so the second by contrast is probably too pale, but at least concentrates on the historical side - which is the main thing. But I'll almost certainly quarrel with it once the boxes of books arrive.
   It's a queer business publishing a book. One always imagines in the abstract that of course you'll have time to proof read it the requisite three times, not just the once over an intense and irritable fortnight. You think that of course you'll print out the cover to see how it looks BEFORE sending it off to the printers. You believe in good faith that the second edition will have no typos. Forget it. Unless you only have one job (rare in the arts at the moment, seemingly!) and have the time management skills recommended by 'life coaches', there'll be one proof read. If you haven't the experience yourself of doing that and done it for other people, then it's best to try and cajole/coax/pay someone else to do it. Even if you are good at it, and don't farm it out, it's extremely unlikely that one proof will pick up everything, and even if the typos aren't there, there'll be spacing issues leftover from transferring the document from Word to PDF, and changing the size from A4 or 5 to a standard book size like 132 x 197. Of course it would be great to actually have time to go through the first edition and make all the changes you'd like before the second one...well yes it would, if you hadn't been so busy selling the first one and doing all your other jobs from writing workshop host or assistant willow workshop host to dealing with festivals and... Printing the cover out to see what it looked like would have been great, and of course you will next time...except that the printer doesn't do 132 x 197, or at least not without throwing a tantrum which you really can't face at this stage. Not with a newsletter to edit and... You get the picture? In reality the second cover may well be as 'too something-or-other' as the first, and by the third print run, you may actually have had time to do another proof...hopefully. Because being your own proof reader, editor, page layout designer, typesetter, promoter, marketer, copywriter, rep, bookseller, and having at least two other jobs is always going to get in the way. As for a book that you know perfectly well has typos - surely it's too much for a perfectionist to bear? Not if you're paying for the corrections and are quoted a ludicrous price, and then only quoted five pence a page when it's far too late... - no one's yet minded if they've noticed, and anyway it's imperative to have stock to sell at an imminent event - getting it done vs. perfection? The choice isn't hard at that point. Especially not when one thinks of all the things that never got done because they couldn't be or would take too much time to be, perfect. It's a recipe to cripple an art, a job, or even a life. Of course you should always do everything the best it can be, but if no one's going to notice except yourself, and it's between getting something done or not doing it...No contest.
   It's obvious why folks publish their own work and set up their own companies in an overcrowded market filled with ghost written 'celeb biographies'. But what's also plain are that the roles which publishers and agents do execute take time and effort. And if you'd 'rather spend the time writing', then firstly, don't expect to get published this side of doomsday unless you send out two MS.s a day, and secondly - you never know, the many other tasks involved might end up teaching you a whole load of new skills, and there might even be some fun in amongst the hard work. What's more, you'll be doing something you believe in. Does that have a price?  

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Storyclub Upstairs at the Globe

October's Storyclub upstairs at the Globe is coming up, as well as a meeting of The Vibe - all arts network forum informal group, National Poetry Day and a couple of things so important to get done that they make you want to write a blog instead...but it's September's Storyclub I'm still remembering... As well as the very wonderful Tyburn Jig Theatre, of Dave Oliver and Jon Freeman who run - brilliantly - the Storyclub (and us regulars Widsith and Deor) there was the matchless Clive PiG the Storyfella. What a treat. Well first of all we all met up downstairs and caught up on what sort of summer season each of us had had, swapping tales of rain and shine, festivals, charming and crazy audiences... (I must admit to feeling like 'one of the big boys' when at a gathering of Dave, Jon, Clive, and also when Michael Dacre of the splendid Raventales turns up! - incidentally all hosts or former hosts of storyclubs.) And then the five of us went upstairs to tell our other tales. Last to arrive amongst the storytelling fraternity was David Heathfield, who does a lot of work in colleges and educational settings as well as at other events. The audience began arriving and carried on until it was a respectable size and the festivities began. Dave and Jon are always excellent, but often perform separately. This time however, they did turns together, and some chemistry was in the offing, which I was delighted to see. Dave is entrancing as a solo performer, but when he was (and from time to time still is) in the Guild of Fabulists with Clive, they have an incredible team chemistry which is always a pleasure to watch and hear, and worth paying good money to see, with each taking up the other's jokes, and the one doing the narration and the other the 'special effects', i.e. creaky doors, floors, weird noises and unexpected eerie voices! Dave and Jon had a different chemistry, and it was great to hear them working with the same story. There's a lovely feeling attendant on a storyteller's changeover, that isn't there in straight theatre, because the lines are learnt in the latter. In storytelling on the other hand, most of the time the cues are flexible, polished improvisation, even spontaneous, and always changing, so there's a trust involved that you don't get in other kinds of performance. Not like watching a trapeze catch exactly, but...! Jon brings more and more offbeat quirk to his tales, and you can tell Dave has worked in television. When Clive took the floor, it was with one about creepy 'Uncle Wolf' and a greedy kid who ate the pancakes intended for the said Uncle...He moved about the space and did the characters so completely 'in character', as well as the special effects of Uncle Wolf trying to get into the house, that at times it was like watching a one person film. He cranked up the suspense till we were on the edge of our seats, until finally and unexpectedly - the greedy boy got eaten by his hard done by if sinister Uncle! David Heathfield delivered his tales professionally with his customary mixture of fireside engagingness and quietly emphatic meaning, with flair and polish. We ourselves did two of our current favourites, including 'Lady Mary', a variation on Bluebeard and not a story I would have warmed to, except I liked our take on it (which evolved out of one choosing it and the other making suggestions until it became a duologue). Mixing grim horror with laugh out loud comedy. It was brilliant to shoot it past such a professional audience, as you know if they laugh, you've got the thing right! And we'll be doing that tale in our coming Autumn Festival Show 'Goblins and Ghouls, Fairies and Fools' (check out the Collective's website if interested - W&D link then Diary or New Show). Needless to say, in our version, Lady Mary gets the best of it... We all did two tales, and after the stories were finished, the rewarding audience stayed on - until we all told jokes and short tales until finally being ousted at closing time...What a great evening. One of the best nights out - and that's born out by friends I've brought along - in the city, and still only £3 for listeners, and free for tellers. Huge thanks to Clive for running the Big Potato as was, Michael of Raventales for running the Storyclub at the Globe, and Jon and Dave for taking it over a while back - and all of them for being such inspirational storytellers, and being responsible for so many cracking nights out!