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?  

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