Monday, December 29, 2008

A View of a Book Design Meeting

Ever wonder what happens during a production meeting between the publisher/editor at a small press and the lead designer of a book? Here's a glimpse of the meeting I had yesterday with Rick Wismar, Medusa's Muse designer.

"Want cheese on your Wopper?" Rick asked before heading to the counter.

I shook my head and set up the laptop while he got our food. This is about as fancy as a working lunch gets for a micro press; a couple of burgers at "Burger King".

While eating our burgers and fries, we discussed the pros and cons of including images in What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. Now that I am no longer the author/editor on this project, I have to focus on being the publisher, which means my primary job is to create an excellent product (book) while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Some of the questions I have to ask are:

-Does including images increase the overall worth of the book to a reader?

-Will images make the book more appealing, and thus increase sales? Or is it just dressing up a book that already has enough intrinsic value?

-If I want the price of the book to be $10.00, will that price support the book's production? How much more can I spend on design and still gain enough profit on a $10.00 book?

-How fancy can I afford to make the images?

After some discussion, we decided to include simple cartoons at the beginning of each chapter to emphasise the subject of that chapter, while also adding more humor to the book. The book was written with the hope that people would be entertained and inspired as well as informed while reading about how to start a small press. So Rick and I pulled out the table of contents and began doodling ideas for each heading. What would be a good image for "Working with Authors?" Or "Bank Accounts and Licenses?" In the introduction, I compare the book to a travel guide for would-be adventurers who are planning their first trip overseas. Should we carry that metaphor throughout in the images, or let each chapter's image stand alone?

Rick sketched out many ideas and we laughed over the silly ones. It's important to let your imagination lead the way while coming up with ideas rather than only focus on what will be "pertinent." After two hours of tossing around ideas, he had enough to start narrowing down the specific drawings.

Then we asked, "Who can draw them." Rick would rather turn over the actual illustrations to another artist, but I'm concerned about the deadline. Who do we know who can draw several sketches in just a week? I don't want to keep pushing this book's deadline ahead because that pushes the Punk Rock Anthology's deadline even further. This is another place I need to be the publisher, not the author.

-Can we afford to hire an illustrator?

-Should Rick draw the images himself?

-How long can we wait before the deadline will have to be extended again, and can we afford to keep extending that deadline?

I insisted on keeping the mid-January deadline and Rick said he'd do his best. Luckily, we already have a mock-up of the cover and the interior will be simple since we have a template from Traveling Blind. But the images could really slow things down. I'll have to keep wearing my publisher's hat to keep us all on target.

I'm pleased with our progress yesterday and excited about the book again. For a while, I was so sick of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro I didn't want to think about it. After working on a manuscript for a year, you can get pretty tired of the words on the page, even when it's your own book. But Rick's ideas make the book feel fresh again and brings it one step closer to being real.

Besides, I wrote it! I should celebrate! I'd better start planning a party.

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