Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not saying no / proofs / cover / next

Not saying ‘No’

I received an email the other week asking me to take part in a book-themed funraising event that began:
Woodrow Wilson once said: I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.”  I am sure there are many who would agree!   
So, you mean those hundredty-million hours I spent writing my book, and the 5am starts during the editing process (which seems never-ending at the mo) have been a waste? I could have just gone around talking to people? Egad.

I was tempted to mark another thing off my to-do list ('Turn something down') but in the end, couldn’t bear the thought of not taking part. So I said yes, but mentioned that if I were them I wouldn’t use that quote again when trying to get writers to donate their time (especially if you strike a writer at the tail-end of a three year project who's very nearly ‘over it’).


Proof of life

Bung dates
Last Tuesday I finished going through the first proofs of The Mannequin Makers. I had some substantive comments to make about the internal design/formatting (no contents page, please;  change how sea shanties etc are shown on the page) and caught a few errors (the dates underneath Part One were actually the dates from Part Two; one narrator says they’d never seen their aunty’s diary; later her brother knows it by sight...).

I also cut about 1.5 pages from a section in Part Three (a bit that tended to slow a chapter down and made people wonder about hypothermia).

On Wednesday I got sent some queries from the proof reader who’d been reading the same version of the manuscript (this was their first time with the book). Of the 21 queries, I agreed with 13 and stuck to my guns with the other eight.

Do I have any other comments on the proofs stage?

Cut pages
Not really. It’s nice when you first receive the proofs and see your 100k word document laid out as a book and you get to see how many pages it’ll be (around 330 trade paperback pages – ‘around’ since I cut some stuff). From that point, to the time I actually took up the proofs and started reading, was about ten days. It wasn’t reluctance to re-engage with the book (at least, not solely): my gran died, so I had to do funerally things, while still doing long hours at work, filing my column, helping out with the baby and trying to keep a level head on cover issues.


The cover

Yeah, so, just remember my headspace wasn’t the best.

About a month ago I was emailed a series of stock photos by Random House and given the chance to veto any images I had an allergic reaction to (I’d previously said I wouldn’t be happy with a ‘women in a flowing dress’ typical historical fiction cover). I vetoed a few.

A week or so later I got a mock-up of a cover that the Sales and Marketing team liked best. I asked to see the other options they were given. I didn’t like any of them. All bar one were stock photos with text on top: two minute photoshop jobs, tops. They looked cold and under-designed. The exception was a more stylised rendering of a dressmaker’s form (not a mannequin), but that looked too much like Chick-Lit.

I tried to put into words what was wrong with the preferred cover. If that image (a headless, limbless mannequin that inspires as much interest in me as a piece of unbuttered toast) must be used, at least do something about the typography.

I also said:
“But if I’m honest I would be a little bummed if this is the cover that stares back at me for the next three years (though it may be good motivation to write another book quickly).”
This was the day after my gran died, and I apologised for being grumpy in my next email.

I moved from dislike to acceptance to not giving a damn over the next couple of days.

I know the final call on the cover is not mine to make, and maybe the Sales and Marketing Team knows best (I don’t have enough evidence here to be snarky). And maybe, once there’s a back cover and it’s printed and wrapped around 330-odd pages of literary goodness (or literary passableness) I’ll be fine with it.


What’s next?

I get the final proofs after Easter and have another fortnight to turn them around. Final sign-off at the end of April.

I have a grand idea for a launch event but have to talk to some people before I say anything. If this idea falls through I guess it’ll be cheese and pineapple hedgehogs in the Ministry of Education cafeteria. Walk socks and sandals optional.

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