Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Woes Of Being An Author.

Writing children's books can be a frustrating business. Not only because of all the competition in getting a contract in the first place, and the intense marketing efforts the author must be willing to work on with a new book, but also because of the delays that can come with publishing the book. Don't get me wrong, I love being an author, it's just all the frustrating stuff I don't care for.

Book two, Sir Princess Petra's Talent - The Pen Pieyu Adventures, coming soon and three months behind schedule, and here's why.

Sir Princess Petra's Talent by Diane Mae Robinson.
Illustrations and cover art by Samantha Kickingbird.

The production of a children's chapter book takes many months, even up to a year or more. Signing the contract is by far the easiest part.

Once the book get to the editing phase (two to three months after signing the contract), the editor and writer work at fine tuning the text.  The editor cannot tell the writer what to write, only suggest what has to be clarified or re-vamped. With both of my books, this phase took over two months; a lot of re-writing, much more conversing with the editor, and more re-writing. I am a big fan of editing as it does make the final story so much better. But really, it is a hair-pulling-out event on the writer's part.

The next step is the illustration phase. This stage may take the illustrator a month or more to create the illustrations.The writer doesn't have much of an idea what the illustrations will be as the illustrator is the professional that works for the publishing company and knows what scenes to illustrate and where the art will  be placed in the book so that each illustration enhances the text.  So when the author finally gets the illustrations, it is an amazing moment.

Next is the layout stage. The book is made into a "book dummy" in the form of a pdf. The author's job is to go over everything in the pdf with a fine-tuned comb: illustration placement, page breaks, front and back matter, and one final chance to check for grammar or punctuation mistakes. This phase should take a month or so.

So, at the pdf layout stage is where all the snags of book two production get chaotic. First of all, there was a new layout guy working for the publisher. For some reason, he didn't get the notice that this was a series and the book size and font should be the same as book one. Back to a new layout.

One month later, at the second layout, the fonts and size of the book are corrected, but because of the font size change, some of the illustrations and text don't match, and a couple other small corrections with the text need correction. Back to a new layout.

One month later, at the third layout and proof, (when the book actual gets printed for the author's approval only) the text is corrected, but not the illustration placement. Back to new layout.

This last stage has been troublesome, and it will have put the book behind schedule by at least three months. 

I have talked with other authors who have suffered the woes of publishing mishaps. It doesn't happen often but it does happen, and there's not much the writer can do about it. I understand that publishers are busy people with hundreds if not thousands of books to deal with, but, like I said, it can be a frustrating business.

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