One of the things that constantly surprises in this industry, is how little most people actually know about the publishing process. While we’d all like to pretend that the book is written, a wand is waved and then it’s ready to hit the shops, the process is actually a little more laborious than that.
So here, in the time-honoured tradition of digestible seven-point guides, is Wakefield Press’s seven steps of publishing:
1. Write the book
Step one is, of course, deceptively simple. Harness your inner genius, find that moment of divine inspiration, dust off those shoeboxes of notes in the attic, sit impotent in front of a blank screen for days in a row – do whatever it is you’ve got to do! But by the time you come to us, there should be a complete manuscript in your hot little hands. We can’t write it for you (also, surely that would take the fun out of the thing?).
Wait, did we say fun? We meant existential torture.
2. Find the right publisher
Again, a deceptively simple step. It can be hard to know what publisher would be right for you, so a good rule of thumb is to check who published any of the books that are similar to yours – or any of your favourites of the genre you’re writing in. Most publishers have a website (like this little guy here) where you can check out what they’ve been producing. Judging from Wakefield Press’s website (and a little insider knowledge) I’d say that submitting to WP for SA history, cookbooks or art books would be a good idea. Children’s books, on the other hand, aren’t generally our bag. Spend a bit of time researching for this step!
3. Get signed
Perhaps the hardest of the lot. Was it Fitzgerald who had a wall full of rejection slips? And we all know that Harry Potter didn’t get picked up first go. It’s tough out there! Some people go through a literary agent, others slog it out alone. Either way it’s important to remember to remain polite and well organised. Try your best to follow the guideline submissions, and where something hasn’t been specified, just use your common sense. Turnaround times are typically along the lines of weeks or months, rather than days, so give it a good space of time before you consider calling to follow up. Once the publishers have expressed interest, you’ll have a few discussions to negotiate contracts, for which the Australian Society of Authors have a very nifty contract guide to help you out.
This is where the fun is at! Your work will most probably be structurally and copy edited, meaning that it will be shaped to bring out the best in the structure as well as being checked for typos etc. It’s common to feel protective at this point, but anyone who’s had a good edit will tell you it’s entirely pleasurable. A good editor will bring out the best in your work and make it look like no big deal at all.
Entirely pleasurable …
Everyone’s hung up on the design of a book, and tends to forget about the critical step that takes place before designing: typesetting. The term typesetting is a hangover from the time when every line of type had to literally be set in a press before publication. These days, the term refers to the process of laying out and styling a document so that the text will flow correctly once it has been designed. This means making sure your paragraphs are placed correctly and differentiated from your headings, subheadings, dot points, inset quotes …
Ah, the good old days, when everything was painfully time-consuming.
Have you seen the Chip Kidd TED talk?? He designed the Jurassic Park book! So cool! And book design is a damn cool area. We’ve all heard not to judge books by their covers – but we totally do, and the designers are totally aware of it. At WP, we consult with our authors over cover design, to make sure we come up with a cover that everyone’s happy with. This is how everyone will picture your book for years to come – you wanna get that stuff right!
And now the fun part. So far, it’s just been an idea. But at a certain point, all the word files, all the look-and-feel docs, all the tracked changes and all of the blood, sweat and tears need to become something concrete. The files get sent off and, a few weeks later, a truck backs up to our warehouse with pallets of glorious books. (The smell. The freshness of them. The purity. There’s nothing like a pallet of brand new books.)
At this point, we send the books out to the bookshops and then the punters come rolling in!