Here is the final part of an interview done for Bubblecow's company newsletter - Bubblecow provides professional editorial services needed to help lift a book to a publishable standard
Can you enlighten us a bit on the technology side?
The technology for design and production has improved out of recognition from when I started. At Sphere all our initial work was traced and all visuals hand painted. Now with the amazing software available a rough can look pretty much like a final cover. A common misunderstanding of the technology is that the software can make everyone a designer. This is not the case, a designer spends four years at college and all their working lives developing their visual creativity and understanding how to get a message across through the combination of type and image. The software, when used right, is just a smart pencil - you still need the ideas and knowledge to communicate. That said, the technology and software means that a designer can be far more picky about the typography and detailling of a project than when the text was cast off to fit a certain page extent.
The two standard packages are QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign both of which are very good and produce the files that the printers need for printing. My personal preference is InDesign as there are some very neat tricks when creating long complex books, like auto re-pagination and it is really easy to integrate with Photoshop and Illustrator.
I also work on many international editions that require specific production requirements to make the foreign languages economic to print. This involves keeping the text as a spot colour so all the images do not have to be re-originated every time the book is reprinted.
Finally, what kind of input do you like from writers?
Enthusiasm and a commercial vision, the writing process is a gruelling one and sometimes it is hard to sustain the energy through to the production and marketing stage. It is important to sustain the creative energy through to the launch and marketing of the printed book. The really successful writers are those who realise that for their book to reach an audience there is a lot of work after the last full stop has been put in place.
A recent self-publishing venture Benedict's Brother by Tricia Walker, Tricia completed the manuscript and handed over for design and then worked every hour available to market and launch the book and succeeded in securing a launch at a local bookshop and a lot of local press and PR coverage. She sold in excess of 200 books on the launch night itself and has reprinted. I also worked with Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams on their first self-published venture called the Highfield Mole - this sold out and they were subsequently signed up by Chicken House who re-published a revised edition called Tunnels which has gone international selling through Scholastic in the US. They are now three published books into their series. Both of these projects the authors had a very clear idea of the commercial requirements to make their books to compete with all the other books on the book store shelves.
What can they do to make you job easier?To have a clear idea for who they are writing for - the more specific the more targeted and effective the cover can be. Finally to be willing to step back from their role of writer and to be objective about the possible cover directions.
Many thanks to BubbleCow for allowing reproduction of this interview