It is now a month since I fired the starting-pistol for publishing George Calderon: Edwardian Genius myself on 4 June 2018. Every writer I know assured me we could bring the book out in six months…but what they didn’t tell me was that it would be as unrelenting hard work as researching and writing the book!

(Having the flu at the time must also have affected my arithmetic: 4 June 2018, of course, is five months after the starting-pistol.)

The basic questions of format, margins, font, design etc took longer to decide than expected, because we had to calculate at each point how many pages in toto they would produce. The latter is important because (a) it affects printing costs, (b) I never wanted to publish a book longer than 500 pages, (c) I do want a page, font and font size that are easy on the eye. These issues were decided (format: Royal, margins: generous, font: Dante, design: unflorid), but it means that so far only a quarter of the book has been typeset. However, that should now speed up.

In addition, I now have an ISBN number (9781999967604), an experienced professional cover-designer (Ian Strathcarron please note!), and the first draft of the index terms (which have taken a week to compile). More about acquiring an ISBN number and doing your own index in future posts. The priority now is to weed and improve the index whilst keeping it a manageable length, and to finish typesetting the paginated text by 7 March so that I can then put the page numbers in the index and hand it to the typesetter.

An unexpected but very interesting question has arisen over the 25 illustrations. I had blithely assumed they would comprise two glossy tranches in the book as every proper biography has had from time immemorial. But this isn’t exactly that kind of biography… It was suggested to me that it would break up the wall-of-words effect and assist the reading of the book as a narrative if the illustrations were printed in the text as near as possible to their mention. I think this is worth considering (and it’ll be much cheaper). The printers are therefore going to produce a sixteen-page sample with a range of my photographs inset in text, to assess whether the quality on such paper would be good enough.

I expect protests from some readers.

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5 Responses to Progress

  1. Ian Strathcarron says:

    Dear Patrick, I know it’s none of my business but I can’t help myself! You should really index as the very last stage or you’ll end up doing it twice with shifting page numbers. Indexing is actually a specialist task and if you’d like a good Unicorn indexer let me know. Also there’s no way, if you are using good grade paper stock, that inserting images in the text is cheaper than having plate sections, simply because you can use regular fluffy paper for the text and only have the cost of art paper for the plates — otherwise you’ll have to use art paper throughout or the images will look flat. I’ll keep quiet from now on if you prefer!

    • Jim D G Miles says:

      I know exactly what you mean about images printed into the text looking “flat” – that matt, lower contrast, less vibrant look – and you are right this especially applies when the paper is of the “fluffy” kind.

      However, I think firstly that a matt look can work well for making in-text images less intrusive. I am reminded of Sebald’s Austerlitz where the story is routinely broken up by photos relating closely to the current thread of narrative, but somehow the continuity of the prose doesn’t feel “interrupted” by them. I believe this is in no small part thanks to the nature of a matt, lower contrast image, that being less intrusive – less “loud” – the reader can assimilate the information from the image better within the running pace of the text. Certainly it is less jarring than having to refer to a separate section, adjust one’s eyes to a distinct glossiness profile, and then return to the prose and recover one’s reading rhythm again.

      A second – and more important – point is that we believe the quality of paper and printing may be such that having in-text images will not meaningfully compromise the quality of the sources. This remains to be seen, which is why we have commissioned a 16 page test print of a chapter with many inserted images. It will be interesting to analyse the result!

      Regardless of either of these points, there seems to be a clear benefit to having relevant images on time and in place within the text, rather than the reader having to refer to a separate gloss section, not least because the ‘all photos in one place’ nature may reveal premature spoilers.

      A tricky one.

  2. Patrick Miles says:

    Dear Ian, I am highly flattered that you read my blog, and I am genuinely grateful to you for spending valuable time on commenting! You are, of course, right about the indexing. I have employed professional indexers in my time and have considerable experience myself from a previous life, so all that is being worked on at the moment is assembling the terms from the typescript; the page numbers will be inserted, as you say, at the very last stage. Where the paper is concerned, I have gone for some rather classy stuff and it remains to be seen how well the shots come out on it. (The printers say it will be ‘significantly’ cheaper.) Finally, many is the time, reading the rave reviews Unicorn’s Lord Lansdowne is getting and contemplating how well your marketing will sell it throughout the world, that I have regretted not going with you, but…the money, the ‘editing’, the hassle! Yours ever, Patrick

  3. It would be great, imho, to have the illustrations “in the right place”. That’s just where I want them as a reader. Include the material where it is most relevant to the story, not send me off to wander round the book looking for it. And footnotes at the foot of the page (not somewhere else). I have “discussions” with publishers whose software puts tables and diagrams at the top or bottom of pages, sometimes in stacks, sometimes even in the wrong subsection. If that sort of material is contributing to the argument, I’d like it to be exactly at the point in the discussion where it is most relevant (and will give most help to the reader). Hmm, you’ve obviously touched a nerve there!

  4. Duke Ryan says:

    Go with illustrations scattered throughout the text. I think that makes a book more interesting than a “gallery” of photos grouped in the center.

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