Getting Published - The Nitty Gritty
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Mon, 29 Jan 2024
We have so many talented writers and poets on ABCTales. I don't think a week goes by without someone announcing that they've got a book coming out. It's a long, hard journey from the original idea to the finished product though and really, really worth doing properly.
Blighters Rock (Richard) emailed me the other day about his latest success and he particularly wanted to highlight his typesetter who had done an excellent job. Now, we don't do ads on ABCTales although we're always happy to put one of our members on the front page if they have a book out, so I suggested Blighters and Joke De Winter write an account of the process for our front page which I hope you will find useful and informative. I can't vouch for Joke, but I have Bighters Rock's book right here and it is a thing of beauty. I wish I could say the same for all the books which get sent to me but unfortunately that wouldn't be true!
It's not just about typesetting, it's about the whole process, and if anyone else would like to add anything which might help others, do please add it in a comment below. You can find Joke here:
Typesetting and Cover Design
Working with Richard on typesetting his book was the first time I did the typesetting of words only book. Before that I advised on a cover for a book printed by Routledge, and editorial design for web development books. Like most people I have read many books in the past so I know how a book should look. Producing one has been an interesting journey in discovering how it is actually done. Richard found my details on Google by searching for editorial type design. I was up front with Richard in having little experience in typesetting a novel, but he decided to trust me. His brief was to typeset his book to a professional standard and to design the cover of the book.
Submitting of the manuscript
Richard supplied his manuscript as a Word document. Other formats would have worked too (txt, rtf, pdf). I use In Design for typesetting and a Word document is easy to import while retaining text set in italics.
Choice of typeface
An important part of typesetting is choosing the right typeface. You want a typeface that reads well and doesn't get in the way of reading. It also matters what the final outcome of your book is: a printed book, or an e-book. A good print typeface might not perform well on screen and vice versa. Richard's intention was to go for a print book only. With that in mind we settled on Granjon as the typeface. Granjon is an old-style serif typeface with organic strokes and good readability for use in print.
The size of the book is B format - this is the size of most novels you buy in bookshops. First thing I did was to have a critical look at some books on my bookshelf. I used a ruler to measure margins, counted lines on a page, and words on a line. This gave me a guide to set up my In Design file. After some tinkering with font sizes and line heights I printed a few pages to see what they looked like. I cut the pages to fit inside a book and then assessed margins and font size in a "real" environment. Once I had font styles and page measurements I was happy with I went through the entire manuscript. Along the way I cleaned up widows, orphans, and awkward line breaks.
I shared the typeset version of the book at various stages with Richard. Each time he went through it to clean up the text of mistakes, or rewording sections. And each time he supplied me with a neat list of page numbers, page lines and the text replacement. This was a huge help when making updates, it also reduces the risk of updating the wrong thing.
The dimensions of your cover depend on the page count and the paper type. Both these factors determine how thick the final book will be. As such you won't have the correct measurements until late in the typesetting process. But it didn't stop us starting to think about the cover at an early stage. To come up with a cover idea it helps me to read the book first. Or at the very least have a good understanding of the subject matter. In this case I read the book. Viva Nothing is a gritty journal about the life of a gambling addict. I tried several ideas with a grunge look of names of horses. In the end the title lockup came about while sketching with an almost empty Pilot pen. The disappearing ink matches the vibe of the book. The background image is a painting by Richard. I completed the cover with a book summary on the back.
From start to finish with all the revisions it took two months to get the book ready for print.
Rough guide price for typesetting a words only book is £1.75 to 2.50 per page. And a page has 375 words on average. The cost of cover design depends on how elaborate you want the design to be. A simple typeset cover on top of an image takes little time. A graphic design approach takes longer and is more expensive.
And this is from Blighters Rock:
Early last year I started hunting for a typesetter to coordinate a novel I’d just finished and hoped to self publish.
I went online and found two or three, all charging around about the same as the typesetter I’d used on previous titles (between £500 and £600 inc VAT). But I didn’t want to pay that much and I knew that if I looked a little harder someone more competitive would appear.
That person came in the form of Joke De Winter, whose website I happened upon. It was clean, well appointed, understated. Talking over the phone, Joke came right out and told me she hadn’t typeset a novel before, but that it was something that interested her. I could see from her website that she possessed an artistic flair. There was no ‘ego’ to her voice, just an unfazed and thoroughly likeable manner. I asked if she’d be interested in quoting for cover design too.
A few days later I received the quote and we struck a deal that would essentially see the book typeset and designed for the same price the other typesetters were charging for that alone.
Now you’ll be thinking what has he let himself in for? Allowing someone who has never typeset a book and expecting a good outcome? Hmmm
It wasn’t just the saving that swayed me, it was more Joke’s honesty, plus I like an ambitious outsider. All in all, her price reflected circumstances well.
If she’d come across as vague or disinterested or disorganised or forgetful (I possess all these qualities in spades) there would have been no quote required.
Once I sent over the book as a Word doc, Joke completed the first draft in good time. There were some minor alterations to be made but these were tackled quickly and convincingly. Nothing seemed to trouble Joke ( pronounced ‘yo-ka’) and I knew I’d found a winner.
The typeface she chose was perfect (Granjon LT Std) and once my own text issues had been mastered she began work in the more familiar world of cover design. It was great to have as a pdf at this point because I could then edit from the phone and list changes in Notes. I must have sent a good ten times to Joke with ‘a few’ changes.
I can be quite bullish when it comes to artwork but I had little to complain about when, after three or four trial runs, we settled on the cover. Joke also designed the title and author lettering on the front cover.
After plenty of on-the-spot text amendments within the book, the whole thing was now ready. But it had to be put together as a press release to send to literary agents, the very thought of which turned me to stone daily.
Joke’s boyfriend, David, who had worked in that field some years previously, offered to put together the press release (consisting of synopsis, cover letter, and an attachment with the first 10,000 words).
By self publishing and presenting it to literary agents, with ISBN, as a press pack, isn’t advised. On the whole, they prefer to receive manuscripts ‘fresh’. Although I saw my book as the finished article, I now know that agents are much more likely to warm to unfinished work. This allows them a certain amount of input, to massage and knead the thing into a tidily finished ball of enchantment to then present to publishers; not only as my baby, but their’s too. A marriage of minds in an ideal world, not that it always comes off.
Once David had returned his findings, I asked Joke if she’d be interested in sending it out to agents and she agreed (a massive sigh of relief), so then it was up to me to make a list of suitable agents.
At Brixton library I asked if they had a Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and was pleased to find that they had just received the 2024 edition, which I tucked into with vim at a desk.
After two visits I had a list of forty or fifty agents and agencies, then it was back home to pick a particular agent from each agencies (that takes time and care) and then to send the lot to Joke, who duly sent them to the agents through the gmail account.
This whole process, during which not one bad word was shared between us, without even a hint of animosity either way, had taken about four months.
(If I’d tried to do all that alone I’d have given up after the first send out.)
Then it was the waiting game; the worst of all times, believe me. Joke had set up the gmail account for all things pertaining to the book, to which we both had access, so she could see the rejections as well as I could when they started dribbling in a week or so after. After a month I was exhausted from worry. Would my baby be abandoned before even opening its little old eyes? Would it die in front of me, ever so slowly?
Sure, I’d printed 250 copies and they certainly looked the part, almost entirely thanks to Joke, but I’ve had it with pushing books onto booksellers, going round in the filthy rain finding kindness, pity, bewilderment or coldness. This toil is only conducive to fatigue and an evaporating spirit, it’s a young, untroubled person’s job.
As for literary agents, there had been no takers, but then one wrote back to say she had enjoyed reading the start of the book and found the writing and subject matter interesting.
Of course I spent a day busting to get back to her and then did so. A week or two later, the agent asked me to call her. We talked for about fifteen minutes and I offered to send a copy of the book so that she could read the whole thing.
By doing so, a light had been presented. It was hazy and far off, a shimmering light, like a tiny moon on the horizon, glistening over a vast sea on which I sat in a rickety old paddleboat without oars.
Another month passed. One or two emails shared with the agent, then a quick call to say she was halfway through and enjoying it.
A big job had come in for her, one of her authors with a big list of titles was changing stables and all their work needed to be reinstated to the new house.
Another while passed with no news.
Just before Christmas I spoke briefly with the agent, who said she would finish the book during the holiday period.
Between Christmas and New Year I called again to find that she had finished the book and found it ‘unputdownable’, which was music to my ears. In an email, though, she had also confided that she wouldn’t be taking on any new clients because she hoped to retire shortly. But, the book had ‘stayed with her’, she said, implying that perhaps there was still some sort of a chance.
We agreed to talk again in the second week of January.
And that was when she finally said that she would represent me. I would be her last ever client.
Then it was all hands on deck. There were a few things needed to be done, names of characters mostly, and putting things in a clean typescript, as attachments.
I’d scribbled little changes into a copy of the book so I listed these for Joke to amend, one last edit, again.
So it’s now all with the agent. I’m next on her list so it’s about to kick off. The book, if it was a horse in a race with a hundred other horses it would be about 100/1 to win. Now, though, with an agent by my side, my odds have come in to about 3/1.
That’s pretty much down to Joke’s help so here’s to her.