GUEST BLOG: If you want a thing done well, do it yourself
19th March 2013 - 12 Midnight Anne Peile
In her previous blog for Foyles, Orange Prize-longlisted author Anne Peile explained why she has chosen to self-publish her next novel. Continuing her account of the process, she reveals the many unexpected decisons that a self-published writer must make.
Unwittingly, and absolutely apolitically, I find that self-publishing can create its own Big Society.
People, approached directly, can be extraordinarily kind and helpful in ways which might be impractical in more orthodox commercial channels. My indebted list grows and so far, in my absolutely apolitical Big Society, I can include the vintage poster experts, the representative of the estate of Damon Runyon, the noted contemporary Irish poet, the Classics Professor from Northfield, Minnesota, the rights negotiator from Penguin USA, the printers from Exeter, the curators at the Maine State Museum, the British Airways archivist, the librarian at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and the Senior Keeper at the Royal Air Force Museum. I have also been much heartened by the people who have responded to my first blog. We should have a party.
Exeter is a city I know, a place where among other things I have had a baby, gained a degree and a decree absolute, worked as a prison visitor and witnessed an eclipse. The fact that this novel will be printed there must be following some kind of sequence. I will however never take a paperback for granted again; until now they had been simply things that had been around all my life and needed no explanation, like cats, Yale door keys and the Northern Line. I knew that there was an association with Allen Lane and a packet of cigarettes but little else. I presumed that the process was to hand a manuscript to a printer and wait for it to come back compactly between card covers. Wrong, there are many intermediate decisions to be made: file format, book size, paper quality, type face, press, binding, stitching and carbon footprint. In the midst of these choices I researched the origins of the Penguin book and was pleased by the neat serendipity of discovering that Allen Lane's brainchild was born on a railway platform in Exeter, after a weekend visit to Agatha Christie's Devon home.
The manuscript must go to the printers as a PDF file, before being set in that format it must be absolutely as intended and so it is being forensically read and re-read, paginated and re-paginated. The cover goes as a separate PDF file, its design has been inspired by the Tom Eckersley poster for BOAC's Speedbird. An ISBN will be printed on the back cover, preferably also a retail price. ISBNs must be purchased in blocks, the minimum amount is ten. I have polled my colleagues here at Foyles on why books are generally priced at something 99, the consensus seems to be that it is a variation of the old 19/11 rule. Given the non-conformist nature of this project, perhaps I should round up to a whole pound or even down to something with numerological significance.
By the time I post my next blog I hope that a proof copy of Seeing the World will be sitting, fully formed, beside me.
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