How To Get a Better Book from Your Publisher

14 May

(by Christina of Middle Island Press and The Red Salon)

It’s true that not all publishers are perfect. That’s where each author comes in and does his/her part to shape this malleable wave of publishing companies, and it’s clear to me that authors don’t spend enough time making requests and/or suggestions for improvement by the marginal quality of much of what is newly in print – not the words, mind you, but in the physical product, the books. If I (as both a publisher and a poet with words in print) were to offer five quick suggestions for getting better books from your publisher, they would be:

1) If you don’t see it, ask for it. This applies to fonts, margins, paper type, everything. In some cases, publishers hire printers and might not be able to offer more without a price, so results might be more successful (and financially reasonable) with micro-publishers that do their own printing.

2) Communicate your vision with utmost clarity. While mind-images never translate perfectly from one person to another, poets of all people should be able to paint a clear picture for a publisher, right? Nevertheless, expect some disparities unless you are highly telepathic or create your own concrete example to send to the publisher as a reference.

3) Trust your publisher. This applies in general but particularly applies if your vision is vague and you are open to suggestions. The publisher likely enjoys the design process most of all, so be patient and see what they come up with.

4) Don’t just sweep. Scrub! Rewind to manuscripts. I cannot stress enough that no editor is perfect. I have found blatant errors in work that has been run by at least three people. If you don’t want typos in your book, then it’s best not to have them in your manuscript, so send it to a literary friend for further “scrubbing” before sending it to the publisher.

Last but not least…

5) Respect the publisher’s schedule. We get busy. Our minds get clouded in a swirl of must-dos. Work always looks cleaner when it is not rushed as though the product on a factory assembly line, and it is more likely to showcase “designer’s marks” and other such elements of unique presentation.

So not all publishers are perfect (so sorry for them) but authors can do their part to improve the process from manuscript submission to printing and beyond, and therein improve the overall quality of books. Whose words are worth it?

Middle Island Press is one of America’s best poetry chapbook publishers.

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