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Books are like pregnancy

The average production time for a book from start to completion is about nine months. It goes through three trimesters, starting with the manuscript.

Visuals layout and design are the focus of the next trimester and the last trimester sees the book through the printing and binding process to its much anticipated arrival. With parenting books making up such an important part of our list, I know quite a bit about pregnancy, and I have even been though the routine twice. As a publisher, I hope I know quite a bit about publishing too. I wonder if other publishers would agree with me that making a book is a lot like falling pregnant and giving birth? The only difference is that the labour pains often last throughout the nine months rather than being confined to the final effort.

In the first trimester everybody is excited, and the rosy cheeks and healthy glow of a much wanted pregnancy are the order of the day. Little hic-ups like morning sickness are dealt with or endured with a smile and even though there is not much to show yet, something is growing, slowly taking shape. Even so, a pregnant woman often feels inexplicably tired. Ask any author or editor chasing deadlines about fatigue and she will nod sagely.

Visually the pregnancy becomes more obvious during the second trimester. And although possibly easier to deal with than the nausea of the first trimester, this is also the time of constipation, pigmentation, indigestion, increased shoe size and other unmentionables. If you’ve been involved in a photo shoot or book design, you will know about the agony and the ecstasy, the concerns, the frustrations and the heated arguments of this all-important phase.  This is when everybody dishes out unwanted advice. Nobody agrees about the cover image. Choose a three-column layout, and you will be told five columns offer more flexibility. Have your title run across the middle of the page and some marketing guru will tell you that the most successful covers have their lettering placed at the top ... the list goes on.

Book production enters the third trimester when the PDFs go to the printers. This is a time of increased excitement, but also of heightened anxiety. Having survived the second trimester, not too much can go wrong during this time. But if it does, it could have major consequences. Mistakes are quite expensive or may be impossible to correct. And as the trimester nears its end, everybody becomes thoroughly fed-up with the project. The last fortnight of a pregnancy is usually the longest two weeks in a woman’s life; similarly the last fortnight of waiting for the printed books to arrive feels absolutely never ending. It does not matter that the ETA is exactly that: ESTIMATED time of arrival. If the ship does not dock on the scheduled date, chaos may ensue. But whether it arrives exactly on time or a couple of weeks late, the arrival of both book and baby is celebrated with joy and relief. And that book, like that wrinkled little bundle, is the most beautiful thing that the team or the parents have ever seen. It is touched, smelt, caressed and admired with unbridled joy and pride. And soon only this memory remains and the parties actively work on the next conception.

Posted in General commentary,
Written by: Metz Press - 17 August 2012
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