Publishing a Book

November 17th, 2012

Alice Hughes shares her thoughts about: The Work of Publishing a Book

Mom was anxious to begin putting together a new book of poetry. We (Donald, Mom and I) decided to make it happen. I had designed and headed up the publishing of her first book, The Green Door, with Donald supplying the art (a series of line drawings of Mom with captions written by a variety of siblings, relatives and friends). The poetry had been written and collected over many years.

During the last ten years Mom had written a lot of poems, encouraged by her poetry group and inspired by various readings, so there were many from which to choose. Each of us took the poems, and individually read and began to group them into our own categories. We decided to do it this way to see if natural themes and groupings arose. We met on a regular basis for a couple of months to come up with the basic order and flow. We also began to look for a poem that would make sense as a title for the book. Right away I suggested,  Layer by Layer.

Simultaneously, I began to experiment with various fonts and layouts for the poetry.  We decided to create the second book in the same basic size as the first, using different fonts, but a similar layout. I should note that we looked at many other poetry books in terms of their layout and decided to avoid some things we considered flaws in the designs. The most consistent and often seen layout issue, from both larger and smaller publishers, was in the handling of poems that spanned multiple pages. I worked towards a balance across the two or three pages that didn’t distract the reader or the reader’s eye. I also decided at this point that it was time to learn to use the page layout program InDesign. Mom made sure that each of the poems was in a similar format to allow me to easily import into InDesign. She edited along the way.

The next step was deciding on the art. Donald had done a series of pencil drawings several years ago and we focused on these. He also created three new drawings to be considered for the cover. Each of the original drawings had to be scanned and edited in order to accurately reproduce the original. Picking an appropriate paper was also an inherent aspect of this process. Donald and I worked with the printer to get the best reproductions of the drawings. We also had the formidable task of deciding the placement of each drawing in the book. Needless to say we had much lively dialogue in making those decisions!

The creation of the book, Layer by Layer, was a collaborative process beginning with Mom’s wonderful and diverse poetry, punctuated with Donald’s interesting and thought provoking drawings and I hope presented with a overall design that enhances both of those creative works.