In search of the perfect book
Books are deceptively simple things. Front cover, back cover, pages in between. What can be so hard about making one?
Turns out, plenty.
After working in book publishing for a couple of decades (as editor, editorial director, and now proposal writer), I have learned two immutable truths:
1. Books are more complicated to make than you would expect.
2. There is always something new that can go wrong. And it will.
The cover photo of the Rosetta Stone has been flipped left to right? Check. And only the Egyptologist author will notice, just before the book goes to press.
The note “PRINTER PLEASE NOTE: Placeholder photo only, new to be supplied” marked on the page layouts will end up actually printed in the book? Check.
The book spine is printed blank, with no title, author, or publisher logo? Check.
I could go on. And on. And on. But you get the picture. (Hopefully the right way round, hahaha!)
It’s a minefield for self-publishing authors. So many things to remember, so many conventions to learn. What you really need is a checklist.
Ta-dah! The Independent Book Publishers Association has you covered. They’ve come up with just such a checklist, and you can download it here.
“Too often, IBPA has noticed a bias against self-published authors, independent publishers, and hybrid presses when it comes to choosing titles or authors for review consideration, book award contests, association memberships, and inclusion on independent bookstore shelves," said IBPA CEO Angela Bole. "IBPA’s Industry Checklist for a Professionally Published Book will help industry professionals and independent publishers and authors bridge this gap by offering a structured means by which to ensure that books be judged on merit and quality rather than on the business model used to produce them or the size of the publisher.”
Whether you are a self-publishing author, or an author working with an established publisher, you want to make sure your book is as professional as it can be. The IBPA checklist is a great place to start.
I also recommend you tap into the Chicago Manual of Style for a more in-depth guide to publishing standards and editorial practices. Should you italicize boat names? What is the “sin of retranslation”? Where exactly should you place that apostrophe? (Oh come on, you know I didn't mean it that way!) It’s all there.
The other immutable truth I’ve learned is that no book is perfect. But at least there are tools to make your book perfect-er. (That term not approved by the Chicago Manual of Style.)