Wednesday 30 March 2011

How to speak publisher - B is for Black plate

The black plate is not what you eat your dinner from if you are either super-stylish or have been naughty. It's all to do with printing. Yes, you do need to know about printing, even if it does all happen in some mysterious way in India, China or eastern Europe.

If you never write picture books or any others that have any colour in, you don't really need to read this. If your books are novels, printed entirely in black, you're let off - you can go now. Otherwise...

A colour book is printed using four colours of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key), which gives us the letters CMYK. Each colour is separately printed from a printing plate with the parts of the page image that will be in that colour. Extra colours are made by overprinting the four basic colours in different proportions. When you did art at school you learned that all colours can be made from the primary colours red, yellow and blue, didn't you? Well, cyan is blueish and magenta is reddish, but this is about speaking publisher, it's not about optics so you'll just have to take my word for it that it works.

It's expensive to print a page four times (one for each colour). When a publisher produces a coedition of your book in a foreign language, they obviously need to reprint all the text, but they don't generally change the pictures. This means they only need to reprint the black bits - as long as all the text is black. They can print any number of copies of the book using the cyan, magenta and yellow inks and have a pile of pages with no text but lots of pictures. They can then pick a batch of these pages and print the text in black in English. And they can pick another batch and print the text in black in French, or German, or Spanish or any other language. But they can only do this if ALL the text is on the black plate - the printing plate used to produce the black image. (If you want to know more about plates you'll have to wait until we get to O is for Offset litho - sorry.)

This is why you can't have pictures with coloured text in, or (usually) use colour to make bits of the text stand out. And if your book uses photos, it's why the publisher won't be keen to use photos that include text (like posters) or screenshots. Text in photos won't be translated with the text of the book, and will be intrusive in coeditions. So - to look professional, don't ask for text in colour and don't include text in illustrations which would need to be redrawn for a coedition.


Friday 18 March 2011

How to speak publisher - B is for bind-up

A bind-up, though it sounds like some interesting minor S&M practice, is a bundling of several books into a single binding. If you have published several books in a series or on a similar theme, and some time has passed and sales are starting to flag, the publisher might propose a bind-up. Go for it! All the little books will be gathered together and forced to be friends with each other in a single volume. There will probably be a new cover design, the books will be given a new, updated look, and the aim will be to attract new readers who were possibly not even born at the time the originals were published. Remember - foetuses don't read. The picture shows the bind-up of Kath Langrish's hugely successful Troll trilogy, revised and reissued in a single volume, (March 2011).

A bind-up is a way of making extra money out of a bunch of books that have slipped from view. Bookshops don't often stock many books that have been around for a few years, unless they are classics, steady sellers, or by major figures who always attract a lot of readers. Don't expect to see a bunch of Jacqueline Wilson novels appearing in a bind-up, for instance - they are always in stock and sell anyway - though I think there has been a Tracy Beaker bind-up.... A bind-up is money for old rope. You don't have to do much, and the publisher doesn't have to invest much, and it's a lot less aggro than writing and publishing a new book.

And here's the opposite of a bind-up.... Lucy Coats has extracted 12 slim volumes from her Atticus the Storyteller, each dealing with a separate Greek myth. The slim volumes have bright, colourful covers, they are easier to carry around and hold in small hands than the original and are less daunting to unconfident readers.

So bind-up or bind-down, there is potential for rebadging books and gathering new readers either way.