A lesson in publishing

In the interests of documenting the setbacks as well as the successes, we had a rough time with the cookbook last week. It was honestly pretty upsetting, and mostly my own fault, I think. I had one sleepless night, and a few very awkward conversations that I had to push myself to actually have (I wish I were less conflict-averse).

What happened was that I’d hired someone to do interior layout for the books, but he’d thought I was just hiring a formatter. Once we started working, and the e-mails started going back and forth, there was a lot of my wanting him to do things that he said would be too hard or too time-consuming, beyond the scope of what he did.

I did actually say in our original e-mail exchange that I wanted someone who could do beautiful design, rather than just someone who would run the file through a conversion program like Vellum (which I’ve done myself), but apparently something got lost in translation.

The short version is that we managed to get books formatted sufficiently that we could, in a bit of a mad rush, get rather ugly ARCs out to the book reviewers that we’d set up a blog tour with for late June. It hurt my soul to send those books out, but hopefully the reviewers will focus on the writing and recipes and not the aesthetics of the book.

What does that mean for now? Well, he and I have parted ways, and I’m out $1500 — which, once I looked around more thoroughly, I realized really wasn’t near enough for professional interior design for three versions of the book. If I’d done more research, I would’ve known that his bid was much too low, and I might’ve asked more questions about what exactly he was planning to do.

I am trying to treat all of this as a lesson in publishing, and thinking that if I’d paid $1500 for a course in how-to-publish and what-not-to-do, that would’ve been not unreasonable. Still. Ouch. I’ve now contracted with someone else (my cover designer, whose work I love) to do the actual design for the print books, at fair market rates, and have just sent him the files.

So that’s going to eat up…well, probably all of the immediate Kickstarter ‘profits,’ plus maybe a bit more, which is a bit painful. But I can still afford to do a print run for the hardcover, which gives me hope of some profit down the line, if more people actually buy the book.

Probably not a print run for the paperback (just POD), but I wasn’t sure I was going to do that anyway, because at least for the Kickstarter, a lot more folks were interested in the hardcover with its lovely color photos. Which kind of surprised me, given the higher cost of the hardcover, but I guess most budget-minded folks get the ebook, and the ones who go for print are more likely to be willing to spend a bit more for a beautiful object.

Anyway, live and learn. Now I go look at Pamudu Tennakoon‘s lovely pen and ink illustrations, and let her know if I have any revision requests, and then have her upload them to Google Drive to share with my designers.

Oh, and for the ebook, Jed is going to take a stab at the design and layout, which is very kind of him; he says he’s thinking of it as good practice for his own burgeoning Constellation Press, rather than just a favor for me. I’ll take it either way, gratefully.

If it ends up too time-consuming for him, though, I’ll either do it myself — I think I have the basic skills for what I want — or hire someone else. Whew.

I’ve slipped the delivery deadline a bit, as a result of all this — I had originally hoped to have books by mid-June, but that’s clearly not happening. Aiming for July 1 now; we’ll see.

Publishing beautiful, professional books is expensive.

And not easy!

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