Sometimes writers and illustrators question their ability. That’s normal and keeps us pushing for excellence. However, they shouldn’t question their saleability. That is for someone else to do, so let it go. There are people who know as much about selling as you do about creating, so you are in safe hands…
Teamwork is what makes a book succeed or fail. Besides the writer or illustrator, the editor, art director, designer, marketing, publicity, production and printing team members share the responsibility of making an idea the best book it can be.
This means you can concentrate on your special skill, safe in the knowledge that everything else is under control. No one knows for sure how many copies of a book will sell in a given period. You might think yours is the best idea ever, only to find its not a commercial success. Or, you might question why your idea is being taken apart, interrogated so aggressively, only to find on publication day that it is going to be a massive success…. Each member of the team has a valuable contribution to make, raising the overall quality.
Within the team there can be as much conflict as harmony; Editorial and design opinions are historically tense (editors often want more words, designers less). Or, authors who have a strong conviction their words are the exact right ones, and editors who weigh that conviction against sales and marketing insights. And no one is happy when sales people dismiss a cover that they all love. But the right thing for everyone to do is step back have a think and come back with a different option.
So, when you are finally ready to present your masterpiece to a publisher, you should also be ready to let go of your emotional attachment to it. Instead, be open to what your new team will have to say. They will probably point out things you haven’t considered and, more importantly, remind you that presenting your idea isn’t the end of the book building process but the beginning.
Publishing is a team effort with each person playing a specific and vital role in the development of a book. It is also a space where one person with one idea can change everything.
Take diversity in Western publishing organisations. It has been discussed and argued for decades that a more diverse industry will be a more profitable one. But it hasn’t happened. On the other hand, is publishing in the huge markets like China or India as diverse as Europe or the US? Perhaps the timing of the idea and the practical need for action are not yet in sync.
Back to my main theme; to team or not to team. I have had the honour to work with a wide range of children’s publishing professionals, have taken my own ideas to them, or brainstormed ideas together and most of them turned out very well. On reflection it seems that ideas are the spark that activate certain people, while other people are the ones who activate ideas and teams into action. It’s always a great time to be a catalyst, or a troubleshooter. It is also important to be the doer, the closer, the support.With the right combination of roles in one team there can be magic.
Writing and illustrating means working alone most of the time, talking to yourself, fighting to stay disciplined and focused. Furthermore, I have witnessed teams dwindle or disappear or change as children’s publishing tries to find its new way forward. May author illustrators are despondent. Gone are the days of the shy writer living in a faraway place, afraid of the spotlight. Gone with them are potential masterpieces and best sellers. Gone are the reclusive but brilliant editors too.
Everyone has to be social media ready, loud(er), bigger, faster…
… but not necessarily better.
As publishing sheds its skin it is hard to know what will emerge. Hopefully something shiny and lightweight and full of energy.Teams will still be there, though, leaner perhaps, but still there.
In 2001, 37 per cent of workers in the capital (London) used rail or underground travel as their main form of transport to work, according to the Office for National Statistics. London had the highest proportion of rail commuters of any Urban Audit city in the UK