Texts on publishing (I)
Publishers publish surprisingly few good books on publishing. Occasionally, though, a good book one comes along. But even the good ones tend not to be very well known. So one of the things I’d like to use this blog for is to describe the publishing texts that I like most. They are books that I find are more than just interesting: they also help me to think about publishing.
First up, Transparent Imprint by Michael Barnard (Macmillan, 2006; ISBN 1–4050–9242–4). This is an account of the development of the Macmillan New Writing (MNW) imprint.It provides a straightforward narrative treatment. It’s good at decsribing the places involved – Macmillan’s London office, for example – and there are pen portraits of key personnel. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the book is effective at conveying the atmosphere and feel of publishing.
But it is also good at showing the kind of thinking that publishing requires. From an apparently simple starting point – the idea that Macmillan would no longer ignore its slush pile, but instead develop a ‘streamlined’ way of publishing from it – Barnard shows how various aspects of the new imprint – editorial, design, production, contracts and rights, marketing and sales, and management – need to be designed to articulate with each other. (A lot turns out to depend on that word ‘streamlined’.)
As a result the book provides, better than any textbook I know on the subject, a properly integrated account of publishing. In the process it illustrates the importance of publishers knowing and understanding their own processes.
I have found myself re-reading parts of the text on a number of occasions – not because of the detail, but because I find the book provides a refreshing, clarifying reminder of what creativity in publishing looks like.