Jd Nodder was on the project team for Janet Colson’s debut novel The Shark Party in 2014.
One of the highlights of the publishing course is being able to work on real books that we send into the world. The Shark Party was one of the books that I helped produce in 2014 and it is a great example of the ups and downs of the publishing process.
Up – Having an eager writer. We got to work with an author who is hugely passionate and has worked hard all year to promote and sell her book. Janet Colson’s experience in fundraising for the arts sectors in the UK and New Zealand made her a valuable asset to her publisher, Escalator Press, as well as an inspiring person to work with.
Down – Asking said author to make changes to her manuscript. The editorial process was an important learning curve for us, and luckily Janet and her publisher were more than willing to work with our suggestions as novice editors. We all discovered our ability to assess a manuscript and gain confidence in ourselves.
Down – Deadlines and stresses and tears. Because of delays with editing, our production schedule lost two months and we all had to push extra hard – and swear a lot – to make up for lost time. We had to reshuffle as much of the production as possible to ensure that we could still make a November publication date, so we made sure that all the marketing and publicity materials and plans were in place in advance.
Up – Learning not to be so literal. When the first set of cover roughs came in from our designer, Megan van Staden, we were torn, as there were so many to choose from. There was one that we believed would be a good representation of the book, but it never quite came together. In the end we went back to square one and chose the rough that had stood out to us from the start – an option which was more abstract, but very eye-catching. It helped that Megan was so accommodating and put up with us going back and forth. It was awesome working with her, and the final result was perfect.
Down – Never look inside the book after it’s been printed. When I found a stray ellipsis after the book had gone to print, my heart broke.
Down/Up – Stranded at the drive-in. Being the only person left in my group because everyone else got jobs! Way to make me feel left out, guys. But being able to take on the project management role from halfway through the project was a great experience. Thankfully, the others had left thorough notes and we’d decided what I would do next. Although I was left alone, I had a lot of fun balancing the management of two projects and look forward to working with multiple projects in the future.
Down – (Not) seeing red. We had intended to get the inside cover printed a beautiful, deep red to match the title on the front. However, miscommunication plus misunderstanding equals the inside cover not being printed as we wanted (from now on I will always pick up the phone when I’m unsure of things).
Up – Flashing lights. Thanks to our solid marketing plan, the fact that we approached newspapers and magazines early, and the author’s own involvement in driving publicity, we managed to line up some great interviews. Publicity is vital to encourage book sales, so we got lucky! Janet had half a dozen interviews with Wellington media and radio, and a glowing review in FishHead.
While we all learnt so much from our time on the publishing course, I think I got double lucky being involved in the production of The Shark Party. Everything that happened over the duration of the project taught me how to handle delicate situations, deal with problems that crop up unexpectedly, and work in a team full of great people who make you strive to do better.
Coming up with a design brief for The Shark Party, a book full of art elements, was a lot of fun. We had Damien Hirst artwork, Kurt Schwitters collages and New York imagery filling up our computer screens as we brainstormed ideas.
We were taken with the idea of graphically representing New York’s Guggenheim museum, not only because it plays a subtle yet symbolic role in the novel, but also because of its presence in the real world, and its striking and unique architecture. The view spiralling up through the central atrium, with its intricate skylight hinted at spiderwebs and entrapment. We are very happy with the way designer Megan van Staden developed this concept into a simple, powerful graphic. To increase the glamour, we used a spot gloss finish on the cover.