Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Invisible Path

The trouble with writing as a career is that it isn’t a career at all. The path before you is invisible and it only becomes visible when you step on it. But even then, only the little bit that you have just stepped on becomes visible.

Far off in the distance you believe you can see your destination and sometimes that looks incredibly clear, certainly by comparison with the nothingness that surrounds you right now. At other times it is shrouded in mist. It doesn’t make any difference anyway because you never get any nearer, no matter how far you travel.

Other people who are involved in maintaining the path can see their parts of it very clearly. Publishers see the part they are responsible for in high definition and they find the way that writers blunder about, stubbing their toes on rocks, tripping over their own feet and wandering off at a tangent quite ridiculous or even frankly irritating. Booksellers, librarians, reviewers and readers - they can all see very clearly what we’re up to, how successful we are,or are not. But most of us haven’t a clue whether we’re even heading in the right direction.

Why am I indulging in this display of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Because right now, I’m going through one of my frequently recurring cover problems with my publisher. By which I mean that they have just decided that the most recent cover design, the latest in a long line, simply will not do. They’ve had some negative feedback from the sales and marketing people. So it’s back to the drawing board.

That’s okay by me. The cover is important after all. So I want them to get it right. It’s just that they never tell me what is going on unless I email and phone and email and phone and email and phone until they finally crack and say. ‘Oh Brian, how nice to hear from you. Yes, I’m afraid there is a bit of a problem with the cover. But don’t worry, we’re working on it.

Of course the reason publishers don’t tell writers what is going on is because they don’t really see stuff like the design of the book cover or the selling of the finished product as being anything very much to do with the author. He or she has done their part by delivering the manuscript. Now it’s up to the experts. Don’t you worry your silly little writerly head about a thing like that. Your book is in safe hands.

It’s like when you’re stuck at a railway station because there has been the faintest hint of snow. Consequently all the trains are up the creek and they just won’t tell you what is happening. If they’d just admit that your train is cancelled you could go and have a cup of coffee or make a decision to work from home. But oh no, they’re not prepared to concede that much information. They think it’s much better for customer relations to leave you to freeze on the platform and to keep putting meaningless information on the notice board


JM Reep said...

It's ridiculous how some publishers don't let authors have much say (or any say at all) about the design of their book covers. I can understand why a publisher would want to let their artists and marketing folks have a say in the design, but what they design should be dictated by the vision and preferences of the author. There have been several well-publicized horror stories of books being published with cover designs that were not at all what an author wanted. Musicians usually have a say in the design of album covers, so why can't authors have that same chance for input?

Brian Keaney said...

We should be so lucky