Commissioning and developing Inside Book Publishing – by Aileen Storry

Starting Out in February 2006, when the 4th edition had just been commissioned by my predecessor, Katrina Chandler. It was a great pleasure to be able to work on reinventing such a classic. I, like most of my colleagues, had read one of the previous editions of this clear introduction to the world of publishing when I started and it had helped me to understand the workings of the various departments and the wider business of publishing, whether it be commercial, academic, educational or professional. I knew the book well, but did not know so much about the planned reforms, so I decided to start by looking again at the project passport Katrina had created and presented at the publishing meeting. The Project Passport is our proposal for the book project and includes details of the format, extent, planned print run and price, along with market research, competition, related title sales and other necessary information.

Proposal Meetings and Project Passports

Whenever we do a new edition at Routledge, we start by sending out questionnaires to ask people what they think of the current book and what improvements in content, format or style they suggest. You can see an example of our questionnaire here. When this data has been collected, the Editor (or Associate Editor/Development Editor/Senior Editor or Publisher) reads through the reports and sends them to the authors for them to read also. The authors and Editor then come up with a plan of revisions for the new edition. Sometimes a full revised proposal is sent in and then this can be further reviewed. Once it has been decided how to go ahead, the Editor will prepare his/her own proposal to present at the next available publishing meeting. On our current system at Routledge, we create a Project Passport, a costing, and any additional materials. The Project Passport is our proposal for the book. You will have seen an example of our costing in Inside Book Publishing with a description of the various targets and definitions of the terms. The Project Passports for each meeting (run weekly) are put into a central folder that everyone in the UK and US offices can access. Passports are added two weeks before the meeting date to allow time for everyone to read them and for Marketing to come up with a Marketing Plan for the book in the UK and US. The meetings are held in meeting rooms in the NY and Milton Park, UK offices, which are linked by satellite conferencing. The Editor will then present his/her proposal for the book project at the meeting. Anyone internally can attend the meetings and everyone has an equal chance to comment or ask questions about the proposal. Sometimes quite a debate ensues! As the book had already been approved, I took over from contract stage.

Developing the pedagogy

As you may have noticed from the Project Passport above, the format originally proposed for the book was Royal Octavo, which is a step up from the third edition which had been published in Demy Octavo. Not long after getting started on the project and meeting Giles and Angus ‘virtually’, I went to meet Angus and his department at Oxford Brookes University. After talking about the format there, and talking further with Giles and Angus, we all agreed that Pinched Crown would be the best format as it allowed us a margin column for key terms, quotes, or other items we wished to add outside of the main text. I decided that we would need a new text design to enhance this edition, so I sent some examples of some existing textbook designs to Giles and Angus so we could pick and choose the type of features we wanted before I filled out the text design brief and gave this to Sue Dixon, Senior Production Editor for the book. We decided we wanted boxes with curved corners that weren’t shaded, Scala serif font for the main text and Scala sans for the boxes. We also wanted new icons for the items such as further reading, and you can see more about the development of the final design and the icons in David Williams’s piece here. Finally, to break up the text and to add some visual interest, Angus suggested commissioning some cartoons from John Taylor. These cartoons are absolutely wonderful and I was very pleased that Angus introduced John’s work to me.

Working on the cover design

Before the book went into production, we also started work on the cover design. I asked Giles and Angus if they had a preference and they requested a picture of someone reading a book (a novel), but they wished only to see the hands and the book. I briefed our designer, Asha Pearse, who came up with five initial concepts. The initial concepts can be viewed here  All images are reproduced with kind permission from Getty Images. Our favourite of these was the second one as it has such a warm colour and tone, however, Giles and Angus clarified that they wanted a modern paperback, and they wanted to give the impression of the pleasure of reading. We were unable to create a good replica of the warmth and colour of this image using a paperback, and so it was rejected. We then went through quite a few more designs before we finally agreed to the final image for the cover design. The image is from a collection called Nordic Photos, and was supplied by Getty Images.

This brings us to end of the initial editorial process; you can read more about the development of the book in David Williams’s piece here.

Aileen Storry
Associate Editor, Media and Cultural Studies


Leave a Reply