Author's typesetting? Not likely!

Eluard's picture

I have seen that there are a few authors that frequent these boards and want to share some frustration with them and everyone else. I have also noted the comments from those who have tried to explain the situation from the publishers point of view — I am trying hard to sympathise.

Here is the situation. I have just finished two books: one is technical and I think the publisher will be ok with it being set using LaTeX and some decent font (they publish a lot of maths/science books so they are used to that sort of thing). But the other book is for a more general student market: the U.S. college scene in fact. I have sent that to a number of British academic publishers and have had a very warm reception thus far. Very gratifying! Except that I really want the book to look good and would like to set it myself, because I know that if I don’t they are going to set it in Word. Word → pdf → printer seems to be the standard workflow. Yesterday I sent one particular publisher’s editor (who has seemed pretty keen to this point, and had just asked for the manuscript to be resent in Word format) a nice letter offering to set the book myself at no cost to them so that the book will look nice (it already looks pretty good, though not perfect). I suggested that if the problem was the editor’s need to work in Word that perhaps some workaround could be found.

I received back very promptly a ‘No it has to be in Word’, with the suggestion that they would indeed just use that to send to a printer (there was no comment that they would output from anything else). It was tart and suddenly unfriendly.

I find it pretty hard to understand publishers who take the attitude that an inferior output is really in their interests. If they used professional designers and compositors on tap (as U.S. publishers do) then I could understand their annoyance with authorial intrusion, but British academic publishers often don’t do that (even those at the highest level).

For me, I suspect, outputting from a Word file may be a deal-breaker. I can feel my heels beginning to dig in.

Si_Daniels's picture

Thought 1. What does your contract say? If you can insert something into the paper work along the lines of getting approval of final output you could be onto a winner - keep rejecting their PDFs until they meet your standards - eventually they'll either meet your standard or they'll cave and let you design it.

Thought 2. “Yesterday I sent one particular publisher’s editor.” Well, editors like to be able to, er edit. Word is a pretty good tool for editing – PDF, InDesign, XPress not so much.

Si_Daniels's picture

Thought 3. Putting yourself in the shoes of the publisher – they probably get book design offers all the time from authors. Everyone thinks they’re a graphic designer right (eg Elizabeth Kucinich). So reeling off the names of published titles you’ve designed along with references from the publishers you’ve worked with in the past who let you design your books might have the desired effect. Approach it like an interview for a book-design job.

dtw's picture

From the point of view of someone who works for a publisher: I think it highly unlikely that they are going to set it directly in Word. But publishers do need to do a lot of batting manuscripts about internally for various production processes before they get given to the typesetters to import into whatever system they're using. And it's at these early stages that they need submitted files to be in Word, so that everybody involved can open them up and do whatever they need to (be it editing or simply extracting information for their production workflow databases), and they don't want to have to be able to deal with loads of different file types from authors of different backgrounds, interests and levels of technical/typographical competence.

If you got the "suggestion that they would indeed just use that to send to a printer", then probably either (a) the person you told you that didn't know the internal processes very well, or (b) they simplified what they told you because they're more used to dealing with dippy authors than savvy ones.
Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

clauses's picture

What's this with Elizabeth Kucinich?

Eluard's picture

“All manners of belief and even non-belief come from a common font”. (Why he should never have been running for President!)

Eluard's picture

Thanks SIL and dtw — your comments are talking me down from being an obstinate p-i-a author. Never a bad thing!

clauses's picture

“All manners of belief and even non-belief come from a common font.”

He's right, and he should have been prez.

peter.ricardo's picture

I think it is at least possible that you and the publisher are misunderstanding each other. My publisher did all the editing in Word (I used Pages, but made sure to export to Word every time I sent them a new iteration). Then they set the layout in regular page-layout software. I would get to final text, then see what the page layouts they run by you are actually like. You could also ask that they use a certain designer (subject to their approving of the design), and if that designer is one of your friends, you would naturally have a lot of input. The friend could even act as nothing more than a front for you, and your design ideas! Anyway, don't panic yet.

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