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Book production for dummies

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One of the things we love about illustrated children’s books is that they are very much physical things (I mean, we have digital plans, but you’re not going to find out about them in this post). The way books look, the size they are, the way the pages feel (how smooth, how thick, how absorbent of ink)… these are such important factors in a book’s success. A publisher of illustrated books for children has a lot of fairly daunting responsibilities to an author and to an illustrator. We often pair them up, and we almost always shape their text and their illustrations and determine how these fall on the page, but we also decide what the book will feel like in a child’s hands (and a parent’s hands, and a teacher’s hands).

This is a pile of white dummies sent to us by Imago before the Bologna Book Fair. Today we met Erik and Michelle from Imago to make final decisions on the formats and materials for some of the books we took in their early forms to Bologna. We also discussed formats for books that are just – at this stage – ideas. Sometimes, our reach must exceed our grasp, and today Michelle and Erik showed us at least one really lovely book dummy that we ooh-ed and aah-ed over but we couldn’t begin to imagine how to make work financially.

Of course, it’s not always the showiest things that are the most interesting: we never think that novelty for the sake of novelty is particularly gripping. What we think matters is how you make paper (or card, or other material) and what it can do really relevant to the story that you are telling or the fact that you’re communicating.

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One Response to “Book production for dummies”

  • These are interesting thoughts – especially because they relate to what is, arguably, instinct. A dusting of silver foil can make a cover come to life and entice the reader (and/or purchaser) towards all the potential magic that’s inside. But too large a format – often paired with too many showy cover finishes – and the remainder bookshop beckons.

    Likewise, a well-placed hole in the page (a la Eric Carle) can sometimes be far more successful in turning the paper into living, breathing sculpture than the most miraculous of pop-ups. It can be hard to judge. Perhaps it pays to remember that young children have the best imaginations of us all.

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