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Posted by Kate, October 2, 2012

Frankfurt Proofs… and Weasels by Elys Dolan

Yesterday was, as Tom Bonnick said on Twitter, a bit like Christmas, because proofs of four of our new Frankfurt picture book titles arrived together.

Here are the proofs

They look just like books, I know. In fact, for each book we have some proofs that are bound and some that are just proofed sheets – an unbound book. But this is a picture of the bound proofs.

We have found that having selling material that really looks like a finished book is much the most persuasive way of presenting picture books at book fairs (and to UK retailers for that matter). We are often asked to send digital proofs, and, while I know that they cost less and are energy-efficient and all of that, it’s just not the same as having a full-size book in your hands. (And if you are keen to know why we are so enthusiastic about selling picture books at book fairs, then you might want to read this blog post.)

The fact that something that looks finished is particularly persuasive is interesting in the context of one of the books we’ll be taking to Frankfurt in proof form for the first time: Weasels by Elys Dolan. Elys is a recent graduate from the very good Anglia Ruskin University Children’s Illustration MA Course, which is also where our Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlisted illustrator, Nadia Shireen honed her skills.

Elys’s book was on the really lovely Anglia Ruskin stand at the Bologna Book Fair… looking like a finished book. We bought it the day we saw it. While I like to think that we saw beyond the fact that it had been bound, something about the professionalism of the presentation, and the way that Elys’s choice of format communicated a vision for the book, undoubtedly added to the impression that her witty art and storytelling made on us.

So, in March, Weasels looked finished. But we knew, and Elys knew, that it wasn’t, quite.

To get a proper sense of the (excellent) work that Elys has done on the (already brilliant) book since then in discussion with us, you have to hold the two “books” in your hand, but these photos give some sense of it.

The image at the top of this blog post shows the two “books” side by side. The one on the left is the “March book” – the bound proof on the basis of which we bought the book – and the one on the right is the “September book” – the bound proof on the basis of which we will sell it.

In each of the images below, the “March book” is at the top, and the “September book” is at the bottom.

Elys foregrounded one of the key characters and incidents in the book – the white weasel tripping over the wire. And the introduction of the blue scarf, one of few blues on the spread (and, indeed, throughout the book), draws the eye to that character.

It felt more dramatic to have a full spread of complete darkness than just a page. This required the sacrifice of some very funny lines, but we think it was worth it.

Structurally, this spread was already, in our view, perfect, but the cable (which is continued from the previous page and which is – spoiler alert – crucial to the plot) is now red, not white, and the character is, of course, still in his blue scarf.

There were several text changes made too, but it’s harder to make those clear in a sequence of images.

Elys’s book was very close to being finished when we bought it (you might notice, for example, that the size – unusually large at 300mm x 300mm – hasn’t changed by a millimetre), but it might, I thought, be interesting to see how even something that is very accomplished and realised goes through the kind of editorial process (mentioned in this blog post) to make it even better. Every single picture book we proofed or dummied-up for Frankfurt goes through the same process, resulting sometimes in radical overhauls and sometimes, as here, in something more like fine-tuning.

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