Sunday, 23 September 2007

Print on demand

Print_on_demand_2 Perhaps it's because of the weird way my brain works (or doesn't work) that I've come to associate, at some point in the past, the term 'Print on Demand' with daylight robbery. In terms of the structure of the phrase, it seems closely related to such strings of words as 'Stand and Deliver' and 'Your Money or Your Life.' Whether it's simply the result of such word association or because I misunderstood something about it the first time I heard it mentioned, I've come to think of 'Print on Demand' as a Bad Thing.

I assumed the notion of being able to print off a single copy of a book was part of some dastardly plot hatched by computer nerds to undermine the time-honoured traditions of the publishing industry and, consequently, would make the industry even less interested in investing in new writers. I imagined that instead of having a print run of 2,000 or 5,000 or whatever, the idea was that a slice of a book could be accessed via the internet and, if someone wanted to read it, then they'd type in their credit card details and would have access to printing off a single copy through their own printer. The ideal solution for those heretics who refuse to embrace e-books! And if not exactly this, then I imagined it was something to do with bookshops no longer carrying stock as such and having a hole-in-the-wall ATM (or ABM) instead: swipe your card, choose your title, and wait for your book to be dispensed.

However, it seems that this is not the case and that I need to curb my imagination and that Print on Demand is in fact a Good Thing.

I was reading a back issue (spring 2007) of The Author recently and came across an illuminating article ('One small step') by Linda Bennett, who knows a good deal about the topic. Through this I learned that POD allows books to be printed (at printing houses) in small numbers amongst batches of other titles, and that most of the ramifications of this are positive:

  • allows publishers to run specialist titles because they don't have to invest in large print runs, which is good news for publishers and good news for specialist authors;
  • keeps titles in print because small orders can be more easily filled;
  • more rapidly responds to customer demand (if the warehouse is empty, it's not a matter of having to wait for enough backorders to justify a large print run) so fewer sales are lost;
  • may create efficiences that allow publishers to invest in additional titles and new authors.
It's been an interesting few months in this respect. Working towards getting The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore published (though not necessarily through POD) has led me in lots of different directions. Writing this blog and reading other blogs and chatting with other writers and kicking into Facebook and constructing a website (more on this another time) are all activities I had no idea I'd be involved in a few months back. It's been a steep learning curve at times, but the view's worth it.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Recent Reads

Have just about managed to get to the bottom of the pile of books I've been wanting to read or needing to read for a while. Tracy Chevalier's Burning Bright kept getting pushed to the bottom of that pile, simply because other priorities took over, but I've finally made a start on this. William Blake apparently features in this story, which has made it something to look forward to because I've always been a fan of Blake. However, how it stacks up against Girl with a Pearl Earring will be interesting. It must be a tad nerve-wracking writing the next book after one has been so successful. No wonder Harper Lee decided to leave well alone after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Revisited Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jnr and still rate it as an all-time favourite. But also had a look at three Australian titles in the hope I could find one for a Literature booklist.BYPASS The Story of a Road by Michael McGirr is a delightful, humorous non-fiction account of the Hume Highway, which stretches from Melbourne to Sydney (or Sydney to Melbourne, depending which state you're from). It's a travelogue in a sense and put me in mind of Bill Bryson---but grittier. I'm not Bypass sure why it matters that Michael McGirr is an ex-Jesuit, but he mentions it himself and so does everyone else when they talk about this book, so I mention it too. I suppose this piece of information adds to our understanding of the man who's undertaking this journey and the stories that he uncovers and relates along the way. It's a nice touch citing bumper sticker slogans as epigraphs, and I found myself flicking through the book to read all of these in one go. (For instance: 'Your Carma Just Ran Over My Dogma'; 'The Older I Get, The Better I Was'; 'This Is No Time For The Present'.) Haven't finished Bypass yet, having decided it's not for The List but will keep it on hand as something to dip into and enjoy between other books.

The_rose_notesI probably wasn't in the right frame of mind for picking up The Rose Notes by Andrea Mayes, and gave it a couple of sessions but then gave up. Didn't feel like persevering. Found the narrator's voice a little too measured and old and intrusive, but I wasn't feeling patient at the time so may well have misjudged it. (Gave the book to someone else and they enjoyed it!)

The absolute gem of these three, however, and the book that I knew was going to be on my list before I'd read 20 pages is The Patron Saint of EelsThe_patron_saint_of_eels quote the blurb, Noel Lea 'longs for a time when life was less complex and unexpected magic seemed to permeate the ocean town and its people. When spring rains flood a nearby swamp and hundreds of eels get trapped in the grassy ditches ... he and (oldest friend) Nanette encounter the vibrant Fra Ionio and get more magic than they bargained for.' It's certainly a magical tale. by Gregory Day. Every once in a while there's a book that's worth giving up sleep for, that leaves you itching to carry on reading and that you know you're going to want to come back to read a second time at least, and this was one of them. To And with that, back to the editing.

Monday, 3 September 2007


Erasmus_with_eyeballs Editing, editing, editing ...

Love it. Nudging a word or two and watching the nuance of meaning shift a story even more in the direction it needs to go. Occasional delicious surprises.

Battling with new software, which pig-headely refuses to recognise Australian English and UK English, wanting to change everything to American English. Streuth!

And sleep---well, I've split each day into 26 units rather than 24 hours, but that doesn't seem to help. To misquote John Lennon: I've got blisters on my eyeballs!

And as for having to go earn a crust!!

Would spend the whole day putting words into characters' mouths if I could, and exploring their world, and getting inside their heads, and, and, and ...

But to do as much as I want, something else has to go, so all my other communications are getting reduced to short, staccato sentences and occasional outbursts of gibberish.

Editing, diting, ting! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz