Sunday, February 14, 2010

Role of the Author

A somewhat common situation here last week prompted me to write this entry.

It seems that one of our authors had given us a large amount of content, separated neatly in different Word files, and then considered his job finished. Done. He wrote, he saved, he sent. Finito.

Not so fast, Bucko.

We held in our hands lots of content, absolutely, but it was pretty much raw content. Chapter numbers but no chapter titles. No end-of-chapter exercises even though the book was supposed to have them. No directions of any kind about what kinds of illustrations he wanted.

(By the way, I'm using "he" here but it could just as easily be "she." The point is that this situation is not rare and not confined to any particular gender, market, or type of book.)

Basically the author was saying to us, "Here's your content, make a book."

Nuh-uhn. That's not how it works.

When you author a book, you need to give the publisher all content. Everything. You write the title page, subtitle page, copyright page (though some publishers, like us, usually take that on, though we shouldn't), dedication, acknowledgments, key terms, glossaries, appendices, everything.

You tell us what kinds of illustrations you want and where to put them. You can't say, "Hey, Publisher, here's a complex graph of data from a medical study. Simplify it, please, so the average reader can make sense out of it. And then put it somewhere in this chapter."

Nope, that won't work either. You're the content expert, you tell US how you want it simplified and roughly where to place it.

So if you're thinking about writing a textbook and you think all you'll need to do is pull together some raw content and it will magically appear as a well-structured, easily read book…well, think again.