Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Putting a Book Together

16 September, 2009

I spent yesterday afternoon at Cormorant Books working with the production manager, Barry Jowett on the placement of images for "Perfect Red," my biography on Paraskeva Clark. Because of budgetary constraints, the photos and paintings will be in three sixteen-page signatures in the book, which means the images will not appear with related text, but they will be gathered into sections (signatures) inserted at certain places in the book. Placing images in signatures instead of scattering them throughout the text costs as much as $15 per book more to produce because heavier paper must be used throughout, not just on pages where images appear. Heavier paper is used for the signatures and lighter, less expensive paper is used in the rest of the book. Would you pay $15 more for "Perfect Red" to avoid having to flip back to another part of the book to look at a painting about which you are reading? I doubt it, but I wish you would.

A book on art and artists is so much more satisfying, more beautiful and so much more unified when the paintings and photos appear within the text where they belong.

I understand that publishers must stay within their budgets to keep down the prices on books or they won’t sell, but I can’t avoid feeling frustrated with yesterday's process. The three sixteen-page signatures, a total of forty-eight pages, do not give us enough space for all the paintings and photos that must be included in the book. I came away desperately wanting another signature for the rest of the paintings, but I am not sure it will be possible to add another signature because of the additional cost. If not, Barry and I will have to go back through the whole process again to place the images, and many will have to be much smaller. I don’t like these compromises.

All this makes me feel like railing against the values in our culture: art, which feeds the spirit, is not seen as an essential part of our lives so artists and writers constantly are stymied in the process of giving what is their to give to society. The dominant attitude in our consumer culture is that if something isn’t cheap, well, it should be cheaper. What does this generalization have to do with my work yesterday? Think about it and let me know.

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