Sunday 10 November 2019

Writing non-fiction? Have a meeting with your editor and designer. Moira Butterfield

If you are writing a non-fiction book and you have sold the idea, I’d strongly recommend meeting up in person with your editor and designer. If you can’t – and many of us will be too far away to get to London - I’d try to organize a Facetime session.

I went up to London this week (where inevitably the publishers are based). It cost me a wheelbarrow full of gold but it’s worth every penny to do it if possible (I try to make the trip more cost-effective by planning in an exhibition to see on the same day, if I can – In this case the highly recommended Living on Mars at the Design Museum).

The current cost of a train ticket from Bath to London 

I am about to write a non-fiction book in a pressurized timeframe. I wanted to be sure that the team I’m working with are all on the same wavelength as me.

We discussed the content of the book– already planned but not yet in visual form. I went with specific questions for the designer. How did he think we should approach introductory sections? What kind of features should I build in to the text? In this case we agreed we’d add some cutaway illustrations, which means me providing labels. We agreed on some big images and some much smaller ones, to make for a lively magazine-style layout. I’ll need to be keeping this in mind when I write.

I won’t want to be giving the designer far too much text. That’d be difficult to work with, but equally too little text won’t be ideal either. We’ll need to get it ‘just right’, which means working together on a section ASAP to fix some word counts and features such as chapter headings and sub-headings.

We looked at some artist choices, and our discussions about the way the book would look led us to a choice we all loved – Someone who can do people, landscapes and machines equally, and who won’t be phased by a highly-planned spread. It’s also someone who doesn’t look too retro, because our book subject is very current. Fingers crossed our choice says yes but we have some back-ups, too, thanks to our meeting.

We also chatted about general non-fiction sales feedback the editorial team had been given. That was very interesting and helpful, and not something I would have heard about otherwise.

Finally – and most importantly - we went over the reasons why we are doing the book. They are deeply felt and shared by everyone round the table. We believe in the concept of the book.

I came home feeling that we were a strong team and I hope they did, too. I felt ready for the challenge and excited that they were excited.

Ready, team? Ready! 

Now it’s up to me to write, but I know I have a strong foundation on which to build.

Moira’s non-fiction book Welcome To Our World (Nosy Crow) has been chosen in The Sun and the Mirror as a top gift book for 4+.  Her book on homes around the world has become a bestseller in the US this year– Home Sweet Home (Egmont in the UK. Kane Miller in the USA).

Moira Butterfield
Twitter @moiraworld

Instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor 

1 comment:

Pippa Goodhart said...

With my very first book, the lovely editor invited me to come to London to talk about it. Being innocent of the way things worked, I asked who would pay for my train ticket. It was paid for me ... and years later it occurred to me that perhaps that lovely editor had paid for it herself out of kindness for a young mum who hadn't earned a penny from book writing yet!