Tuesday, 26 April 2011


These posts are becoming shorter because the work is becoming busier. This is the problem I have with blogging: I can only seem to get round to doing it when I have nothing to say.

So what has been going on in the Manchester Anthology secret lab?

- Story/extract layout. The copy is nearly all in, and the pages are being cranked out at top speed. There's some great stuff in this collection, there really is. And I can exclusively reveal that although we're coming from a creative writing MA there's not a single story about a divorcing university lecturer in sight. They're not even all about middle class people. Take that, Guardian comments section.

- Cover design. There'll be a draft up here soon. Suffice to say it's looking pretty foxy.

- ISBNing. The forms are off and the application is being processed. This in turn led to two other areas of mild havoc:

  • The copyright page. This had to be done, at least to a preliminary degree, before the form could be sent off. This was interesting and tricky to get right, so it should probably be written about at some point.
  • Barcoding. This happens after the ISBN arrives, and is easier than I was expecting: it basically consists of sending twenty of your shiny English pounds to the printers. 'It will cost extra' is one of the most terrifying phrases in the English languages, after 'presented by Noel Edmonds', but in this case the number that followed was the sort of pleasingly small number our budget could handle. Hurrah!

Monday, 18 April 2011


Things are happening. Stories, extracts, photos and biographies are starting to arrive. The preliminary pages are taking shape. ISBN forms are sitting on my table looking ominously bureaucratic. The printers have been selected, paper weights decided on, logos acquired and launch parties pondered.

This book is beginning to exist. 

Soon this site will start to be filled with author biographies, and not long after that the book will be out. Then, once someone comes up with a way of getting 150 books up to my twelfth-floor flat, it will be time for distribution, e-book conversion, and all the other things that remind a fellow that press day is not, is never, the end.

Oh, also, some of our splendid authors should be appearing at Word Soup in Preston in June - more on that nearer the time.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hard food for Midas

I was going to call this post 'Money', but then that would have been two Amis Junior titles in a row, and that would be immoral. But money is certainly what this is about.

The obvious question for a project like this is how much the ruddy thing is going to cost. That's for a paperback book of around, say, 400 pages, and a small (I like to think of it as bijoux, but that's probably because I spent several years working in Kensington. That kind of place does something to a fellow, what?) print run of 150 copies.

Inevitably, the answer is 'it depends'. And the things it depends on are:

Paper thickness
This wasn't something that could be worked out with a ruler: my eyesight isn't that good (nobody's is in publishing). This applies to both the inner pages and the cover. In both cases the anthology wants to carry on with its plan of looking as much like a normal paperback book as possible: something that won't tear or fall to bits, but not something you can't pick up without back support.

The standard weights for this are 80gsm or 90gsm (grammes per square metre) for inside pages and 300gsm for the cover. That'll do us. The 80/90 decision will come down to price - 90 would be pleasant, if we can afford it.

There are various fancier forms available, but the basic, classic, standard, call-it-what-you-will version is perfect binding, as seen in most paperbacks: the pages are just glued into the cover. I have no idea why the cheapest form is called 'perfect'.

Colours and contents
Our inside is going to be all black and white, and nearly all text. Ideally we'd like to include black and white photos of the authors, but that will depend on what the printers can offer, and, more importantly, how much it costs. For covers we want the option of being full-colour, which in printing terms means four-colour - CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and, er, black).

Next you get in touch with a few printers, preferably those specialising in short print runs, and see what they'll charge for 150 copies, 400 pages, 80/90gsm b&w text pages, 300gsm CMYK covers, perfect bound, delivered to one address.

Typically, you're looking at around £675.

However, there are other costs too. The main one, if we want to make this an official book, which we do, is an ISBN number. By an 'official book' I mean one that turns up on computer systems, one that gets dumped in copyright libraries, one that's searchable, buyable, identifiable and so on. One you can find on LibraryThing. Basically, a national insurance number for a book.

This is one area where self-publishing companies get one up on us: they normally include the ISBN in their costs, because they print shedloads of books and thus buy the numbers in bulk. We just want the one. The grandmasters of ISBN, Nielsen, will sell us ten for around £120. Harrumph. Suppose we'll just have to hope that the anthology can keep going for a few years to get our money's worth.

This gives an overall printing cost of roughly £800. Selling the books at £9 a pop (sorry, I mean £8.99) that means we'd be breaking even at around 90 copies sold. With 31 authors on board, and each of us allegedly possessing at least several friends, relatives or other bullyable people, with any luck we should be able to reach a point where we have a bit of spare cash left over to start funding postage of free copies to agents and whatnot.

Once that's done, we start sneaking glances at Kindles, with avarice in our eyes...

Full disclosure
Money is complicated. My brain is not. As a result, this is probably all wrong. If I've added it up wrong and wind up living in a bin I will attempt to explain what awful and unexpected problem ruined everything. Assuming the bin has internet access, anyway.