What goes into launching a book for publication?

With a poetry collection (All This) and three novels published, I’ve experienced what it’s like to release a book into the world. Each work offers its own peculiarities. Partly it’s the difference in publisher (Little Red Tree Publishing released All This, Regal House Publishing put out my novel Curva Peligrosa, and Pen-L Publishing gave birth to Fling! and Freefall: A Divine Comedy), each having its own approach. But it’s also the difference in genre. While poetry has a more limited audience base, fiction is another animal, appealing to a wide range of readers. Consequently, in many ways, a novel has to be packaged differently. What ends up on the cover must stimulate a potential reader’s imagination and seduce him/her into buying the book.

Preparing a manuscript to be launched is a little like getting ready for a trip into outer space. We don’t know till we take the journey what to expect. So much is out of our control and dependent on who is driving the process—the publisher/editor. In a way, the actual writing is the easiest part. We’re left alone in our solitude to create a world that never existed before. But it’s the second birth, midwifed by the publisher, that marks it as a bona fide book.

With All This, I had a lot more input into some aspects of the process, though I disagreed with the publisher’s desire to include more narrative than is usual in most poetry collections. Michael Linnard, the publisher, wanted me to write an introduction that gave some background on my approach to poetry and, in particular, to the poems in this collection, as well as a glossary. Also, at 145 pages, the book is longer than are most poetry works, and I resisted that notion without success. But he did like the idea of using one of my watercolors for the cover image. Overall, it’s a handsome book that I can’t complain about given the difficulty of publishing anything book length.

The two novels that Pen-L Publishing released—Fling!and Freefall: A Divine Comedy—had been extensively edited and revised before I submitted them for publishing consideration. Therefore, they didn’t need much more than copyediting and final proofreading. Kimberly Pennell has shepherded me through the publishing process for each work. She sent me cover mock ups that I answered with a couple of my own, trying to convey in mine how to capture something about each book’s settings and characters. I included some text that gave insight into both narratives, and part of that language was included in Fling!’s cover image: “a madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico’s magic.” These words come from a blurb that Lewis Buzbee wrote for the back of the book.

Kimberly and her cover artist picked up immediately on what I was hoping to represent about my novels’ contents and returned two possible covers, each of which I love and can now be seen gracing the published books. With a little tweaking, the covers quickly were resolved, as were any questions about the work’s interior design and teasers for the back covers. This process took several emails back and forth until we were both satisfied with the results.

When I submitted Curva Peligrosa to a different publisher, I did so because I knew it needed the kind of developmental editing that Pen-L didn’t offer. Fortunately, Jaynie Royal, Regal House Publishing’s publisher and editor-in-chief, gave me the extensive feedback for its more complex structure that I needed. She was meticulous in making sure that the manuscript went through many content reviews before being released to two other editors for final copyediting and proofreading. Fortunately, I had the final say in what was included or excluded. While we agreed on most things, I did reject some of her suggestions that didn’t seem to fit the characters as I knew them. When it came to the cover, we both went through lots of images online that might capture the narrative’s spirit as well as the main character, Curva Peligosa. It was Jaynie who found the one we ended up using, which is splendid and has received numerous complements from people who have seen it.

And so it goes on. This birthing of a creation depends on many variables for it to have a successful launch, and I’m grateful for the various hands that participated in ushering my words into the publishing world and giving them a lasting home.


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