The Art(work) of Collaboration

I sometimes think that publishers take the process of collaboration for granted.

Once you’ve realised that the best way to help a publication succeed is to try and get the most out of every pair of hands that a manuscript passes through, then why wouldn’t that be your default position?

But how do those who self-publish first identify and then embrace a team? Where things don’t actually work unless everyone fulfils their designated function.

In our experience at whitefox, some of the most determined indie writers are often the most prescriptive. Clear-sighted, focused and keen to keep their eyes on the prize, why wouldn’t that be the best way to create a publishing success story for your new novel? Except, sometimes this misses the point of collaboration. Not just the creative mash-up of ideas you get from people with experience who care about doing the best possible job, but that 1 + 1 can sometimes make 3.

Take cover design. There’s nothing a good in-house designer hates more than the blank briefing document handed to him or her in a marketing meeting that says “something fresh that we’ve never seen before” or the opposite but equally unhelpful “in series style”. You want a steer – on the competition, the market sector, or specific consumer insight – because you want to know that you will be giving writer, editor, sales director, marketing manager, retailer and reader what they all want.

But arguably you can be too prescriptive. An individual writer’s precise, highly subjective visualisation of their book jacket, a book that they might have worked on for years, may end up being very different from a designer’s interpretation. What you may end up getting back from that incredibly detailed brief may not match your aesthetic aspirations because the designer felt too hemmed in, too paint by numbers, too over art-directed.

Just as new indie authors benefit from the single-minded, entrepreneurial determination to make their books work no matter what obstacles they may encounter, they can also sometimes benefit from collaboration and compromise, based on the input from an experienced specialist publishing team around them.

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