Trust your publisher. Well, if you have one, that is. I’m not the only erstwhile academic to have ended up in publishing, but what constantly surprises me is that academics care little about those who give voice to their ideas. Now this blog is self-publishing. It contains my ideas, but they are free for the taking, and here’s a bit of useful advice: trust your publisher. These days with easy online publication and formatting that makes your posts look like a pro (not here, mind you), it’s sometimes difficult to realize that publishers actually provide more than just an imprint. They offer services to make your book look serious, scholarly, and also to be useful to others. Those of us who write books are often far too emotionally involved to see this.
I regularly run across academics who tell publishers how the text should look on the page. I’m not talking about those weird and wonderful sections of ancient texts with <lacunae>… ellipses… [brackets] and whatnot. No, there are those who want to control kerning, leading, and all sorts of things. There are those who want practically every single word indexed, although research shows that most researchers access searchable PDFs rather than wasting their time thumbing through pages to find a reference. And that traditional chestnut, “written for general readers.” Publishers have access to book sales figures (at least of their own books). There’s no need to bluff; if your book is only for scholars (does it have words like “reify” or “heuristic” in it? Be honest now!), publishers know how to handle that.
We’re all nervous when our book gets through the acceptance process. Peer review always breaks me into a cold sweat. Believe me, we understand! Take a soothing sip of tea. Go for a walk. Better yet, jog. Scholars tend to be precise thinkers. We get that. When, however, is the last time someone used a map from a Bible for navigation? Most of those cities don’t even exist any more! This strange mix of online savvy and adherence to the old ways of print (which I love and of which I shall never let go) clash in ways that cause publishers great stress. You can find a YouTube video on how to make your own book. Those of us in the biz can tell at a glance if a book’s self-published or not. And believe me, we’re rooting for you. We want your book to succeed. Why not trust those who know what they’re doing?