Friday, April 16, 2010

Introducing HASH; Concept Proofs

I first met Charles Cox through my co-worker Alicia, they'd just begun dating and she was very happy with him; when I met Charles, I understood why--an extremely gregarious, intelligent fellow and, as I was to find out, a man of many talents. Last year, as we set up the Press and The Espresso Book Machine, Charles and Alicia came by to see the new member of the Lake Forest Park community and to see how I was holding up. We fell into casual conversation about what the EBM means in terms of re-arranging the traditional publishing model, and Charles mentioned a book he'd written for NANOWRIMO and wondered idly if he should print a few copies. I didn't leap straight at him in excitement, but I began the conversation that, this past March, culminated in this:
HASH was written in November, but it had been years in gestation; Charles had been familiar with the characters for a while, and it showed-- as I read the book, I felt that the characters were, 'lived in', real.  Designing HASH was a joy because Charles let me play with fonts (4 of them!) and certain 'flourishes' in layout; it was also a joy because HASH is very kinetic, harkening back to the days of William Gibson and before, when ideas didn't have to be door-stopper novels or be book x of a series. It's a smart, lean book; funny and thoughtful. And I felt it deserves to be published.
Charles didn't want to self-publish (that can sometimes be a full-time job of its own), but he was curious about an idea I had-- self-produced manuscripts, which I later renamed CONCEPT PROOFS.
My thinking is this: In this landscape of publishers trimming down editors, swallowing up other publishers and imprints, and more and more agents looking for that 'next big thing' and being less patient to grow an authors' careers (I'm not saying all agents are like this, but there is a trend.), it's harder and harder to get a foot in the door. 
Even once you've made it as far as an agent, and, into a publisher for consideration, your book could die on the phrase "I don't know how to market this." On the one hand, the reason is bunk, on the other, publishing is a business, so they have to think in those terms. An agent or an editor must look at a manuscript and/or query letter and visualize possibilities; the kind of book that might come out of this double-spaced gathering of text.
The Concept Proof is an option for authors who want to take the chance to visualize how their book might look from a publisher; they can determine whether it draws heavily on genre book design or other, 'mainstream' design aspects (a cross-over book like Niffenegger's "The Time-Traveler's Wife", for example). So this is why we made HASH; I took Charles' novel, decided how I wanted it to look on the inside, while the multi-talented Charles (I said so earlier, remember?) designed his own cover, and the photos show what came out of it. Our hope is that we've done some of the conceptualizing for the prospective agent or publisher, and they'll be more open to considering it.

All that said, we know that we can't be sending the physical copy to everyone under the sun; most agents and/or publishers only take digital submissions. But it's a cozy little world out there in Publishingland, and who knows who you might run into at a party or convention?

1 comment:

  1. Vlad, this is most exciting! I saw the book when you played host to all the booksellers on Tuesday, but I had no idea of the back-story. Will you be retailing these handsome things at all, or is that precluded by the agreement with the author? Anyway, congratulations on a beautiful design.