Here it is! Drumroll! The cover of my forthcoming book The Gift of Hope, which is due for release in August. There will be more on it nearer the time, but I wanted to post a sneaky preview on my blog!
It is being published by TLM (The Leprosy Mission) who sell a range of products including some of their own books to raise money to support their work internationally. I had two advantages with this book. Firstly, I know Judith, the editor at TLM because I used to sell books to her! Secondly, working for a publisher myself gave me some useful insights into what to do and what not to do when it came to creating a product.
The idea started at least 18 months ago, when Judith and I were chatting about photography, and she suggested that I might be interested in submitting some images for consideration for use on cards. Somehow that moved along into talking about a book. The theme of 'Hope' was Judith's idea, as it fitted alongside other products either already published, or in the pipeline. Plus they had had some customer demand for such a title. Always a good starting point! So I went away, and started thinking about how to get started. Shortly afterward I had a call from Judith: '...and would you be writing the text?' 'Umm, no problem.' I replied. Mistakenly, as it turned out.
A loooooooooonnnnng time passed.....
I was stuck. Who'd've ever thought that putting together a small, gifty book, a mere 48 pages long, would be so hard? More time passed. Then I went on sabbatical for four weeks. I spent a week of that time on the beautiful Channel Island of Sark, spending a lot of time thinking about my photographic plans for the future, including the book. In November I returned to the island and it turned out that quite a few of the photographs I took during those two visits ended up being used in the book. In fact even the cover image was taken on Sark.
An inpirational giftbook is not all about pictures though. Although I now had a reasonable pool of images to choose from, I still had to do some writing.
I reviewed other books previously published in the same series to see how long they were, how text-heavy they were, how the images in them had been used, and what the series 'look and feel' was. Then suddenly, after months of stops and starts, everything came together. I knew what I wanted to do, how to approach it, what level of text to picture I needed and what I wanted the end result to look like.
Because the text and images were so symbiotic, I ended up creating the book in Powerpoint, so that I could add or change the relevant image as I was writing the text. Interestingly, my experience of putting together my LRPS Distinctions Panel for the Royal Photographic Society came in useful as it had taught me to look at a series of images as a whole, and this helped hugely with making sure there was a cohesion and flow to the book. It is not enough to have a series of pictures and comments, they must make sense as a whole, too.
I worked on the book in every spare minute - and in quite a few minutes which, strictly speaking, were not spare.... It was surprisingly personal, which I had not expected. I went to a friend's funeral while I was writing, and that experience is referred to in the book, for example.
Finally, it was ready. So I sent Judith a note to ask whether she had given up hope (pun entirely intended) of ever seeing a proposal from me, or if she was still interested. I was relieved to receive an email back asking me to send in my manuscript.
I sent the manuscript and disc of images off on a Monday. On Tuesday I had an email to say it had arrived and that Judith liked it, and that the selection meeting was on the Wednesday! Wow, talk about miraculous timing. If I had finished 24 hours later I would have missed this vital meeting.
Working for a publisher I know all too well that a product one person likes very much may still fall down at a selection meeting, so I was by no means certain of hearing back positively even now. The email telling me the book had been selected for publication was probably one of the most exciting messages I've ever received!
Now, at the start of May, the editorial changes and checks are complete, the cover is finalised, and the project is signed off. When the first proofs came through for me to see I almost cried. Judith's editorial input, and the design team's beautiful work on the layout have resulted in a finished book of which I am really proud. And one which I hope will indeed be inspirational, even to just one reader.
I can hardly wait to see an actual, physical copy!