The Extent of the Problem

In which The Author starts to worry

Last night I sat down and went right through the outline manuscript of the Street Names Project. I’ve been pretty much adding bits willy-nilly, and I decided that it was time to impose a consistent structure on the information Geoff and I have gathered so far. It wasn’t a happy experience.
To begin with, I’d assumed that we’d be using the same page size as The Men Who Marched Away, Geoff’s book on the Cynon Valley war memorials (see posts passim), as well as the Cynon Valley History Society’s anthology The Land Your Fathers Possessed. It’s a nice size for a book: larger than a mass-market paperback, but not too big to be easily manageable. I’d set the manuscript to fit onto that page size from the outset. Last night I went right through our Work in Progress, setting the section headings to a standard size and the subsection headings to a standard size. Then I changed the text to 10½ pt throughout, except for the picture captions and block quotes. I was alarmed to see the page count edging slowly upwards, until it finally settled at 144.
144 pages (what publishers call the ‘extent’ of the book) isn’t a bad size, after all. I think The Men Who Marched Away came to about about 160 pages all told. The problem is that, so far, we’ve only covered about a fifth (if that!) of the Cynon Valley street names. Even if we assume that the rest of the entries are no longer than two lines each, we’re rapidly heading for something the size of War and Peace, or maybe even longer.
I saved the document under a new name, changed the page size to good old A4, and played with it for a while this morning. With the original font size it still comes in at just short of a hundred pages.
The reason why it’s a problem is that the higher the page count becomes, the more the production costs increase. We’ve got to try and keep the unit price at a reasonable level, otherwise we’ll end up pricing ourselves out of the market.
Alan Vernon Jones, another local author in need of a proofreader, has written two books on Cynon Valley places of worship. They’re a pair of large heavy hardbacks, and Alan was forced to set the cover price at £20.00 just to cover the printers’ invoice. His first one is now on sale at Aberdare for a tenner, which is quite reasonable, but it still leaves Alan out of pocket.
I don’t know how Geoff and I are going to get around this problem. He and I both tend to over-research and over-write when we’re involved in a project. If we cut the text to a bare minimum we’re going to lose a lot of nice content. On the other hand, if we reduce the print size again, it’s going to end up like the single-volume Oxford English Dictionary, which comes photographically reduced and packaged with a magnifying glass.
We haven’t even inserted the index yet. Wish us luck…
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