Being a Publishing Graduate: The First Publication

Feb 25, 2024By Barnard Publishing
Barnard Publishing

-I was working on my first physical publication by October. It was part of the module assignment to produce a book and hold a launch event. It introduced me to the simplified process of book publishing and the software ‘necessary’ to produce it.

I had fun; I’ve always found project management to be interesting, even when I’m not good at it, so organizing text acquisition and arranging it on the page dug into that intrigue. Project management falls apart, however, when your team members don’t pull their weight.

You remember Alex, right?

For their credit, Alex and I did discuss the project before it began - the size we wanted it to be, the kind of content we were looking for, and so on. But by the time the content came in and it was time to edit, things kinda fell apart.

Four pieces of content at no more than 10,000 words each is not a difficult feat; I would know, because I had to re-edit Alex’s half. I did enjoy reading through the submissions we received; knowing that someone was inspired enough to write something and send it my way is one of the reasons I’m in this business.

Then came the page design. Both Alex and I were learning how to use InDesign for the first time - my only experience with Adobe is a bootleg version of Photoshop I was given by my high school art teacher, which was over 10 years old at that point.

Then I learned that Alex didn’t know how to format an image in Word. Or the copy/paste keyboard shortcuts. And they used Powerpoint to write their essays.

I think I cried real tears that day.

Before I go on, I am not tech shaming; people struggle with a variety of things that the majority of people have no issue with, and it is important to bring these differences to light and improve the lives of those who struggle. But this was a 22 year old student who had been doing a writing and research heavy undergraduate degree. And it wasn’t the fact that they didn’t know it to begin with - it was the fact that they weren’t willing to learn anything new.

We made a deal that I would assemble the book elements, and they would cover the social media and marketing. Fine.

So, I took on the responsibility of setting the page and adding the text. I enjoyed the repetition of aligning the text and removing widow and orphan words. Seeing it all come together was one of the most rewarding moments of the entire project.

And then I was also arranging the cover and illustrations; I again employed my creatively inclined friends to design the cover and produce some illustrations,and I don’t know about you, but I think they did a very good job!

Another bonus of having the illustrations was using them as marketing material, which Alex sort of used to our advantage. Marketing was a little slow, and nothing was really added before January (publication month). Whatever, we were both busy with other assignments and the like.

It was at this point that Alex started to drop off and left me to deal with the rest, including arranging the launch event that ended up being a key element of the final assignment. Here’s what I did;

-Set up a YouTube live event for the day
-Advertised on various social media platforms
-Ordered the books for the event
-Spoke with the authors to arrange extract readings
-Booked a room for the event that kept within covid guidelines
-Ensured there are refreshments for the event

Here is where the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my entire degree comes in. When I was ordering the copies for the event, I ordered a huge number - four authors and two illustrators, all wanting at least 4 books each, plus extra for Alex and I, and some more for the uni. They arrived, and I was so excited; my first publication, all that hard work, in my hands. I opened it, started flicking through and got to the second story.

The illustrations we used as page breaks were covering some of the words. Each book was unsellable.

As you can imagine, I was upset; I had invested my own money into getting these books, and now I had to go back and readjust the original document, then spend more money getting more books that could be sold. I thought I was going to lose my money.

We broke even - I got all the money back through sales (I think). But from then on, I have always checked, double checked, triple checked, and had someone else check the PDFs before I even send them off to the printer. And even after they’re gone, I always order a single copy to check, again, that everything looks okay. I was lucky to make all that money back, and I know that if I had made that mistake again, I wouldn’t have been as fortunate.

Let this be a lesson to all publishing hopefuls and self-published authors - Check Your Work!

The actual launch went mostly without issue; I was nervous beyond belief, I wasn’t sure if Alex would actually turn up, and we had some issues with YouTube that forced us to move over to Facebook for the livestream instead, but everyone enjoyed it and those who joined online were incredibly supportive. I’ve not been able to do any events since, which is a huge shame, but once I have another one arranged, I know it will be better than ever before.

For the record, I got a good grade for that module.