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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

The publisher's tasks

The publisher's tasks

Following delivery of the manuscript, the publisher goes about the business of getting it into print. Costings are prepared and marketing decisions are also made at this point. Some of the steps in this process are briefly described in handbooks such as Rogers (1994) and in more detail in Write, Edit, Print (1997). Most of these activities are now contracted out to agents beyond the publishing house, although the editor is often on the publisher's permanent staff.

Editorial tasks

Publishers generally have a critical input into the shaping of drafts before and after they agree to publish a manuscript. A reader or an editor will often, in consultation with an author, suggest and guide the recasting of a work and seek to find a mutually acceptable solution. The title 'editor' covers a range of activities, and a book will often have several editors. At the top of the pecking order is the commissioning editor, often designated Publisher, the one with the power to accept or decline. An important part of the role of this editor is to represent the publisher's interests to the author, and the author's interests to the publisher. There is an inevitable tension here, especially with small firms where the editor is in fact the publisher (though publishers may go to great lengths to nurture their stable of authors, in the small world of New Zealand publishing occasional allegations of unprofessionalism and broken, formerly warm friendships attest to the difficulties). In larger companies, the editor is often cast in the role of author's champion. The commissioning editor may 'structurally' edit the work, a time-consuming process which should ideally be carried out in close collaboration with the author; or may entrust the task to a more junior in-house, or increasingly a freelance, editor. ('Face to face—Ray Richards on Barry Crump' (1996) spills the beans on one of New Zealand's popular publishing successes.) Finally, every book requires the attention of a copy-editor.

At the very least, the editor is responsible for ensuring that the manuscript which goes to typesetting is as correct in terms of factual detail (if that is appropriate), spelling and grammar as it is possible to make it within the constraints of time and budget allocated to the project; and ensuring consistency, or adapting the author's conventions to follow the publisher's house style, where the publisher considers this to be necessary or appropriate. A.H. & A.W. Reed's house style takes up three pages of the Reed Deskbook for Writers (1973), compiled by Reed's editor Group Captain Arnold Wall (not to be confused with his father, Professor Arnold Wall), specifying styles for punctuation, abbreviations, dates, numbers, capitalisation, quotations, and so on. Many publishers consider that internal consistency of a manuscript is usually sufficient, but may invoke the conventions of a particular style manual for certain features or elements of a work, such as bibliographies or proper names. In the case of multi-author works (such as the present one), a style manual becomes a more central issue.

Apart from in-house style sheets—often unpublished or semi-published, such as Auckland University Press's The Preparation and Style of Manuscripts (4th ed. 1985)—publishers make use of a variety of more or less well-known manuals to ensure consistency within or between publications. Most of these derive from large overseas publishing firms, for example Hart's Rules (Oxford University Press), Judith Butcher's Copy-editing (Cambridge University Press), or the Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press). G.R. Hutcheson gives 'Some hints on copy and layout' in H.B. & J.'s Handbook (1938), although as a printer he is most concerned with clarity of instructions and design considerations. The only substantial New Zealand-published style manual was until recently The New Zealand Government Printing Office Style Book, first issued in 1958 and revised several times. A third edition appeared in 1981. It resurfaced in 1991 as The New Zealand Style Book and in its most recent incarnation is simply The Style Book (revised and expanded by D. Wallace and J. Hughes, 1995). Earlier issues carried an 'Official Section' devoted to the details of legislative publishing, and particular attention was given to the correct names of statutory bodies. A study of the various editions of this manual would also reveal interesting trends in the treatment of things characteristically New Zealand. Its current contents include guidance on punctuation, spelling, capitals, italics, abbreviations and symbols, measurement, nonsexist language and common confusions. Write, Edit, Print (1997), the most substantial style manual to be issued in New Zealand, is based on the conventions of the Australian Government Publishing Service Style Manual (5th ed. 1994), with substantial New Zealand input. Non-discriminatory language is one of its features, and it includes considerable practical detail on the making of books, from copy preparation to typesetting and printing.

Design and typography

Design includes format, choice of typeface, page layout, illustrations, and the design of the book jacket. One designer may be responsible for all parts of a book, but more frequently the cover will be designed separately (at a notably higher rate). The designer, whether freelance or in-house, is briefed by the editor chiefly responsible for the book. To a certain extent design decisions may be based on a house 'look'. Marketing considerations are also relevant here. Any discussion of the design aspects of publications is difficult to separate from considerations of typography relating to printing and production (see Chapter 2). Many amateurs and enthusiasts have taken an interest in this side of publication, and anyone who has ever dabbled in self- or desktop publishing appears to swiftly form firm opinions on typographical topics, particularly regarding legibility. Printers and designers notable for their influence in New Zealand include R. Coupland Harding; Denis Glover—whose correspondence with Oxford printer John Johnson is reproduced by D.F. McKenzie (1987)—Bob Lowry and others at the Caxton Press; and the historian J.C. Beaglehole. Many books are designed in-house and little study has been devoted to any development of a specifically New Zealand style. Dennis McEldowney attempted a survey of New Zealand trends in 'The typographical obsession' (1980). The recently instituted GP Print Book Design Awards (replacing the New Zealand Book Awards Production category—introduced to focus on design, but too broad in its criteria to accomplish this very successfully) offer its judge an opportunity to air opinions on design in book production. The thoughts of the first judge of the awards (Lindsay Missen) were published in 1997.

In the days of hot lead, typesetting was an integral part of the printer's establishment (and a printer's house style was often as influential as a publisher's). With the shift to photosetting after World War II, a number of independent firms were established, and to get the best prices publishers often contracted typesetting and printing separately. The general availability of cheap professional-standard 'desktop' typesetting systems since the late 1980s, and the provision of manuscripts on computer disk, has seen much typesetting work carried out in-house.

Proofing is usually a joint responsibility of author and publisher, defined in the author's contract. The careful reader may suspect that in many mass-market titles these days both parties have abdicated their responsibility and dispensed with this step altogether—or left it to the computer spell-check. The publisher's production editor will be responsible for checking the technical details of proofs—the grid, margins, folios, widows, orphans and the other arcana of page design. Instructions on proofreading are included in the style manuals cited earlier, and a rare and interesting historical glimpse into one house's practices is to be found in W.A. Glue's History of the Government Printing Office (1966).

The relationship between publisher and printer is crucial to the quality of the finished product. A number of New Zealand publishers have also been printers (for example Caxton, Whitcombe & Tombs, and the Government Printer). Since the 1970s much printing of New Zealand titles has taken place overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, for reasons of economics (especially in colour printing), quality assurance and the capacity to produce large casebound books or perform complex printing jobs. The arm's length nature of the relationship with an overseas printer obviously restricts communication and control and usually the delivery of Ozalids or dyelines provides the last opportunity for the publisher to rectify errors. The Industries Development Commission reported in 1978 on an appeal by the New Zealand Printing Industry Federation which wished to manufacture a greater proportion of New Zealand-published books (Book Production Inquiry, 1978), finding that restrictive tariffs on overseas printing would be unlikely to help, and would also contravene the Unesco Florence Agreement on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials (1952) to which New Zealand was a signatory. The Commission suggested that printers and publishers should cooperate to develop a small group of specialist manufacturers. Publishers' submissions to the Commission suggested they were not unhappy with the status quo. Recently local printers have been able to offer more competitive terms and the advantage of proximity is clearly appreciated by many publishers, whether or not the quality of the printed product has any bearing on a book's sales.