17 Apr Hi-Ho Silver Lining
There are fewer opportunities for authors with the traditional publishing houses these days, and if there’s one silver lining in that cloud, it’s that we get to work with them to make their books.
As soon as I read the first few pages of Jo Karaolis’s book, With Enough Love, I knew that it was good, good enough to have secured her a traditional publishing deal, if not now, then back in the day.
With Enough Love is a memoir that recounts the experience of a principal who took up the reins at a ‘ very special school’ after many years in charge of a privileged girls school in inner city Sydney. That she was initially led to believe it was a school for visually impaired children is just the beginning of a journey that did not go planned. It was so much better than that.
What’s it about? It’s a book about leadership. It’s a book about love. It’s a book about joy and it’s a book about grief.
My partner kept badgering me ‘Why didn’t Jo get a traditional publisher? Did she try?’ ‘I don’t know’, I’d reply, ‘I haven’t asked’. Normally I’m intensely curious about these things, but with this book I never found the right moment to ask.
Maybe I didn’t want to know in case Jo felt suitably encouraged by the question to try and find a traditional publisher at this point!
But I knew she wouldn’t do that, because in our dealings this author had been notably efficient and focused, as befits a former school principal. She had a launch date, and a launch planned. She had secured funding for the project. She was waiting to hear from Marie Bashir about the foreword. She’d been through a rigorous writing and editorial process, including as a participant at the Faber Writing Academy working with memoirist and mentor Patti Miller. She was ready to go and knew exactly what she wanted.
Enter the cover design process. Everybody in publishing’s favourite activity! Normally we find that this process goes more smoothly with self-publishing authors than we have experienced it in-house, probably because there is only one key stakeholder (the author) rather than: the publisher, the sales guy, the marketing person, the CEO, the production manager, the agent, the author, the guy from the mail room, etc. as does happen in the traditional houses.
But this was not an easy one. I loved all of Natalie Winter’s initial concepts. But none was quite right, for a range of reasons, some of which were just as subjective and unpredictable as you’d experience in-house.
Natalie had another go, using an illustration provided by the author. Not right either. Then the author sent through a painting done by one of her students. Bang. That was the image. Natalie did further concepts. She and Jo agreed on one, and then showed it to me. But I wasn’t happy. I felt it looked too educational and this was a warm, tender memoir. More concepts and finally we selected the cover we all loved. Gosh, even the cover design process was starting to look a lot like traditional publishing.
The foreword came in from Marie Bashir and then endorsements from David Gonski, Hugh Mackay and several eminent and influential people in the field of education. In a traditional publishing environment, buzz starts to build in-house around a book when these things come together. A publisher boasts about endorsements, a sales person is pumped up, a bookseller is informed, an order is placed or increased. I felt a familiar feeling of confidence build around this book as we neared the finish line.
There’s no sales person and no bookseller selling this book (yet) and that’s okay because the audience for this book can be reached directly by the author – herself an eminent and influential person in the field of education, although she wouldn’t put it that way. Humility is a feature of this memoir, despite the remarkable achievements of its author.
I’m a publisher, so I can’t help doing a bit of a sales pitch. It’s in my blood. Hey reader, read this book. You won’t regret it. And it might just change you. It did me.