The British Fantasy Society recently announced the shortlist for its annual awards, and two of my books are up for awards…
… except you won’t see my name on the list because I didn’t write those books; I didn’t even publish them. My only contribution was to take the manuscripts from the publisher and turn them into eBooks. I’ve formatted scores of eBooks and print books over the past year, so you would probably guess that I’ve forgotten or care little about most of them, unless they are nominated for awards. Not so!
Before I began to offer a freelance book-formatting service, I thought long and hard. In fact, I captured my thoughts in a post: On the Importance of Making Things. My concern was that book formatting takes a lot of time to do properly and doesn’t pay well. I need to earn money to provide for my family, so I can’t do this work as an indulgence, but I went ahead anyway because I have a pent-up need to make things.
Which is why I have this strange sense of benign interest, even ownership of the books I’ve worked on. If it’s not too disturbingly biological a parallel: if the author and publisher are a book’s mother and father, then I’m a distant uncle from a far-off country who likes to keep abreast of the child’s growth. Except it’s even more distant than that … perhaps a secret uncle who dares not reveal his identity, a publishing Jean Valjean … because I sometimes build anthologies for publishers where I have no contact with the authors directly. Neil Gaiman, for example, won’t know who I am, but I have built a book featuring one of his stories. Jean Valjean… yes, I like that
It’s also why it doesn’t make much difference to my sense of ownership whether I’m working with a debut, self-publishing novelist, or working on the back catalogue of an author who’s been high on the bestseller lists and won international awards. The books I’ve built that give me the greatest satisfaction are the ones where the finished book looks the best, and where I made the most contribution — often the books with a lot of images and interesting fonts that I’ve chosen with the author.
I’ve met Kim Lakin-Smith and Liz Williams, the authors of the books short-listed for BFS awards, though I doubt either of them remember me or are particularly interested in who made the eBook editions. Which is absolutely fine. I do remember meeting Liz Williams briefly because I was at the launch party in London for A Glass of Shadow. I remember the event well because I took my family along. Eric Brown was there and he bought me a lovely pint of Sam Smith’s stout while my son tried to impress Eric’s daughter by showing off his Transformers skills.
So fingers-crossed for Kim and Liz. I’m lurking here in my far-off country and wishing your books luck at the awards.
UPDATE 17 May
The BFS have published the list of nominated works, including those that didn’t make the shortlist. I felt as if in some very small way I’d arrived, because I had built the eBook edition of four more nominated titles: Ill at Ease, The Mill, Diary of a Witchcraft Shop, and Further Conflicts; I publish one of these books through Greyhart Press (The Mill) and long before I’d ever thought of publishing or building eBooks, I placed a story in the Further Conflicts anthology. Of course, it would be nice to actually win something. But it’s not a bad start.