Publishing a book in a year

Publishing a book in a year: October 2023

Last month we sent in revision 4 of the book. The final manuscript. With no further reviews. It was with a huge sigh of relief and a great sense of excitement. Mixed in with a little “oh my, this is really going to get published now”. 

So what happens next?

Well once a book is finally submitted there is still a lot of decisions to be made. The work still needs to be edited. The cover needs designing. The type needs to be set. I still needed to list every figure – explain where it had come from and whether we had received permission or whether permission was still needed. 

Side note – Figure 6.16 is missing. I cannot find it anywhere. It is gone. I have checked my camera and my phone, I literally have no idea what I did with it. It’s a photo. I have a whole series of photos that look similar to it, but are not it. The reason I say this is, in the excitement of finishing the book, I got sloppy with keeping a record of where my figures came from. Most of them I either kept in folders, or had links to them on line – but Figure 6.16 is a mystery. 

So this month was about making a start on all of that.

It involved meetings to discuss cover designs. I have to say, it has been a great honour to be involved in these meetings. I will provide a little more context why. The IStructE (the Institution of Structural Engineers) who are publishing this book currently have two book ranges, manuals and guides. Both of them are, to a greater or lesser extent, “how to’s”. This book is not a “how to” but something else – for want of a better phrase it’s “thought leadership” – and they don’t have a line of thought leadership books – until now. So I am not just having meetings to discuss the cover of our book, but also future books (one of which is another book I’ve been slowly working on!). Which feels like an incredible privilege. 

We met last week to discuss cover designs. The designer had carried out some research and it turns out that thought leadership books have a type. They make heavy use of typology. So the new range will do the same. The book title, “The Regenerative Structural Engineer” both explains exactly what the book is about – it isn’t about how to make projects regenerative – it is about how to be regenerative. And the books target audience is structural engineers – my people. And yet it is also problematic. Because most people are not structural engineers – but they may still find the book useful. In the same way that I am not a farmer but still found the book “English Pastoral” by James Rebanks really helpful. Our hope is that this book explains what regenerative design is and how you start to act regeneratively in a way that is accessible. Using a large number of case studies. And simple diagrams. It takes complex ideas and explains them using simple language and everyday items (like bookshelves). And so we hope that anyone involved in the built environment will be able to use and enjoy the book, and in fact we hope that it will also be useful to others as well.

Sorry – long thought. The point is, that the cover we have opted for hopefully express’s this. The title remains intact, but the word regenerative takes up ¾ of the cover. It is the main focus. We love how it captures our thoughts about the book. And seeing the cover of your book for the first time is genuinely a joy.

The second main outcome of October is that the first two chapters have now been edited. I checked them through. My process is simple – I print out the chapters – without any of the changes noted – and read through it with a pencil. Noting where there are mistakes, or meanings have been lost. It’s like reading the book for the first time. I have to hold back the desire to start work on a revision 5! Instead focussing on whether this is a true likeness of revision 4 – but with all my grammatical mishaps removed. 

Side note – it is helpful to know the level of edit before you send your book in for review. Different publishers have very different approaches. You don’t want to spend hours correcting every grammatical error, if someone else is going to do this for you, but you also don’t want to send in a book expecting someone else to edit it – for it to be printed as submitted. It is also worth checking what you can change once it goes for type setting – as often you won’t be able to change very much, if anything. If possible you should submit the book as close to finished and in a format you are happy with, as possible.

Overall it was a fantastic job. But – and I am a little embarrassed about this – reading it in this way – as if someone else has written it – I realised that I had author bio envy – which is hilarious – as I had written both author bios, my own and Oli’s, my co-authors! However I realised that whilst writing his was a joy, writing mine, I had failed to mention some key aspects, like the fact I’m a Professor of sustainable design! I had tried to be dry and self-deprecating but on reflection maybe I should have tried to put my best foot forward. So I am hoping to update this before the book is published.

So what next – well if all goes to plan, in the first week of November I will read through the 8 remaining chapters – and then the book will be type set. Looking forward to sharing this part of the journey next month.   

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