Friday, 27 June 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #9 ('Here's Looking at You' edition)

Last week I took to Twitter to share this quote:

So where's it from? Well, I'm pleased to report it's from the introduction to Helen's second collection of poetry, Here's Looking at You Kid, which Valley Press will be publishing in 2014 - you heard it here first!

You can't buy, or even pre-order Helen's new volume yet - we're still putting the finishing touches to the text - but I'm telling you about it today (just like I discussed a November title in digest #7) because I've realised the following:

  1. I spend at least 75% of my working week on titles that won't be released for many months in the future.
  2. I have been avoiding talking about these titles because I felt it was wiser to talk about books that are out, and you can actually buy now.
  3. As a result of points 1 and 2, I will struggle to fill these blog posts on an average week (as we saw in digests #4 and #5) - because I can't tell you about 75% of the stuff I'm doing!

I could (and perhaps will) remedy this by putting the webpages for books online earlier in the production process - in fact that's quite a good idea, why didn't I think of that before! Someone make a note! But it's getting fairly late in the day, so for now I'll just concentrate on telling you more about what should be our seventh book of the year.

The official release date for Here's Looking at You Kid is the 17th October, though I plan to print copies well before that; part of the new Valley Press publishing strategy is to print and promote titles early, when it can still make a big difference (I'll let you know how that goes). I want to say right away how excited I am about this book - people have been falling over themselves to praise Helen's first volume, The Ruby Slippers, over the last few years, and I think this new offering is even better.

Part of the reason for that is how this collection was brought together: it is filled with 'Poems by Request', a fact which (as you can see below) gets a mention on the front cover. Helen is a poet constantly on tour, and she makes time at each stop to take 'requests' from the audience, for favourite poems from her oeuvre. The new collection brings these together (minus any already in Ruby Slippers); poems selected by the public and tested on audiences all over the world. Each one is someone's favourite - but which will be yours? (That's not a bad line actually... must add that to the blurb.)

So here's what looks likely to be the final cover:

I got this on my sixth attempt, which is pretty much 'par for the course' for VP book cover designs. For those who are interested, here is a rogues' gallery of all six:

The main problem I had was that the cover illustration (which is by the author - the book is fully illustrated, by the way) is the same aspect ratio as a Valley Press book; meaning if I reproduced it full-size, it would fill the whole front cover exactly, leaving no room for any text. So then, how to crop or shrink it for best effect? The other problem was how to combine the undeniably fun, hippie-esque ethic of the book, with the fact that actually it happens to be poetry, thank you very much, and poetry book covers must be serious. (Serious-ish.) I hope you like what we ended up with.

Helen was my very first 'signing' as a full-time publisher, so working with her again is like stepping back in time, in a sense. I started Valley Press over the new year, 2010/2011, and when I properly sat down to work, one of the first things I did was to write to Helen and ask if she'd be interested in doing a full-length collection (I'd read some of her self-produced pamphlets, and seen her read a couple of times - I considered myself a 'fan'). I spent my £200 'will it work' grant from the Prince's Trust on the first print run of The Ruby Slippers, and after the launch event at the Poetry Cafe, duly reported back that it had worked, and I did have a business idea worth pursuing, after all. Here are a couple of pictures from that launch, more-or-less exactly three years ago:

Oh, and for extra kicks, the launch poster:

It was all so exciting back then ... everything was a 'first', in this case the first VP event held outside Yorkshire. I sold copies of the book on the train, both there and back, to the people I was sitting across from - magical days! And you know what, I feel exactly as excited about the new book, having written all this. So I should put that to use and work on it! (See you next week.)

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