Today, after altogether too much time waiting for the boxes to arrive from the printer, I took delivery of several cases of ARCs of Leona Wisoker’s Secrets of the Sands. (ARCs, just in case you have forgotten, are Advance Reading Copies. I’ve heard other interpretations of those letters, but they all boil down to the same thing: copies of the initial design of a book, printed for distribution to reviewers and other members of the book trade. In ARCs, the content of the book is stable, but the design may be tweaked during the review period: errors, design choices that didn’t work out, etc. may be corrected at final, but there are few significant differences between the ARC and the final version of a book.)
For a variety of reasons, I do the majority of Mercury Retrograde’s book design. Mercury Retrograde ARCs are no more flawless than anyone else’s; reasons for this include the fact that there are some mistakes no one involved in the project will catch until finished books are in hand and the fact that the minor things that make each design unique can’t be fully tested until the printer prints copies. I always caution writers that the ARCs of their books will have errors; that these things are inevitable and everyone who routinely receives ARCs understands the nature of the beast; that there is no need to freak out because there are any number of minor things we wish looked different, or because of the typographical error no one managed to catch.
But secretly (well, not so secretly any more) I too am hoping that this time, this time, we will have nailed it on the first try. That I will open the first case of books and discover PERFECTION, and choirs of angels will begin singing of the glory of the book, and I can just spend the next three months high-fiving myself.
I am inevitably disappointed. I feel that way again today.
It should be noted that the books in these boxes are perfectly good ARCs. I am particularly pleased with the overall cover design, which turned out almost exactly as I expected it to. In general I am pleased with the fonts we chose and how we deployed them, on both the interior and exterior. The Obligatory Fantasy Novel Map Ari Warner drew for us looks as fabulous as I knew it would. There are any number of other little design touches I am proud of, and of course I am over the moon with the fabulousness of the story itself.
But it is not perfect. The text on the spine is not quite centered, even though my design software told me it should be. Not heinously, embarrassingly off, but imperfect. Pleased as I am with the fonts we chose, this was the first time I had worked with most of them at this (6×9, Trade Paperback) form factor. It is evident to me on looking at the finished ARC, as it was not on the screen or on printed test pages, that I chose the wrong point size. And something has gone annoyingly wrong with the top margins and headers. Most frustrating of all, some of the interior graphics (not the map, thank goodness) are, well, squished.
I know what caused these issues; I know how to correct them. I know this is just the ARC, and there is nothing heinously wrong here. But, dammit, I wanted this one to be perfect.
Maybe next time.