How words get good

We take a break from Kate vs Showbiz, for a quick trip to Stratford Literary Festival.

20220510_084301One of the best things to come out of our writing efforts, is that we’ve taken to visiting literary festivals. I’m still proud that we actually appeared at one (was it really 2016?) but mostly have enjoyed going along and listening to other people.

A busy calendar precluded my literary entertainment for either of us this year, but I did manage to fit in a lunchtime session called “How words get good” by Rebecca Lee.

Based on the book of the same name, the author has worked in publishing at Penguin Press for over 20 years – and this is the distillation of her experiences.

Basically, if you want to know who does what and how in the book world, then it’s an excellent read. Working in publishing, it’s especially interesting to me as the truth is, I fell into my job and don’t know that much about the nuts and bolts other than the bits I look after.

The festival session provided an excellent taster with some fun anecdotes, but mainly served its main purpose, propelling me towards the bookshop!

The book is a bit like a rich chocolate cake – lovely, but I read it in short chunks as I don’t want to gobble too much down in one go.

Along the way, we get to look behind the curtain at how things are done in the book world. For example, did you know that James Patterson doesn’t write his own books? Apparently, he maintains a stable of ghost authors to whom he delivers a detailed plot outline, and then provides feedback as they knock out the words. I guess that in the publishing world, this is well known, but not among the readers.

There’s also an explanation of the various roles in a publishing house showing how each hones the text until it becomes a finished product. The way I describe it sounds very dry, but this is a very readable book, perfect for anyone who likes books in more than just a casual way.

Personally, I was fascinated to reach this entry, spotted in the index:

Parker, Phillip M., and his 200,000 books. 58-59

It seems that Mr Parker (not me, I only have one L, and my middle initial is S) has a computer that writes books for him including the epic Containers of Fromage Frais. Good for the Amazon receipts, but surely lacking soul…

 

 

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Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

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