I mentioned in Part 1 that I started off with poem cards in 1997. I was still working at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh at that time, at first as Chief Librarian, then as Garden Secretary and later Director of Corporate Services, so that didn’t leave much time for publishing. In 2000 I published my first pamphlet, an anthology of 200 haiku by pupils in West Lothian schools. In 2001 I published an anthology of work by West Lothian writers, and then I moved to Dunbar at the end of 2000 and started to make connections with East Lothian writers.
I started off using MS Publisher to design my publications, and I’ve stuck with it through its various incarnations. It’s mostly fine, and I’m used to its little quirks, but it can sometimes be an absolute swine of a program when it won’t let me re-sequence publications. I’ve found that I have to start again with new templates, importing text files sequentially. I mostly produce A5 pamphlets, up to 36 pages of poems with 4 pages for the prelims – title page, verso, contents page and a dedication. I have done a few larger publications which use perfect binding, mainly for short story collections.
I’ve used a number of different printers too, based in Livingston, Glenrothes, Levenmouth, and my current ones, MDPD in Musselburgh. I like using local firms, and Sandra and Dave have become my friends. I like that too.
I mentioned that I try to match the typography to the style of an author’s poems. I usually ask authors which font (if any) they have in mind. Most are content to leave the choice up to me, but one specified Arial, so that’s what he got, despite me not being too keen on it. My favourite sans serif font is Verdana, and that’s what I use on the Calder Wood Press website. I’ve used a lot of different serif fonts in my time, with Georgia being my favourite for websites. I like Century Schoolbook, Bookman Old Style, and Goudy for print, but I’ve also used Palatino, Minion and a few others. The ‘house’ font for my colophon is Copperplate Gothic Light, and my display font for letterheads etc is Neurochrome, printed in green. Some poems have long lines, and benefit from narrower fonts with less space between letters, others look better set with wider, fatter, more rounded letters.
Same with line spacing. Densely spaced lines sometimes need opening out a bit, giving them more white space, so I’ll often use 1.15 line spacing.
I like striking and colourful covers, if I think sales will justify the cost. Sometimes authors supply cover images; other times I do them from scratch. I use Photoshop for cover design, and a variety of display typefaces for author and title.
Mostly I prefer to publish an author’s first collection, and I stop at that. Occasionally I publish an author more than once, but that’s rare. I’ve published three collections by Mary Johnston; one of stories and two of poems, all in the Doric. I don’t read unsolicited submissions; if I want to publish someone, I will contact them. I’ve also used the press for self-publication, for two of my own pamphlets, and for Kindle editions of my out-of-print collections (available from Amazon).
When I started off I would publish maybe three or four titles a year, but as my confidence grew I upped the numbers, until in 2010 I published ten titles, which was way too much. I’ve cut back a lot, not publishing any in 2014, and only two in 2015. It’s a lot of effort, and I know it has reduced my writing time, as well as putting a strain on my cashflow and my storage space.
I learned website design many years ago using Dreamweaver software, but I’ve never ‘upskilled’, as they say. It’s a plain vanilla static site without any bells or whistles. It does the job, although it’s been through a number of style and design changes over the years.
There are, quite rightly, concerns about the gender balance in publishing. There are at least as many good women writers as men writers, so why is this not reflected in the numbers of books published? I didn’t at any time set out with any deliberate re-balancing agenda in mind, but for the record, I’ve published titles by 12 men, 22 women, and 4 anthologies by mixed groups. I like the poetic voices of women – it’s just the way I am.
So, what’s the future looking like for Calder Wood Press? I honestly can’t see me doing any new printed pamphlets, but I’ve got a number of e-book projects in the pipeline. It seems like a good idea for those titles which will never have big sales, but which I think are still worthy of publication. And the same editorial standards I apply to printed works also apply to digital publications, although the technology is different.