The Neuroticism of Accomplishment (#16 in a series)
In the picture book world, for those unfamiliar, authors and illustrators are given the opportunity to have a look-see at what their soon-to-be, real-life book will look like. It is an assemblage of pages called an F&G, which stands for folded and gathered.
It is all the printed pages of the book, trimmed and loosely gathered, in order—including the cover—but without any binding. It comes towards the end of the long wait which may have begun a couple of years earlier—between signing a contract and holding a physical book in your hands.
This is no time for proofing or editing the text or deciding you want to change or fix the art. That should have all been taken care of in the myriad of back and forths between you and the editor and/or art director leading up to this point. The book has been printed just not assembled and bound.
The primary reason for F&Gs is so the publisher’s sales team can begin pre selling the title to bookstores. The second reason is for reviewers to have an advance look at the book and to (hopefully) give it a starred review. And finally, it is a teaser for the writer and illustrator, maybe to reengage their enthusiasm, if not to remind them what they had finished months and months before. And in my case, there is the rub. What I thought was ready six months or nine months or eighteen months earlier is riddled with things I want to change. Or fix. Or improve. Of course at this point any changes or fixes or improvements, unless horrifically and catastrophically necessary, are completely out of the question. The publisher is not going to go back and print another 10,000 or more copies because you don’t like the smile of the cat on page 23.
Cue the anxiety.
Virtually—no, literally—every time I’ve received F&Gs my stress level rises. I don’t even want to look at them. I dread the discovery of all the things I wish I had done differently. I am certain the book would be SO much better if they would only let me make a few (a lot) of alterations. Alas.
But just as consistently, when I finally do page through my F&Gs I am pleasantly surprised…it is not near the train wreck I thought it’d be. No, in fact it is pretty darn good. Huh! Who’d have thought?
It is irrational and neurotic, I know. I think that is part of being a creative. I’m okay with that. I guess I have to be. But I wish I could receive my F&Gs with the same thrill and excitement as when I start a project, and without the fear and dread just once.
I am absolutely sure I am the only writer and/or illustrator that experiences this. In the whole world.
There, it feels better to come clean about this.
PS The winner of Patricia Toht’s ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS (from Suzanne Slade’s April 25th post) is Julie LaCombe!