Creating EGO was like running a marathon in the dark. We knew vaguely where we were headed, but every step we took was a matter of trial and error. Then suddenly we were at the finish line, fatigued but triumphant, holding a printed proof in our hands. Only now do I feel brave enough to revisit some of the headaches we encountered during the publishing process.
Headache #1: Choosing a theme
When you have five people in a group, there’s a huge chance that you’re not going to be interested in the same things. This was certainly true during EGO’s brainstorming stage. Some of us wanted to write about feminism. Others wanted to write about how they were sick of feminism. Some of us wanted to write memoirs about our families. Others couldn’t think of anything duller. We decided that the only theme that could unify everything we wanted to talk about was ‘identity’, a topic that had well and truly been done to death. We hoped that if we called the anthology EGO people would at least think we were being ironic.
Headache #2: Editing
Our next challenge was getting the submissions into publishable shape. The pieces were mostly structurally sound but there was still a lot of work to be done: some paragraphs stretched on past 20 lines long; words were sometimes repeated jarringly several times in the same sentence; and there were one or two unreferenced claims that we found highly dubious. But since several of our authors were reluctant to have their work altered, we ended up performing quite a timid structural edit. The copyediting would be performed by our colleagues in the editorial department of the Bowen Street Press. We handed over the pieces along with a request that the editors respect the pieces’ integrity as much as possible. Unfortunately this would come back to bite us later.
Headache #3: Choosing a cover design
Although we had two amazing designers to help us, we still managed to make designing EGO difficult for ourselves. Our instructions were a little contradictory—we wanted the cover to be ‘edgy’ and the text design to be ‘conservative’—so it was anyone’s guess how it would turn out. One of my favourite parts of the design process was getting the first cover artwork back from the designers. As much as the team enjoyed the MS Paint aesthetic, we wondered if the artwork was polished enough to be the face of the anthology. Ultimately we went with a different cover design, but we decided to include one of the abstract heads from the original design on the final back cover as our unofficial mascot.
Headache #4: Proofreading 1st pages
When we got our 1st pages back from the typesetter we assumed we would just be scanning for errors and comparing them to the manuscript. But we soon discovered that very little had actually changed since we submitted the pieces for editing—clearly the copyeditors had taking our warning a little too much to heart. When we received 1st pages we panicked more than a little: That terrible sentence still hasn’t been changed. And that claim there, does that have a reference? Surely that story is defamatory. How did this not get picked up earlier!? After 10+ hours of proofreading (it was more like intense copyediting) we finally felt confident that the pieces were as good as they could be. With crossed fingers we bundled up the marked-up pages and sent them back to the typesetter, who, happily, was able to work her magic with them.
These four challenges tested our resourcefulness, our resilience and our knowledge of the publishing process. But there’s no chance that I’ll ever leave structural editing until proofreading ever again, so that has to be a good thing. Thanks EGO!