• Esther Harder

Those Last-Minute Production Surprises

I reached out to the printer about a week in advance of my intended production date, to let them know that I would soon be sending the Quarantine Kids cover and page files over and to ask for any additional templates or updates I might need. Thinking I would receive a quick “that's great, we're ready for you” response, I was surprised instead to read of an internal change that had a great impact on my book: They had replaced the printer they would have used to create my hardcover books, and the new printer had a larger minimum spine width. What did this mean for my project?

I had a choice to make: Either I needed to increase my page count by four to keep my book as a hardcover version (more pages = thicker spine), or I could change my plan and switch to a paperback copy and use my page count as-is (though we would have to adjust the layout slightly for the different type of binding).

A female soccer player in red cuts between two defending players in white, putting one player off-balance.
Caught off-guard by this news, I had to quickly change my footing to keep up with the play.

This was not a small decision! On the one hand, I strongly wanted a hardcover book. But that desire now came with increased cost. Adding four pages meant requesting additional illustrations from Dana. Four pages meant additional printing costs due to the thicker paper required to make the minimum spine width AND additional overall cost of having to print 36 pages instead of 32 for the book.

Even if I decided to foot the extra costs, there was the question of WHAT I would put on those additional four pages. I couldn't exactly just leave them blank! One option would be to see this as an opportunity to split some of the pages with weightier text onto more pages. But Dana and I were essentially on the finishing touches and revisions for the 32 pages we had planned on at that point, and I was a little hesitant to jump in with such bold moves.

The paperback option retained the same advantages and drawbacks it had from the beginning: cheaper production cost, but less durable overall. There was a reason I took on the hardcover copy as my goal in the first place: I wanted that durability. Though I accepted that the paperback option was probably safer in many ways (fewer changes this far into the process), I decided to press forward with converting the setback into an opportunity to do even more than I had imagined in my hardcover copy.

I considered the book from an educational perspective; if I were using this in a classroom or other read-aloud setting, what sorts of break-out activities would I have my listeners work on afterwards? What kinds of questions and follow-up thoughts did I want to facilitate?

This gave me an idea I seized upon: activity pages!

One way I could help grown-ups looking for ways to extend the reading experience with their children, or help children increase personal interaction with the book was to convert the follow-up questions that I would typically use in a guided reading setting into coloring pages. That way, a grown-up finishes reading the story, and instead of simply closing the book, they have some suggestions for how the child can continue to engage with the story somewhat independently.

Here are the first two of those four pages:

The additional benefit to choosing the activity page route was that the 32 pages we had already laid out could remain as-is, and these activities could be added as supplemental material at the end. I pitched the idea to Dana and made sure to suggest ways in which we could reuse illustration material from earlier pages in new ways to decrease the amount of fresh illustrations she needed to create this late in the game.

The educator in me was already totally content with this decision when I realized that having a story AND activity pages was a marketing advantage. This was a book PLUS a thing, all in one cover! Couldn't complain about that turn of events.

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