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Collaborating on Christian Cameron’s Novel

Christian Cameron’s historical fiction novel Tom Swan & the Head of St George was a project that relied on collaboration. Sometimes what makes a book a success is recognising you may not be the best person to execute a particular job. We talk about collaborating on books and how the link between author, co-partner, and TJ INK worked…

The Author, Christian Cameron

1. Well done on publishing Tom Swan & the Head of St George. What’s it about?

Tom Swan is a young Englishman in the mid-fifteenth century who is exploring the world and seeing the Italian renaissance. He’s a bit of a thief, a bit of an amateur archaeologist, a spy and sometimes even a soldier.

2. What has been your writing journey up to this point?

Well I’ve written twenty three books, published by Harper Collins and Orion and Random House… I put out all the Tom Swans as serials hoping to capture an e-book audience, and lo and behold, a solid core of fans wanted a hardback!

3. What do you think makes a good book – both in terms of writing and production?

In production, a good book opens and closes naturally and doesn’t lose pages in the first five or six readings. A good book is printed on good paper and has good, readable fonts. Copy-editing matters, as do production values. As to writing, that can be a matter of taste. For me, a good book feels right; there is no pause in the reader’s suspension of disbelief. But it should also teach something, have something of the author’s passion and belief system in it.

“He did let me choose the cover image – first publisher to do that!”

4. Do you have a particular routine or process when you write?

I write every day, five hours a day.

5. You had the running sheets for 100 copies sent to Canada for you to sign. What was the reason for this?

Fans like signed volumes and that’s why my friend and co-partner, Robin, set up this edition.

6. Why did you decide to have Robin take control of the design for you?

I feel that Robin understands this business (historical fiction) better than I, and frankly, I write for a living, so I was happy to let Robin take it away. However, he did let me choose the cover image – first publisher to do that!

7. What books helped or inspired you to write your own?

Many, many books, but I’ll name a couple. Dumas’ Three Musketeers, Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander and Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings.

Christian Cameron

A screenshot from designing the cover for Tom Swan

The Designer, Robin Carter

1. Why did you decide to accept the task of doing the text and cover design of Christian Cameron’s novel?

I have been both a fan of Christian’s work and a friend (I hope) for a number of years. This all came about due to my love of books and historical fiction, the fact that over the last twenty years I have been collecting signed first editions and that I always seek out the next “Great Read.” Christian’s books have always been that.

This has eventually led to, after a desire expressed by many readers, to have a hardback version of the ebook series Tom Swan. Christian then asked me if I might be interested in producing this. To be honest, it was a challenge I couldn’t turn down. One day I want my name to be in the author’s position on a book release, but until then, the next best thing is to use my time for amazingly fun and rewarding things like this.

2. How did the collaboration between yourself, Christian and TJ INK work? Did it work?

I have a good working collaboration with Christian. We have released many signed, limited editions, ones that are published by his main publisher but needed to be signed and have that extra something (in the case of my shop it’s a unique ink stamp).

The logistics of shipping and crafting the artwork of the stamp has always been interesting , and I have always ensured I have included Christian in my decision making.

I cannot speak highly enough of the help provided by Hannah at TJ INK, she has been immeasurably patient and understanding, and guided me every baby step of the way through this publishing process.

“It sounds nuts but I have learned so much and still feel there is more to learn.”

3. As we all know, shoddy design can ruin a book. Were you given a brief from Cameron on what he wanted the book to look like?

I provided Christian with a layout for a cover that I thought would work really well with the non dust jacket style, thankfully he agreed and he also provided the basis for the artwork. From there I worked with my friend and talented artist Dave Slaney, a contact who I have worked with over the years and have pushed under the bus with many other authors looking for exceptional cover art. The end result I have to say is simply wonderful.

4. What was the trickiest part?

The formatting. It’s sounds nuts but I have learned so much and still feel there is more to learn. I think the grammatical layout could be a little tighter (and that’s my failing whilst formatting), but there were so many things I knew nothing about, grey scale conversion, embedding fonts. I mean who knew that a space has a colour designation? (that took some finding!)

5. What tips or advice would you give to people looking to do their own interior and/or exterior book design?

If you have a good network then go for it, but expect to find out that you need an expert. For me, looking towards book two, I will weigh up the time spent v cost and also the time saved by having TJ INK assist with the formatting. Artwork is personal. I think you should source an artist who you are truly happy with.

Take the time to find the right format, right image and right layout. It’s this that will capture your buyers first, it’s only after you catch their eye that they will read the blurb.

6. What have you found most rewarding about the experience?

It’s publishing, I found every step rewarding. I’m fairly upfront on the topic that if I had my time again I would go into publishing. Books are my passion and I’m just grateful that people like Christian give me a chance to learn and do new things within that sphere.

7. You’re already working on Christian Cameron’s next book. Is there anything you will do differently for this one?

Skills wise, I’m a project and resource co-ordinator in my day job. I didn’t apply all my working knowledge to producing this book, mainly because I was so new to this part of publishing, but also because I was relying on my network of friends who kindly offered their support, (next time,they will be paid).

You can find out more about Christian Cameron and his brilliant books over on his website.