Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Behind the Books: Ups and Downs and Ups

Last week I started telling the story of a series Mary Kay Carson and I began working on in 2007, before it was postponed indefinitely. So what happened?

Finally, after three years of waiting (not so patiently), we got the good news/bad news email. The good news was that the books would be published and had even be scheduled. The “bad” news was that they would be published as part of a newly conceptualized series.

But as far as we were concerned, it was doubly good news. Because the new series would have gatefolds. How cool is that?

And there was even more good news. Our editor had returned, and would pick up where she had left off.So I delved into the research and planning stages of the project.

But guess what--it turns out writing a 48-page book with four vertical gatefolds and three horizontal gatefolds is a big challenge conceptually and organizationally.

Almost every spread has a page that folds up or out. Vertical photos or diagrams or features or tables are perfect for vertical gatefolds, but not so good for horizontal ones. So coming up with an outline involves much more than understanding the scientific concepts backward and forward, inside and out. I also had to constantly and carefully think about how readers will interact with the final book. I love new challenges, but honestly, there were some frustrating moments when it seemed like the books would never come together.

But finally they did. Inside Volcanoes and Inside Earthquakes were written, laid out, proofed endlessly, and finally made it to the printers. But then, there was another snafu. A major quake struck Japan in March 2011, and the marketing folks really wanted to add it to the book.

So Inside Earthquakes was pulled back and we quickly changed the very first gatefold image to highlight the recent quake. We also tweaked the text here and there to include mentions of it as appropriate. Then it went back to the printer and w all hoped there wouldn’t be another big quake too soon.

And now they’re finally out, and they look really great.


  1. They ARE great!!! I've been reading "Inside Earthquakes" and I love it. I like the fold-outs and fold-ups but never thought about the logistics of being the writer/layout person for that. Wow - now I'm doubly impressed.

  2. Thanks, Sue. I love a new challenge, so I had a blast working on these books.

  3. We bought "Inside Volcanoes" two weeks ago, and my five-year-old loves the book. This morning I did a double take. We had checked out "What's the Weather" from the library and were plotting our wind stick project. Didn't I recognize that author's name? Yes, it was another Melissa Stewart book! You have some big fans in this house.

  4. So glad you like the books. And thanks for ther great post on your blog.