[I asked Pat Shepherd, Project Manager of Lerner Books UK, to share her insights from the other side of the pond.]
Lerner Books UK, a new division of Lerner Publishing Group, launched February 2008. Little did anybody know just how it was going to go, but the spirits of all concerned in the US and the UK were willing and able and so we sallied forth!
The first thing I had to do at the UK end was choose our first year’s publishing list from the established LPG publishing programme. There were hundreds of really great fiction and non-fiction books to choose from. I waded through them all, finding it very hard to take many of them off the list as I liked so many of them. But eventually I had around 350 titles which needed to be reduced to 180.
At that point, I formed a focus group of UK teachers and librarians. The team consisted of primary teachers, primary librarians, secondary teachers, secondary librarians as well as public librarians and even special-needs specialists. They went through all the short-listed books, selecting those which they felt were most applicable to UK schools and which fitted with the current curriculum. They were such a great asset as I could be comfortable that these teachers and librarians really knew what was needed.
So now we had our list of titles but they couldn’t be taken just as they were because of the American spelling and grammar. That had to be changed to be acceptable to the UK teachers, especially for the books aimed at the youngest age range.
At that point, I searched for editorial help to work on the Anglicization. We appointed a packager who had lots of experience in this field. That’s when my eyes were opened to the fact that both countries may speak English but in some respects they really are quite different. Obviously, as Jon Fishman pointed out in his blog, I too knew about color versus colour and honor versus honour. Punctuation is quite different as Americans use the comma far more often than we do especially at the ends of lists having the comma before the last item such as ‘pears, apples, and bananas’ instead of ‘pears, apples and bananas’. That was the kind of detail we needed to be looking at and making sure we had it absolutely correct. If we didn’t get this right then the customers would soon be telling us what was wrong and most importantly they would not buy.
So all the books were very carefully edited and the differences put right prior to them being printed. Without Jon managing things in the US office, much of what we achieved would not have happened as smoothly as it did. (Below are two covers, one is the US version; the other is the British version. Can you guess which is which?)
Another aspect which needed to be looked at was the size of the pages of the books. LPG had some great little readers for the very youngest children but all the focus group agreed, along with several of our most experienced customers who acted as wholesalers for the schools, that the page size was too small. We needed to increase the page size by at least 4cms in both dimensions—height and width (from 6 1/4 x 7 to 180mm x 203mm). Therefore pictures needed to be looked at closely to see if they could increase in size without losing the quality of the picture. Those that couldn’t take this increase in page size had to be dropped from the list or new photographs had to be found and quickly to enable that book to be included.
We chose a printer in the Far East who could help us get the books through customs at the docks and into the warehouse in time for publication. In that first year we often hadn’t got the books into the warehouse in time. And there were many reasons. Sometimes too many ships were coming in at the same time. This meant that deliveries would be sitting on board a container ship at Rotterdam waiting to cross the channel when they were given a delivery slot. At other times storms at sea delayed the progress of the ships which arrived late into the docks. Our newly printed catalogues disappeared for a month as they arrived at the docks with no labels so nobody knew what they were or where they were destined for. So they sat on the dock side for a month. Eventually they were found and we had the pleasure of receiving a hefty invoice for storage charges at the docks!
In January 2008 the list was launched and our first catalogue was found and delivered. They were mailed out to all the key accounts and many school librarians. Almost immediately we were working on the second list so there was no chance to sit back with any sense of pride at what had been achieved although a virtual glass or two were raised. We got there—by the skin of our teeth.