Judge a Book by its Cover, the Seagull Way

‘Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover’ would seem like any other usual quote a person would come across often. However, one of the more interesting revelations came when I began my journey at Seagull and peered at the cover designs to assess a book, causing constant debates in my head all along. This quotation, usually more conspicuous to a larger audience, seemed like an anomaly all of a sudden in the Seagull setting. To end this debate as a matter of fact, we can all say the effect of the quotation is to not eventually give a verdict on the book but to incite interest in the reader from the abstract portrayal. However, for a second thought it does stir some perplexity in a rookie mind.

My initial days in retrospect were precisely as I had expected them to be: exciting, informative and intriguing. The sessions plunged into discussing the mode of business in the publishing industry, then to different operational models and then the organizational set-up of a publisher. The roles of a publisher, various types of editors, designer and a typesetter in a publishing house didn’t seem like any other corporate setting but rather much more collaborative and social.

The sentiments of an author, editor and a publisher require a much more sensitive heart to fathom, since they have existed to set the paradigms of the publishing industry. These paradigms, much more difficult to write down, encompass issues like copyright, royalty agreements, distribution structures, translation rights, etc. These issues have witnessed shifts in their paradigms in the last couple of decades only for a story to be told and understood, again, for us to acquaint ourselves with the past of the existing scenario.

One of the more interesting aspects of the orientation days was the story of the manuscript, from an author to the readers’ hand. Since it wasn’t as bumpy as my travel every day from home to school turned out to be, I was just more inquisitive to know the different paths a manuscript could tread on. My travel options could range from hailing a cab (in case of a time rush), walking to this other main road and catching a bus or taking an auto-rickshaw with a switchover on the way or just a good forty minute walk, given I’m in good mood and good health. On the other hand, a manuscript could be procured from a struggling writer waiting to get a shot for his work to be published, or find an author to commission and get the desired opinions on a particular subject. It could also be that the publisher has to deal with a time-taking, introspective, pensive writer which could possibly send the publisher into the autumn of his life, but again who doesn’t want to enlist a good title in their catalogue. Another expedition could be an unfinished work of an author handed over to be co-written and finished, to be brought to life for the larger good.

Truth be told, there is still a lot to learn and explore and neither can I record the humongous web of information out there in this candid style.

Tanay Jain

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