31: Production Schedule, Part I

31 May 2011

Until recently, if I wasn’t pushing, the book didn’t move. Now, due to the HotHive’s wonderful publishing and design team, everything’s swinging along. From February through May, this has been (the first half of …) our production schedule.


The cover is a photo taken by a NASA spacecraft in 2004 and precisely sums up the book. From the beginning, it was the only image I was going to have on the front. I was told how to licence it in November, wrote to NASA on 9 January and secured their sanction for its use on 29 January. Boomshanka.

After they’d agreed to the concept, the HotHive’s designer, Charlotte, drew it up in 14 styles, using different fonts for the words ‘The Jolly Pilgrim’. Those 14 draft covers stayed on our kitchen table for a week, while I asked for the opinion of anyone passing through. They all picked the same one. Ergo: no brainer.

Desk Edit

Next, Sara, the production manager, had to make sure there really was nothing in the book which might cause someone to (have reasonable grounds to) sue me. She came up with two potential issues: a claim I cannot prove and a statement that might offend a billion people. We altered those bits. Now the grounds anyone might have for suing me are even less reasonable.

End Matter

The Jolly Pilgrim will come with a bibliography, appendices and technical notes. The HotHive asked for these straight after getting the manuscript. I drafted them, Stephen Brierley arranged them and we sent them off a week after striking the deal. The acknowledgements section now includes a thank you to NASA.

Design Choices

This came down to three decisions:

1) Should there be photos (and which ones)?
2) Should there be maps (and how many)?
3) Should there be graphics (and what style)?

All three questions proved unexpectedly controversial. The trick is to strike a balance between simplicity, the richness of the physical object and allowing no cheesiness to dilute it. There were two schools of thought: minimalist (words only) and non-minimalist (words plus more). During the ensuing creative debate I was called a ‘tit’ and a ‘demented perv’ (which is how my production team roll).

We ended up near the minimalist end of the spectrum: no graphics, four maps and 15 photos: the key advice on which came from Si (my thesis advisor): ‘no pictures of your ugly mug – the photos are to demonstrate that the story is real, the Earth is this beautiful and to inspire the reader to ethereal flights of fancy.

Like, totally.

Pre-order the book

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

2 Responses to “31: Production Schedule, Part I”

  1. Mark Cube Says:

    Ok I called you a tit, but I actually steered you away from a graphical element that resembled “a demented car perv’s bunting”
    As a fan of accuracy I’m sure you’ll realise the difference between that and being directly called a demented perv. You tit.

  2. Jim de Seve Says:

    May the seed of your loins lie fruitful in the belly of your woman.

Leave a Reply