Collaborative Book Making

Produce a book in five days? Or, even quicker, produce one in 12 hours? Is that really possible? Organisations like Book Sprint and Book Dash have proved that it is. And a key to making it happen is collaboration. On a writing Masterclass with Getsmarter I did a few years ago I learnt what many book writers know already: that the process involved in having a book published traditionally is lengthy. Apart from actually writing the book (which took me the ten months of the Masterclass), publishing can take as long as 18 months after acceptance of a manuscript.

Book Dash, by contrast, does everything from the initial script to completed layout in just one day. They do this in a slick process of bringing together selected teams of writers, editors, illustrators and designers. These four-person teams work feverishly, producing one of twelve spreads every 45 minutes, until the book is complete. In Book Sprint the writing takes place during the Sprint, whereas in Book Dash the writer comes up with the story concept prior to the Dash. In the latter, therefore, the pressure on the day really lies with the illustrator. I took part in the October 2022 Book Dash in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, at a beautiful location in Kloof. I took part as a writer. Prior to the date I submitted to my team my children’s story on a template of twelve spreads. Then on the day I watched the illustrator, Cristy Zinn, draw one illustratable concept per spread onto her iPad Pro using a stylus and the software Procreate. Once done, she sent each spread to the designer, Salma Haffejee, who set it in a predetermined layout. In between, Salma designed the endpapers and chose one of Cristy’s illustrations for the title page. During the day, our editor, Zanri Kritzinger (who is a full-time employee of Book Dash), consulted with myself about the story flow. This meant that when Cristy sent in her last spread at about 7pm (and was able to uncramp her fingers), Salma slotted it in place and our children’s book was done!

One of the main reasons Book Dash has formulated this model is that it provides its published books free. This 12-hour process, manned by volunteers, cuts out the costs of traditional publishing. (For more information on Book Dash’s social impact publishing visit their website.) But I wonder if this model could be spread to traditional publishing, too? In the latter, for picture books, illustrators are generally appointed by the publisher and don’t work in conjunction with the writer. But I learnt so much in the Dash from seeing how illustrators and designers work. I got to understand their requirements better, saw how my writing could make their jobs easier. I enjoyed the repartee, making suggestions, hearing suggestions in return. It really made our book, The Sausage Dog, come alive! Collaboration was key.


2 thoughts on “Collaborative Book Making

    • Hi Camilla – I wrote with pictures in mind, but more what the pictures should DO, than their style per se. And what the pictures should DO formed part of the collaborative aspect of Book Dash and I am happy that this was achieved!

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