You know, it’s all very well to write a book, but it takes rather a lot of other clever people to put it all together and make it publishable. I thought it only fair that you meet some of them…
My first book, Persia in Peckham, although every bit as much of a labour of love, is devoid of photos (although it does have some delightful line drawings by Carlos Calvet). So it wasn’t until the nice people at Anova took on Veggiestan and introduced pretty pictures that I had the foggiest idea what a photo shoot was all about.
It is the commissioning editor who, well, commissions (or accepts) and then edits a book. So that makes her (or him) quite important. Snackistan’s (and Veggiestan’s) editress is Emily – that’s her on the right smiling at you. Commissioning editors have to be super tough, as it is their job to tell you that much as they like what you’re written, it’s still going on the cutting room floor. Fortunately our Em is also super sweet. And funny. It is also the editress’ job to put together the rest of the team that will produce a book…
A book needs a designer: someone to work out fonts + how the pages will look, and make all the headers look pretty, and (perhaps most importantly) design the front cover. Everyone comments on how very lovely Veggiestan looks: we can but hope that you will like Snackistan as much, and ultimately this is all down to Georgie (on the left there – give her a wave).
When it comes to photos, there are three elements: the prop stylist, the food stylist (aka home economist) and the photographer. The prop stylist sources dozens of different bits of crockery, cutlery and accessories to add atmosphere and authenticity to every dish. In the case of both Veggiestan and Snackistan, the emphasis was on accessibility and informality, and hence a lovely mish mash of fabrics, mismatching pots and plates and ethnic-looking props was used. The clever lady that put all of this together was Wei: she’s a bit shy but we managed to get a picture of her (see right).
The food stylist for both books was the astonishingly calm and competent Valerie Berry. A food stylist’s job is to prepare recipes exactly as written by the author, and then ensure that said food looks utterly exquisite. This involves minimal trickery, for all you cynics out there, although sometimes food is re-brushed/basted with its own sauce just to add a little lustre to the shot (this is especially necessary when several shots are required, as dishes inevitably dry out). There seems to be no end to this lady’s talents and patience: she is an author herself, and just for good measure has a nice little sideline in massage. I learnt a huge amount from her during the course of shooting both books.
The photographer for both books was the deeply and importantly talented Yuki Sugiura (on the right in the photo), who spent hours up a ladder and tweaking the light and shade to get stuff looking just right. Sheesh that camera stuff is complicated. I am a little bit in awe of her, but don’t tell her that. Photographers normally work with assistants, and for Snackistan we had help from the lovely Kim (2nd from left in the top photo).
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s also the proof-reader, the translators, and the ‘Americaniser’ (yup: that’s a thing), Kathy Steer, who checked all the recipes and converted the measurements into American.
So you see, the author really is just a very small part of a book.