As we are deep in the mix creating three – yes, three – yearbooks (if you really like what we do, you can pre-order a Megafans Bundle now) to launch late November, we thought we’d use this opportunity to describe some of the processes that go into planning modern-day print products. Read on for a slightly waffly but potentially insightful account of the calm chaos of bringing together the contents of our 2021 mountain bike yearbooks.
So you want to make a mountain bike book. Great! Print is cool. What’s going inside? Oh brill, it’s going to be packed full of inspiring stuff and reporting and possibly a few opinions, too. I’d buy that – go for it!
Hmm, what’s that? You just realised that to produce hundreds of pages of photos and words you will need, er, some photos and words? True – you’ll also need a designer or two, a printer, a sales platform, storage and distribution. Sound like a lot of work and probably quite expensive? Want to cry yet? We feel your pain.
But trust us, it’ll be worth it.
When we pick up any of our yearbooks, instantly we forget the hours and days and weeks and months that went into making them. We love creating any media that might inspire people to ride more bikes, but at the end of the day, there really is nothing more satisfying than getting a big old print project back from the printers. Something you’ve sweated over, cried over (literally, always), quarreled over, pored over and probably lost a lot of sleep and income over. Regardless of anything above, it is always worth it. Even the mistakes – there is something beautiful about just having to live with them in a non-perfect world where errors can’t be quietly updated in the back-end of a website.
That was a tangent. Sorry. Back to the task in hand: making three yearbooks.
The point is, when you look in the front of a magazine or journal and see all the names next to seemingly made-up job titles and ask yourself if those people really do anything, well, once you start making one of these things yourself, you soon realise that yes, there really are lots of roles in making a print product.
Planning and commissioning is logically the first step in making one of our yearbooks, although it often overlaps with producing the thing. We have dozens of contributors producing numerous written features (race reports, comment pieces, other). Each feature or section needs to be illustrated with photos, which are selected from tens of thousands that are supplied by our legendary and ridiculously passionate photographers, Sven, Boris and Seb. So we decide what’s going in, contact a contributor for each section, do some back and forth with them until everyone is happy with the direction of the feature, then work on the images selection.
Our designers, Chris and Harriet Jones (Hurly Burly and The World Stage) and Jon Gregory (Spent), at this stage are already hard at work building a design style for the product and mapping out each feature. They are working to a flat plan, which is a basic map of every page of the book – we made this before anyone started working, because otherwise there is no order and all hell breaks out (this usually happens anyway).
After a couple of weeks, the commissions start flowing in from our wonderful, hard-working and always-motivated writers. We begin ticking off features that have been submitted in a shared Google Sheet and working on the edit – making sure stuff fits into the word count it was designated (a book isn’t like a website – you can’t just waffle endlessly, fortunately), working with the contributors on any bits we feel need rejigging, proofing, and so on.
Now the designers can now really get to work putting words, images and design into a magical formula that will eventually become a Real Thing.
Next step: production (we’ll talk about this next time). Then marketing, printing, selling, shipping. Then sailing a yacht to the Bahamas. Or, more likely, doing some freelance work to make rent.
Yep, you’ve got to really love making books to get into this business. And we do.
BEFORE YOU GO
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