We writers lead a necessarily solitary life – at least, that’s what we like to think. Though the act of writing can involve lots of lonesome glaring at an open Word document (with occasional breaks for coffee and Countdown), the process of turning deathless prose into an actual book involves a lot more people than the name on the cover suggests.
This is why my publisher Trapeze, an imprint of the Hachette company Orion, is starting to put full, movie-style credits at the back of their books. They asked me if I was amenable to this for my forthcoming novel Things Can Only Get Better, after trialling it in Candice Carty-Williams’s hugely successful Queenie. Of course I said yes – not only because I think it’s a brilliant idea but also because whenever I write my acknowledgments, I always fear I’ve missed somebody out. Looking at the two pages of names at the back of Queenie, I realised that I had previously left out lots of people.
There are almost 60 people involved in midwifing a typical Trapeze novel into the world, which is presumably roughly the same as most of the bigger publishers. There are the usual suspects – the editors, the marketing and PR types – but also the smaller but crucial roles: the proofreaders who make sure you haven’t started calling Maisy Maisie in chapter 12, the all-important cover designers, the team behind the audiobooks, the finance team, the production department, those who try to sell the rights to foreign publishers and film producers …
Trapeze commissioning editor Katie Brown got the idea after Sharmaine Lovegrove, publisher at another Hachette imprint, Dialogue, which focuses on diverse voices from the BAME, LGBTQ+, disabled and working class communities, put credits in Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, the imprint’s first book in April 2017. Brown initiated the policy at Trapeze, not just as a way to give her office a pat on the back, but to show people – young people, specifically – that there are a wealth of jobs in publishing they could pursue. Katie, like me, is a staunch northerner and has worked hard to show that a career in publishing is not just for trust-fund dilettantes with names like Jocasta. Apologies to any Jocastas who worked on my books – I’m sure you did an excellent job but, like Katie, I believe that opening up publishing to a much more diverse field, drawn from across the country, can ultimately only mean good things for books and readers.
Will people bother to read credits in books? Do filmgoers bother to read the credits at the end of movies? At two pages, it’s more likely to keep someone’s attention than 10 minutes of names after a two-hour film. While you might not remember who led the finance team for the book you just read any more than you can recall who was the gaffer on the last movie you watched, at least you can close the covers with a sense that more work went into getting the book to them than just the author’s. Perhaps in a few years, books will begin to ape the movies and start including post-credit scenes, just to keep you reading …
• This article was amended on 19 July 2019, to add acknowledgment of Dialogue Books.