Customer Case Study: Erewhon Books
The Challenge: A new independent publisher seeks a tool for rapidly turning unique manuscripts into eye-catching books, relying only on the skills and creativity of their in-house team.
Cassandra Farrin is the production manager for Erewhon Books, an upstart, independent publisher focusing on science fiction, fantasy, and related genres. Erewhon occupies a unique space in the publishing world, with books that aren’t afraid to tackle hard questions and amplify underrepresented voices. Another thing that makes Erewhon unique: They create all of their books in Hederis, which they’ve done since launching in March of 2020. Cassandra has extensive experience in book production, but working in Hederis has represented a welcome change from workflows she’s experienced in the past. “While it is often the case that publishers outsource their design processes, we have the option as a team to keep that work in-house. Hederis gives us the chance both to improve our knowledge of design and layouts, and to use our skills on a new platform to craft beautiful, interesting books.”
“While it is often the case that publishers outsource their design processes, we have the option as a team to keep that work in-house. Hederis gives us the chance both to improve our knowledge of design and layouts, and to use our skills on a new platform to craft beautiful, interesting books.”
On Design and Workflow
Erewhon is using Hederis to create eye-catching designs for Erewhon’s diverse list of titles. Design and production happen in one seamless project, with shared access for team members bringing the book to life.
“We tend to divvy up design with one person and nitty-gritty layouts with the other person. It really depends on the editor which of those two areas is more comfortable for them, and I enjoy both. The design work involves creative decisions about what artwork we'll use in the interior, font style/size/leading, margins, any special elements such as paragraph extracts. Erewhon books often get adventurous with narrative techniques and layouts, so we might try a lot of different approaches before we settle on something the editor and author also like. Then one of us systematically runs through the whole manuscript, cleaning it up in Word, querying author and editor about anything confusing, and coding the elements to match the intended design.
“I especially like that we can set up a design and then flow the text into it. I know this is possible in, e.g., InDesign, too, but I feel Hederis is very intuitive in this respect, especially for someone like me who has more experience with web-based design.”
Multi-Format Publishing from a Single Source
Erewhon’s Hederis projects provide a single source for marketing materials, print books, and digital products, across the lifecycle of the book.
“We export Advance Review Copies (both print and digital) from the earliest versions of the project, and then follow up later with export of final print files for the hardcover edition and final digital files.
“Later in the life of the book, we also export other editions of the book, usually a trade paperback edition. We may also export lightly updated digital files (such as when we collect enough errata to make it worthwhile), and occasionally export digital and print copies for foreign rights or other special purposes, usually with a watermark or password.
“It’s so nice to export with the click of a button, and to be able to rebuild the document with different specs to work for our needs, such as exporting a PDF with trim marks and 1-color black for print versus a regular PDF with a watermark for pitching the book’s rights or sharing pre-publication digital review copies.”
Budget, Bottlenecks, and Opportunity
Erewhon is in control of the production of their books from start to finish. They don’t have to wait for a compositor to make minor changes or to see revisions since Hederis gives them the ability to edit right in the browser and see changes instantly.
“The biggest production challenge I encountered before using Hederis was the problem of version control and making fixes to files when outsourcing production and design. It’s often expensive and time-consuming if you don’t have in-house staff who can handle it.
“The challenge is both cost and expertise, along with access to proprietary technology. If we outsource the design, and then later have a change of heart about how it is shaping up, we have less flexibility and budget to change it. Also, most people don’t have the level of expertise in a proprietary program like Adobe InDesign to simply update the design files themselves.
“...offering an option for book layouts that doesn’t require specialized knowledge or access to resources beyond a web browser offers an opportunity for greater equity in the community.”
“Publishing in particular has not traditionally been accessible by people from BIPOC backgrounds and in non-urban contexts (or outside the hub of New York publishing), so offering an option for book layouts that doesn’t require specialized knowledge or access to resources beyond a web browser offers an opportunity for greater equity in the community.”