(all books are different — as exemplified by: the bookshelf)
When we do posts on our blog about behind-the-scenes sort of things — submissions, book length, cover design, book tours, etc. — we get a lot of responses that basically amount to, ‘I know you said you wanted X thing, but what will happen if I do things differently by 5%? What about by 50%? I have to do it that way because my book has special reasons.’
The answer to this is, all books have special reasons. Every book that we publish — that anyone publishes — is a unique and wonderful snowflake. (And not just in a sarcastic way.)
Most of are books are one size. But some of them are taller or wider! Most of our books are either black and white or color. But some of them are a single pantone, or black plus a pantone! Most of our books are 100 pages or longer. But some of them are shorter! Etc. We make all these decisions on a book-by-book basis, based on a whole host of factors which all come into consideration with each new choice.
(Factors include but are by no means limited to: what age are the readers for this book? Is this book paying homage to a particular historical period? What does the author want to do? Does this make narrative sense? Does this look attractive? Have other books been able to do this or something similar to this successfully? Will changing this take a lot of effort? How much will this cost? Is this logistically possible? Is this physically possible? Will this be confusing? Will this add or subtract significantly from the book? Is the text readable? Is this book classroom-friendly? Do we like things that are shiny? What would librarians think? What would glitter add to this book? Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)
There are really only a few things that are absolutes: things like, ‘is this book too large to fit on a bookshelf?’ If the answer is yes, then we have to make the book smaller until it can fit on a bookshelf. (Sorry, Kramer’s Ergot #7: we love you, but you are not a book that we would ever publish.) ‘Is there explicitly depicted sex in this book for five year olds?’ If the answer is yes, then that needs to be removed. But these are things that it is very easy to figure out simply by applying common sense to your question.
The big-picture problem here is that there isn’t one equation that can give you all the answers. If that was the case, we would then embark on a streak of making all the right decisions all the time, and so would all of you. But here in real life, your book having special reasons can sometimes cause publishers to say ‘!!!’ and sometimes cause publishers to say, ‘that’s no problem’ because that’s how the combination of factors + publishing instinct added up this time.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid that. But useful ways to alleviate it include being thoughtful when you make important creative decisions and being responsive and adapting to feedback.
(This post can also be subtitled: least useful advice ever!)