I like books. I’ve written quite a few, reviewed more and have a house full of them but sometimes the publishers just leave me baffled.
Dahlias are the flower of the moment so when I saw that The Joy of Dahlias by Katja Staring, Linda van der Slot and Marlies Weijers (Terra) was out I asked for a review copy. But, immediately, I saw that something was amiss.
The paper is not coated, slightly shiny, as it is in most books where the pictures are important. So, instead of gleaming off the page, the ink is absorbed, just a little, and the result is dull, no sparks, which wastes the original images; I’m sure they’re better than they look in the book. Presumably the uncoated absorbent paper is less expensive.
The authors, all flower growers themselves, have enlisted the help of a large number of other growers who share their dahlia wisdom, although there’s no list or index of who they are (another thumbs down for the publisher).
Authors are at the mercy of their publishers. Most published gardening authors will have a tale of a change of plan that never filters through to the writer at the keyboard, a deadline mysteriously brought forward, a title changed with no consultation. The result is that slips are missed and things end up on the page that shouldn’t.
I roared when I read this: “Since the beginning of time, the dahlia has grown as a wild plant in the highlands of the area which we now call Mexico.” Hah! “Since the beginning of time!” Oh, please. “In the beginning God created the dahlia.”?!
It’s the publisher’s job, and particularly the copy editor’s job, to tell the authors: “You can’t say that.”
And just to be clear: I’d be hugely embarrassed if some of the things I’ve sent to publishers in a mad hurry had actually made it on to the page.
There are more, but enough’s enough. It’s a very contemporary book, the design is sparky, and all the information presented in bite-sized nuggets by a wide variety of dahlia fanatics. It’s a dahlia book for the Instagram age - and that’s not a criticism at all, it’s praise.
But, again, the publisher has also not helped by pricing the book at £30. OK, you can get it for less on amazon, of course, but Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein, which I reviewed here back in May, is almost exactly the same size, the pictures pop off the page, we know we can trust every word – and its publisher’s price is £18.99.
This could have been a much better book if the publisher had helped the authors as it should have done. And can we please have an index to more than just the recommended varieties?
The Joy of Dahlias by Katja Staring, Linda van der Slot and Marlies Weijers is published by Terra.
Declaration of interest: the book was supplied free of charge by the publisher.