CRC Press's Sean Connelly and Will Bateman told us about how the work at Taylor & Francis is organized, shared how the publishing group is finding new topics and authors, and spoke about their approach to publishing game dev books.
80.lv: Please introduce yourself. Where did you study? When and how did you get started with the book business?
Sean Connelly: I’m Sean Connelly and I commission game design and animation books for CRC Press in North America and the rest of the world. Prior to CRC Press, I oversaw the game design and animation books at Focal Press, which merged into CRC Press. I have been commissioning books for over fifteen years and games/animation books for ten. I have always been fascinated with the publishing industry and have had amazing luck being able to combine my passion for video games and animation with publishing.
Will Bateman: I’m Will Bateman and I commission for the CRC Press Games and Animation list in Europe and the rest of the world. I’ve been with Taylor & Francis (and in book publishing) for nearly five years now. I got my start as an Editorial Assistant, working alongside a Commissioning Editor on academic education research books. From there, I was able to start getting some commissioning experience of my own with a view to becoming an Editor. I joined the Games and Animation list as Commissioning Editor at the start of 2021.
80.lv: How is work organized at Taylor & Francis? Could you tell us about different teams? How do different teams communicate with each other?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: We have multiple departments responsible for differing aspects of our books business, which include the Editorial, Production, Marketing, and Rights teams. We’re part of the Editorial department and we oversee the overall direction of our individual book lists, finding new authors and book projects, and being the main point of contact for existing authors. The Production team is responsible for taking an author’s manuscript and turning it into the final product, so they handle all aspects of copyediting, typesetting, and final printing.
Our Marketing team does a lot of work around driving traffic to our website through SEO and discoverability of our titles, as well as specific marketing campaigns throughout the year. The Rights team works to get translation deals for our books with foreign language publishers, as well as other bespoke opportunities (like the time one of our CRC Press statistics books showed up as set dressing on an HBO Max show!). Of all the disciplines our company publishes in, games and animation books see some of the highest translation agreements with German, French, Chinese, and Korean translations being the most common.
Will Bateman: Just as we sell and distribute our books globally, we are a very international company and have colleagues working from all around the world. Working across time zones means it’s a careful balance of email, instant messaging, and video calls when communicating with different teams. My day might start with a call with a colleague in India, and end with a call with a colleague in the US.
Finding New Topics and Authors
80.lv: How do you find new topics and new authors? What is the process? How do you decide if something works or does not work?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: It’s important for us to stay on top of the latest developments in the field and there are lots of different ways we try to stay informed. Industry conferences are a great way for us to network and talk to people about what is hot.
Over the past two years, this has obviously all been virtual, but it has been interesting to see how some conferences are adapting to more of a hybrid model these days. Sites like your own are useful for us in learning more about what is going on in the industry as well. Social media is another way of keeping informed and seeing what topics people are engaging with (both positively and negatively!).
When a new author is ready to present a book idea to us, we ask them to put together a short proposal outlining the scope and aims of the book. This helps us to identify where the book would sit not just within our own portfolio but within the wider market of games and animation books.
Something we do for all new book projects is to have these proposals independently peer-reviewed, to ensure we’re commissioning and publishing quality and timely books. It’s an important part of the process and the feedback from the peer reviewers is helpful both for us as a publisher in analyzing the proposal, but also for authors in strengthening their prospective book.
80.lv: How would you describe your audience? Is there a portrait you could share?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: We’re an international publisher and our books are sold and distributed all over the globe. We publish on a wide variety of topics within games and animation, but our books are primarily aimed at industry professionals or those studying to become one. I’d say that our audience is as varied and diverse as the games industry itself – whether you’re a game designer, programmer, animator, or artist, we’ve probably published something that’s relevant to the work that you do.
Working with Authors
80.lv: Could you share some details on the way you work with authors. How do you find the right ones and how do you work with them when you see a book isn’t going the right way?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: We look for those with great knowledge and experience on the subject matter they want to write on! If somebody is already writing on the topic in some manner, or perhaps even teaching on it, that is a great indicator to us that they’d be well placed to write a book. As mentioned before, the initial book proposal is important as that gives us and the peer reviewers a strong indication of what direction the book will go in. With the right author and a strong proposal, we’re usually well on our way to a good book.
Game Dev Books
80.lv: When it comes to game dev books and related topics, how do you approach these books? The game dev industry is such a fast-evolving place, and it takes months to prepare a book. How difficult is it to publish a relevant book?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: We want our books to have a healthy life span and that doesn’t happen if the material goes out of date too quickly. A lot of our books focus on fundamentals and are software agnostic, which reduces the risk of things becoming outdated. For our software-specific books, the key is ensuring we work closely with authors to a strict writing deadline. It’s also not uncommon for us to produce new editions of our books, which is the perfect opportunity to refresh and revise material to reflect the latest changes in the industry.
80.lv: What are your thoughts on the book market in general? What are the main trends? How will the market evolve in your opinion?
Sean Connelly & Will Bateman: One of the key things for us is to think about ways we can adapt and augment our traditional way of offering content. For example, we have books with accompanying websites that carry extra content for download, and we’ve recently launched an eBook+ program that allows us to enhance our eBooks with video, audio, and other elements for a more interactive experience.