Observer columnist Richard Williamson releases book of walks

Richard Williamson'''C120095-1 Richard Williamson Photo Louise Adams
Richard Williamson'''C120095-1 Richard Williamson Photo Louise Adams

A book which is sure to be a local best-seller comes out next month, guaranteed to become a must-buy for Observer readers and everyone who loves the West Sussex countryside and its abundant wildlife.

It is written, of course, by one of our newspaper’s best-read columnists, Richard Williamson, whose beautifully-phrased articles and wonderful walks have been an enormously popular feature for many years.

Prompted by our editor-in-chief, Colin Channon, Richard has now brought together 52 of his favourite walks in a book which will guide followers through some of the most stunning scenery the county has to offer, together with fascinating facts about the historic features and seasonal plants and creatures they will encounter along the way.

From the beginning

We thought Observer readers would like to find out more about how 52 Favourite West Sussex Walks came about, and the process it has gone through before hitting the bookshop shelves in just a couple of weeks’ time, so we’ve been talking to the talented Summersdale publishing team who helped to achieve it.

Commissioning editor Jennifer Barclay said: “I was delighted when I first heard, in November 2010, that Colin Channon of the Observer had approached us about a book project involving Richard Williamson.

“Along with my boss Alastair Williams, our managing director, I was a great fan of Richard’s walks and they were one of my favourite features in the newspaper.

“As someone who had moved to Chichester only in recent years, I loved the way he brought a little corner of West Sussex to life each time – describing the natural environment with such passion – and many’s the time I’d cut the piece out of the paper, hoping one day to tackle the walk myself.”

Organising

Jennifer said: “The newspaper had carefully thought through the concept of the book, so we proposed a format that would work with our list.

“We already had a range of successful walking books on our list, from the practical guides by another local author, David Bathurst (Big Walks of Great Britain, Walking the South Coast of England etc) to walking memoirs such as Spud Talbot Ponsonby’s Small Steps with Paws and Hooves, and even gift books such as The Walker’s Friend.

“People who walk also tend to be book people!

“So we were confident that as a Chichester publisher, we wanted Richard’s book on our list, and we were thrilled to have confirmation we would be going ahead in May 2011.

“From there it was a scramble as always to start thinking up design ideas for the cover and the insides, and to work out all the logistics.

“The publishing cycle takes a long time – preparing the text, but also having sales materials ready for our reps and the press many months ahead of publication, and we wanted the book to be out in the spring of 2012.”

Meeting the author

“We met with Richard and his wife in early July and talked through their ideas and ours.

“The process had begun.

“I was thrilled to meet a hero of mine and to be talking about how we could produce the best possible book – this is one of the most exciting stages of the publishing process for me.

“By then it was time to hand over to my colleague Chris Turton, who would manage the whole project from there on in.”

Producing the book

Project editor Chris continues the story: “Once the project had been signed, the first job was to compose a blurb, decide on format details – size, page extent, cover finish, etc – and prepare sales materials, including commissioning cover artwork which in this case came from freelance designer Debbie Powell.

“At this point we also produced sample pages, used to indicate the proposed design of the inside pages of the finished book.

“Both the cover design and the sample pages were reviewed by an in-house panel and by the author and adjusted accordingly.

“Next we worked on the manuscript, deciding on how the walks should be arranged and making small adjustments to the text to give it more of a narrative flow, as the walks came directly from Richard’s column which is necessarily quite succinct.

“After these edits were agreed by the author, a copy-edit was done to put the manuscript into house style and to check the finer points of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

“Richard’s original hand-drawn route maps – along with a specially-drawn West Sussex county map – were scanned and converted to match the colour of the inside pages.

“Proof pages were then given a close read, followed by a round of minor corrections, and then circulated throughout the editorial department for feedback on any further text and/or layout changes to be made.

“When the editorial department was happy with the proofs they were sent for a last read-through by the author, and after implementing any final changes they were reviewed and signed off by the company directors.

“Finished Portable Document Format (PDF) files of the cover and insides were checked by our production manager before finally being emailed to the printer!”

Copies of 52 Favourite West Sussex Walks will be on sale at Waterstone’s and Present Surprise in Chichester, and also at the Observer offices in Chichester and Bognor Regis.