Large Print Publishing, Part 1
By Diane Hull
Large Print is defined by the National Association for the Visually Handicapped as 16-point or larger type.
This is the 11-point type you see in most books.
This is what Large Print looks like.
As Center Point Large Print'sacquisitions editor, I track thousands of books each year in order to determine what to publish. Bestselling authors such as Debbie Macomber, John Sandford, and Ridley Pearson are no-brainers. Their fans eagerly await their latest book.
But a Large Print publisher needs more than bestsellers to satisfy a diverse readership. It's that next tier of titles that is the most intriguing to me, and where research plays a huge role in acquisitions.
You could call this "the age of Large Print," since, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, 7,918 people celebrate their sixtieth birthdays every day. According to most eye care specialists, most people over the age of forty suffer some form of vision loss.
Large Print publishing had a bumpy start. The original Large Print books were 8" x 10" photographic enlargements of regular print books with black and white covers. They were both awkward and ugly. At the time, it was determined that those over sixty-five, the demographic at which Large Print was aimed, wouldn't read books that contained offensive language, explicit sex, or graphic violence, so cozy mysteries, doctor/nurse romances, and westerns prevailed.
In the mid-1970s, a new Large Print program was launched. The type was reset to the required 16-point, and full-color dust jackets were added, making Large Print a much more attractive option for readers. But it wasn't until 1990 that Large Print selections were made based on a book's merit rather than its morals.
Despite all these improvements, there was still a major obstacle facing Large Print publishers. Contractually, they weren't able to publish a Large Print edition for at least six months following the regular print edition's publication date. Finally, in 1991, that condition was eliminated and Large Print publishers were able to provide their readers with current reading material. And today, due to electronic text availability, simultaneous publications are common.
It's impossible to publish all books in Large Print, so the criteria for selection are still important to every Large Print publishing program. Books are generally licensed by auction, with the highest bidder taking home the prize.
Publishers' rights guides are usually my first contact with a book-in-progress-usually six to nine months before the original publication date. If a book's description seems particularly intriguing, I'll ask for a manuscript. If the manuscript lives up to my expectations, I'll track the book by reading magazine articles, media reviews, book blogs, and Googling it for other information I might glean about the book and its author.
Occasionally, I'll read a manuscript and be blown away. That was the case in early 2003 when I read a manuscript by an unknown author. I'd asked for it because the United States was fighting a war in Afghanistan, and who the heck knew anything about Afghanistan? I read the manuscript and immediately licensed The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Authors whose books are guaranteed bestsellers are all about large sums of money. But it's these gems that make an acquisitions editor's heart pound.
Large Print has changed significantly during my twenty-plus years in the field. What was once the domain of small publishers has now become the domain of multinational conglomerates, and Center Point Large Print is the one remaining independently owned and operated Large Print publishing house in the United States. The number of visually impaired people, whether by age or infirmity, is only growing. Everyone deserves to have a wide-range of reading options, and Large Print books are destined to be a larger and larger percentage of the publishing world.
–Diane Hull is Acquisitions Editor at Center Point Large Print.