Monthly Archives: April 2013

How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design? A Q&A With Joel Friedlander

29 April 2013

On Jane Friedman’s blog, Jane interviews book designer Joel Friedlander:

I’m a firm believer in the power of design. I think it affects purchasing not just in obvious ways, but also on a subconscious level. So it often frustrates me when independent authors do their own design work to keep costs low. But I also understand the need to limit financial risk. Let’s say we have to make a compromise. What do you think an author might be able to accomplish reasonably well on her own (that has least potential to adversely affect sales), and what’s the No. 1 thing an author should hire a designer for (because of its potential to increase sales)?

Great question, Jane. Lots of authors want to “own” the process of creating their books, want to have a say in the overall look and feel of the book. After all, what good is having these great bookmaking tools if we don’t use them?

For people who write fiction, memoir, or narrative nonfiction, this question is easier to answer. Creating book interiors for these books is not as demanding, and the result won’t rely quite as much on the typographic sophistication of the designer.

Outside the typographic part of the design, it’s critically important for authors to construct their books properly. There are conventions that are hundreds of years old in book design, and expectations readers bring to books that must be recognized and respected.

So outside what font she uses for the text of her novel, your author will want to make sure all the other details of bookmaking, like the treatment of other page elements like running heads, page numbers, display pages like chapter openings, and so on, are treated properly.

Clearly, the one area where your author should look for professional help is in cover design. This is a specialized type of graphic design that demands good type treatment, the proper font usage, and an understanding of how browsers interact with the words and pictorial content on most book covers.

Because your cover is so important in positioning your book and attracting interest, it really pays to hire a pro.

What are the most common mistakes you see authors make when they design their own book interiors?

Here are some of the mistakes I see most often in self-published books:

  • Not using full justification for their text, so that both the right and left margin square up and create a rectangle on the page
  • Not hyphenating the text, resulting in gaps and spaces on the page
  • Putting the odd-numbered pages on the left, when they should always be on the right
  • Leaving running heads on display pages like part or chapter openers
  • Margins that are either too small to allow the reader to easily hold the book, or that don’t take the printing and binding of the book into account
  • Publishing a book with no copyright page

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and here’s a link to Joel’s blog, The Book Designer

Best Writing Music of 2013, So Far

29 April 2013

From Galleycat:

What’s your favorite writing music from 2013? We’ve already found some great albums for our annual list of the best music that helped us write this year.

Follow the links below to listen to the instrumental songs we’ve picked so far this year. Share the instrumental songs or albums that inspired you in the comments section and we will add it to our growing Spotify playlist.

Link to the rest, including the music list, at Galleycat.

So, here’s a question: How many of you listen to music when you write and how many require silence?

PG is a member of the group that generally prefers to hear nothing more than the cooling fan on his computer, but sometimes puts on an instrumental Pandora channel.

An Open Letter to James Patterson on Bravery, Optimism, and the Future of Books

29 April 2013

From Digital Book World:

Contrary to that blasted NYT point-of-view, I agree that Publishing isn’t dead. I would argue that it isn’t even dying—but rather it is transforming, and those who are in the best position to lead are those least prepared—namely the publishing establishment.

You are quoted in your PW follow-up as saying publishers should “get in attack mode.” But the truth is, publishers are more prey than hunter right now. It’s not their fault—institutional change is difficult under the best circumstances, and pretty neigh impossible when [they think] their core survival is in question.

It’s like zebras at the watering hole being asked to creatively change their stripes as the lions approach. Given the recent DOJ dust-up with the major publishers over e-book pricing, those zebras can’t even organize their own escape. Poor, poor zebras.

Innovation is going to come from where it always comes from: entrepreneurs.

Creatively, it will come from the talented young writers emerging on global platforms like Wattpad.  And the entrepreneurial “indie” authors coming together at “fan cons” at the Sheraton in Kansas City, and selling a lot of books directly to their readers.

. . . .

On the business side, it will come from the digital-first publishing and experiments that are underway at the small press level.

. . . .

The big publishers have their role to play also.  They will cherry-pick the most marketable projects from the layers below them, and they will continue to do the heavy lifting in the mass-market game. As agent Kristin Nelson pointed out at #WDCE a few weeks ago, you still can’t have an international bestseller without the big guys. At least not yet.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Self-Publishing By The Numbers, An Informal Survey

29 April 2013

From E-Book Formatting Fairies:

We got to talking about how many authors are making a living on their writing now that they can self-publish and how many of them may not necessarily be “name” authors who everyone is familiar with. Hugh Howey, the acclaimed self-published author of Wool, wrote a great piece for Salon about how success stories like his are not THE STORY of self-publishing. According to Howey, the unknown authors who aren’t selling enough to be in the headlines but who are selling more than enough to support themselves are THE STORY of this revolution. And what a great story it is! Who cares about acclaim when you can quit your day job to follow your passion and make enough to pay the bills, too? A few years ago, such a concept was reserved for the top 1 or 2 percent of authors and was limited to pipe dreams and somedays for the rest of us. Now someday is here, and look at us go!

The conversation on the loop led to me post an informal survey to get an idea of how our members and their self-publishing friends are really doing. I didn’t ask people to give dollar amounts, but rather just their number of sales in 2010, 2011, 2012 and so far in 2013.

. . . .

Those who like to poo-poo the self-publishing revolution (often those who are most threatened by our success), love to offer quotes such as “The average self-published author sells about 57 copies of each book.” Really? Hmmm…. Then there are those who say it’s impossible to build a self-published platform unless you have been traditionally published in the past. If you believe that, I direct you to author Liliana Hart’s results below. She sold 441,069 in 2012 without ever having been traditionally published. It can be done. It’s BEING done all the time.

. . . .

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from authors who participated in the survey:

“I’ve been supporting myself solely through my self-publishing income since mid-2011.” —Catherine Gayle, author of Regency-set historical romance

“I’ve been traditionally published for four years and my income comes primarily from my self-published titles, NOT my traditionally published titles.” —Elisabeth Naughton, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense and paranormal romance

“Since self-publishing, I have paid more in federal income taxes than I made in 10 years of New York publishing 10 titles.” —Cheryl Bolen, author of English-set historicals and romantic suspense

. . . .

“I have what I consider to be a modest indie career at this time…yet last year (my first year self-publishing) I made four times the money Penguin paid me in my best year with them.” —Lauren Royal, author of historical romance

Link to the rest at E-Book Formatting Fairies and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Writing and Researching a Time Travel Novel

29 April 2013

From The Huffington Post:

So, life was creeping on in its steady pace from day to day. I was about to turn 40, and I was in a pretty terrible mood. For no real reason: things were fine. I’m an English professor at Bryn Mawr College, I live in Philadelphia, it’s a good life. Philly’s great, I love my students, I like thinking deep thoughts about 19th century literature for pay. But my birthday was looming and my mood just got worse and worse…

One morning I woke up and instead of heading down the rickety old stairs in my little Philly row house to make a cup of coffee, I headed up the rickety old stairs to my study. I sat down at the computer and opened a new Word document. I stared at the screen for a second, and then I started typing.

I wrote for fourteen hours straight.

. . . .

I was writing a time travel novel.

. . . .

But… I’m an academic, a literary critic and an historian. My novel carries its action from the present back to the past, and even though time travel is a fantasy, I wanted the past that my characters encountered to be accurate. I wanted it to look and smell and feel right. Luckily my field is the 19th century; luckily I’ve spent several years living in London. I already knew the broad political and social flavor of the time I was trying to evoke, I knew the general look of the city I was writing about. But fiction hungers for the detail, for the strange little scrap, the forgotten ingredient that made the past something more than just a collation of war and peace.

My novel wasn’t just hungry, it was ravenous, and with each sentence its demand grew stronger — it wouldn’t wait.

I’m used to a slow, contemplative pace to writing. A day in the library, a day taking notes, a day writing, a week off to teach, and repeat. Now I had the devil on my back, my fingers twitched to get back to the keyboard whenever I took a break, I dreamed about writing every night. I didn’t have time to go sauntering through real stacks, and even the virtual stacks on the web are Byzantine. I spent a whole day lost in speeches given in the House of Commons on a single day in 1815; by the end of that day my characters were ready to stage a revolt. They made me stay up all night writing. My time travel novel had its spurs in me and I was galloping full tilt.

Google Image became my best friend. A single example. I’m writing along, everything’s fine, when suddenly my main female character, Julia, storms into her evil cousin’s study. He’s in there, but she controls him with her secret power (I’m not giving anything away!). Why is she in his study? She’s looking for Johnson’s Dictionary. She’s in a rage, she needs a definition and she needs it now. I know all about Johnson’s Dictionary and its importance for literature, for the consolidation of culture… but what the hell did the thing actually look like? Type it into Google Image. Two volumes. OK, two volumes, bound in brown leather: she can pull them both off the shelf at once, her index and middle fingers hooked over the headbands. She’s looking up the word “talisman.”

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to John for the tip. The novel is The River of No Return.

Three Keys to Writing Memorable Fiction

29 April 2013
Comments Off on Three Keys to Writing Memorable Fiction

From Ruth Harris on Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Social, cultural, and political history are powerful tools no writer should ignore.

  • John Le Carré used the Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the real-life unmasking of a double agent to create a compelling setting in The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.
  • Isabel Allende’s The House Of The Spirits, a family saga partially inspired by the PInochet dictatorship, is set against decades of political and social upheaval in post-colonial Chile.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn drew on his experiences in the forced-labor camps of the Soviet prison system to create world wide bestsellers in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.

However, writers do not need vast cultural and political disruptions to write powerful fiction readers can relate to. Ordinary, everyday details add enormous power to fiction and bring your story to life.

. . . .

Characters need to be firmly anchored in a specific time and place. Even sci-fi and fantasy need social, cultural and political specifics to engage the reader. George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter draw their power from their authors’ ability to create credible details of an invented world.
If you research and then judiciously set up the specifics of time and place, you will expand and enrich your fiction. Invoking the relevant cultural, political and social details will draw your reader into recognizable settings against which your characters can act out their dilemmas, frustrations and successes.

You shouldn’t give your reader a history lesson—that’s Doris Kearns Goodwin’s job—but you do want to give your characters a relatable world in which to live. Your characters can be—and should be—shaped by the attitudes of whatever period you choose to write about.

. . . .

Are you writing about a period in which people feel positive about the future and confident about their prospects? Or are your characters coping with the Depression of the Thirties or the financial crisis or downsizing of the recent past and present? How they think and feel and what they do to deal with opportunity (or lack thereof) offers a potent way to explore and expand the inner and outer lives of the people you’re writing about.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

What are the Most Important Values for Children to Learn from Books?

28 April 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

At this year’s Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, running April 23rd through May 4th, attendees have the opportunity to attend  Cultural Programs covering a wide range of topics, including “The Absence of Arabic Childhood Protection and Strategies to Bring it Back,’ “Arab Children’s Magazine – Between Prosperity and Decline,” and “Creating a Fantasy World for Today’s Children.”

. . . .

On Thursday, April 25th, panelists from Britain, Australia, Tunisia, and Morocco examined the subject “The Important Elements of Childhood,” each bringing to the panel their own unique perspective.

Abdulrzaaq Kamoon of Tunisia author, storyteller, and founding member of Safaqis Children’s Book Society, after  reminding authors and parents that “what you have in your heart is a child,” and discussing the changing roles of school, parents, family and books, placed special emphasis on what he called the three essentials:  milk, kindness, and stories.

. . . .

But it was perhaps British author Terence Blacker, best known for his Ms. Wiz series of books (Fantastic Fiction), who came closest to most directly answering the question at hand.  After reminding the audience that people who write for children are “slightly odd,” he quickly honed in on what he saw as the five elements that are most important, both in stories and in life.

1.  Freedom.

2.  Power.  Children should know that they do have power.

3.  Self worth.  Children need to know that they are not alone, that who they are matters.

4.  Humor.  Even if, and perhaps particular if serious, a little bit of humor is essential.

5.  Kindness or love or hope.  If you’re not teaching children that, either as a writer or parent, you’re not doing your job.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

I needed a drink

28 April 2013

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.

Raymond Chandler

The Double L

28 April 2013

From The New Yorker Page Turner blog:

In this week’s magazine, John McPhee writes, “In The New Yorker, ‘travelling’ is spelled with two ‘l’s.” Notice that this is a simple statement of fact; John McPhee does not lament the policy or take issue with it.

To judge by letters from readers, the doubling of consonants in such words as “traveller” and “focussed” is a subject of undying interest. If Noah Webster were alive today, he would probably have written in to complain about our orthography. Webster favored simplifying the spelling of American English, and although we follow him on most points, this is where the founding editors ofThe New Yorker departed from Webster. Quoth the style book: “When alternatives are possible, use double ‘p’ in words like ‘kidnapped,’ double ‘s’ in words like ‘focussed,’ and double ‘l’ in words like ‘marvellous’ and ‘travelled.’” No kidnapper ever focussed so marvellously on this well-travelled territory. (And no copy editor ever backspaced so assiduously to poke in the second “s” and “l” to override the autocorrect.)

The style book gives no reason for this spelling choice. What would be the point?

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Wholesalers—who they are and how they differ from distributors

28 April 2013

From Self-Publishing Resources:

Although the terms “wholesaler” and “distributor” are frequently used interchangeably . . .  there is a difference. Wholesalers have no sales reps; they simply fill your book orders and actually buy your book outright. Distributors work on a consignment basis, paying you for sales ninety days after they have been made.

Baker & Taylor is the country’s oldest and largest library wholesaler. B&T has over the last several years dramatically increased its sales to bookstores, as well. Corporate headquarters is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and there are branches around the country as well as in in the UK. The wholesaler’s file system lists more than a million titles, CDs, and DVDs.

To get on its database, B&T requires a $125 fee to establish new vendors, and it aggressively courts small publishers.

. . . .

Just as KFC’s success attracted Boston Market and other contenders, there are more large book wholesalers. Headquartered outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Ingram is another huge wholesaler. Its forte is fast delivery of popular books to bookstores. As of BookExpo America 2001, however, Ingram announced it is no longer dealing directly with publishers of less than ten titles.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Resources

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