The World’s Greatest Book

I’m Dave Bricker, MFA: author of fic­tion and non­fic­tion, edi­tor, graphic designer, inter­ac­tive devel­oper, and design edu­ca­tor. I help writ­ers turn well-crafted man­u­scripts into beau­ti­ful, high-quality books. My web­site offers straight talk for writ­ers about pro­duc­ing and mar­ket­ing excel­lent books, eBook tech­nol­ogy, book design, typog­ra­phy, writ­ing, lit­er­acy, and the pub­lish­ing business.

Thank you for read­ing. Enjoy your pub­lish­ing journey.

—Dave Bricker

5 Reasons Authors Should Be Reading the Classics

Thanks to K.M. Weiland for shar­ing this excel­lent guest post.

KMWeilandWhen some­one men­tions the phrase “clas­sic book,” what do you think of? That mam­moth copy of War & Peace you used as a doorstop all semes­ter in your junior year? That pile of Cliff’s Notes you bor­rowed from the library when­ever you had to write book reports? All the black and white movies you opted to watch instead of read­ing the books?

Many of us have neg­a­tive asso­ci­a­tions with clas­sic lit­er­a­ture, thanks to teach­ers who “forced” us to read these old books when we were in less-than-appreciative frames of mind. But it’s time to shake off the neg­a­tiv­ity! Not only are the clas­sics a trea­sure trove of won­der­ful sto­ries about our past, present, and future, they’re also a gold mine of learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for authors.

Ten years ago, I made the com­mit­ment to read all the clas­sics, and so far, I’ve worked my way up through the “H” authors (Hemingway and Homer are on my dig­i­tal shelf at the moment). I can­not even begin to tell you how much I’ve gleaned from this com­mit­ment, both as a per­son and a writer. I got to kick this exper­i­ment into high gear when I was asked to write Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. Analyzing this mas­ter­piece of lit­er­a­ture, on more than just a super­fi­cial level, taught me more about writ­ing than has any other sin­gle read­ing experience.

Want to join the fun? Here are five rea­sons all authors should be read­ing the clas­sics: Continue read­ing

Author Pitch: The Blue Monk by Dave Bricker

davebricker-620x350Most eBook for­mats feel like they’ve been designed and coded by some­one who’s never read an eBook, let alone writ­ten one. Not only has Dave Bricker writ­ten nov­els and a mem­oir, The Blue Monk, but he has pub­lished them on his own plat­form. In this week’s Author Pitch, he tells us about what he’s done that war­ranted chron­i­cling and how that changed the way he lives his life.

—Read the inter­view on The Omnivore

Encouragement for Those On The Path to Better Writing

writer_mountainSo many writ­ers get dis­cour­aged. This stinks. I quit.

Others are over­con­fi­dent. They’ve always had “a gift for words” so they fail to sub­mit their prose to an editor’s scrutiny.

I recently shared an email exchange with an edit­ing client in which I gen­tly pointed out a flaw she’d missed. She thanked me for “not mak­ing her feel like an idiot.”

Learning to write well is like learn­ing to play an instru­ment; it requires prac­tice, deter­mi­na­tion, and a song inside that wants to express itself. Though you’ve been writ­ing and speak­ing your entire life, if you’ve never gone through the process of draft­ing and edit­ing a nar­ra­tive, you’re at the begin­ning of the long steep path to writ­ing well.

If you can com­mu­ni­cate flu­idly and flu­ently on a day-to-day basis, speak elo­quently at meet­ings, and orga­nize emails into cohe­sive para­graphs, it’s no stretch to imag­ine you’re ready to “sit down and ham­mer out a book.” But when your edi­tor takes your “fine work” and blood­ies it up with red ink, it’s just as easy easy to feel dis­cour­aged. All this time I thought I was a good writer! Instead I’ve been adver­tis­ing how incom­pe­tent I am with every email and office memo. Continue read­ing

A Web-Based Ebook About Web-Based EBooks

eBookArticleCoverSmallThis arti­cle dis­cusses the mer­its and draw­backs of HTML5 Web-Based Ebooks. It’s really a blog post in eBook form, but why talk about it when you can do it? EBooks on the web are not a pro­posal or a the­ory; they’re here. Web-based eBooks are beau­ti­ful, func­tional, easy-to-create, and avail­able now to any­one with an up-to-date web browser.

Are web-based eBooks of value? Or is this another new chan­nel that frag­ments the mar­ket and makes more work for pub­lish­ers? Every eBook for­mat has advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. Determining which eBook format(s) are right for you depend(s) on your con­tent, pub­lish­ing goals, and stan­dards. Leverage pop­u­lar (ePub) for­mats to take advan­tage of the widest pos­si­ble dis­tri­b­u­tion and easy, third-party e-commerce tech­nol­ogy. Use HTML5 eBooks for bet­ter pre­sen­ta­tion, con­sis­tent sup­port of enhanced func­tion­al­ity, and build­ing rela­tion­ships directly with your readers.

Click the eBook below to read it inside this post (it’s short), or click the “expand­ing arrows” icon beneath it to read full-screen. You’ll need an up-to-date web browser with javascript turned on.

One-Sentence Paragraphs Make Powerful Prose

paragraph_dominoesSearch for “one-sentence para­graph” on the Internet and you’ll mostly find ques­tions about whether writ­ing them is even an accept­able prac­tice. The one-sentence para­graph is not only legal, it’s a use­ful and pow­er­ful lit­er­ary device.

One-sentence para­graphs are com­mon when short pieces of dia­log are being exchanged, but con­sider the effect of ser­ial one-sentence para­graphs in other con­texts. The fol­low­ing excerpt from The Blue Monk describes an ocean cross­ing in a small wooden boat:

Continue read­ing

PubML Tutorial — Produce Your Own eBooks and Publish for Amazon Kindle

The PubML™ eBook Tools cre­ate beau­ti­ful HTML5 eBooks for the web, but you can also export to ePub for upload to pop­u­lar eBook­stores, includ­ing This tuto­r­ial shows you:

  • how to make ePub-friendly ver­sions of your PubML™ eBooks
  • how to val­i­date your exported eBooks to ensure they’re standards-compliant
  • how to pre­view them in var­i­ous desk­top eReader software
  • how to pub­lish your eBooks through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.

Watch in full-screen at 1080p.

PubML™ Tools Make EBook Publishing Easy

pubml_round_bannerPubML™ EBooks — Publishing Tools for Everyone

The PubML™ eBook plat­form com­bines a web-based eBook for­mat with book design guid­ance and pub­lish­ing exper­tise. EBook pub­lish­ing is no longer a chore or an insur­mount­able tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. PubML’s™ holis­tic approach edu­cates, empow­ers, and inspires writ­ers and publishers.

PubML™ EBooks — Balancing Tradition with Innovation

EBooks and pop­u­lar eBook­stores have been around for a while; these rely on either the ePub eBook for­mat or some vari­ant like Amazon’s .mobi. Publishers made a huge invest­ment in con­vert­ing their cat­a­logs to ePub2 for­mat for con­sump­tion on ded­i­cated eReader devices. But after the ePub3 stan­dard was released to enhance the capa­bil­i­ties of eBooks, eReader device man­u­fac­tur­ers were slow to embrace the new stan­dard. Without ePub3 sup­port, pub­lish­ers will nat­u­rally hes­i­tate to deliver enhanced eBooks that won’t appear or func­tion con­sis­tently for all readers.

The PubML™ eBook for­mat (PubML stands for Publishing with HTML) was cre­ated to dis­play reflow­able, pag­i­nated text in the web browser, along with ele­gant typog­ra­phy, web fonts, rich media, photo foot­notes, and other fea­tures. The web browser is now offi­cially the most pow­er­ful and flex­i­ble plat­form for eBook dis­play. Publishing on the free Internet offers a dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nel that bypasses pro­pri­etary book­store and app store com­mis­sions. PubML™ eBooks can be read online or offline. They can be viewed as hosted web­sites or dis­trib­uted as dig­i­tal down­loads for local viewing.

The PubML™ Publishing tools export to both tra­di­tional ePub2 for­mat and to PubML™ web-book for­mat. Publishers can choose either or both.

Continue read­ing

Introducing PubML — a New Web-Based EBook Format

Introducing PubML — HTML5 eBooks in Your Web Browser

blueMonkCovers3d420pxThe Blue Monk is an IPPY Award-winning mem­oir about my adven­tures sail­ing solo dur­ing the 1980s and 90s. As I worked on my man­u­script, I thought about ways I could honor the places and peo­ple I’d encoun­tered on my voy­ages. My research con­tained hun­dreds of maps, pho­tos, video clips, and foot­notes; I wanted to find a way to share these resources with­out bloat­ing the file size or clut­ter­ing the text. As a book designer, I wanted to pro­duce an elec­tronic book that respected clas­sic prin­ci­ples of lay­out and typography.

The PubML™ eBook for­mat (Publishing with HTML) enables beau­ti­ful, rich media eBooks to be deliv­ered where they should be—through your web browser. PubML™ eBooks com­bine ele­gant typog­ra­phy with reflow­able, pag­i­nated text, and they offer a “third stream” alter­na­tive to pro­pri­etary book­stores and pro­pri­etary eReader devices.

The Blue Monk is much more than a demo PubML™ eBook. It’s a vivid account of set­ting sail in a small boat (named The Blue Monk after the Thelonious Monk com­po­si­tion) to find big adven­ture, and doc­u­men­ta­tion of the untold his­tory of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. 80 inter­ac­tive maps allow read­ers to fol­low my routes and fly over remote places. 100 Photo Footnotes clar­ify nau­ti­cal terms with­out adding clut­ter to the pages. 200 pho­tographs and 350 video clips allow the reader to build a per­sonal con­nec­tion with peo­ple who were part of the story. The Blue Monk is a fusion of rich media and lit­er­a­ture where hun­dreds of images, maps, and video are kept sub­or­di­nate to the writ­ten word.

Continue read­ing

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, and the Nature of Truth

time-machineA few years ago, I attended a nonfiction-writing work­shop where I was told by the instruc­tor that to qual­ify as non­fic­tion, a work must adhere as strictly to truth as pos­si­ble. But such an edict rests on the naïve assump­tion that truth itself is know­able. The clean, white divid­ing line between fic­tion and non­fic­tion is, itself, a fic­tion. Truth is as neb­u­lous as fantasy.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, I spent a num­ber of years liv­ing aboard a small sail­boat, trav­el­ing through the Bahamas, cross­ing the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and liv­ing among a com­mu­nity of inspir­ing, col­or­ful peo­ple who chose life afloat over ter­res­trial exis­tence. I made sev­eral attempts to write my sto­ries, and finally pub­lished my mem­oir twenty years later.

I began by writ­ing indi­vid­ual sto­ries, one at a time. Eventually, I had a col­lec­tion of almost fifty. I placed them in mostly-chronological order and began to work them into a book with a sin­gle story arc that tied them together. Fifty sto­ries became one big one.

For research, I dug into my past and con­ducted inter­views with peo­ple who were “there,” some of whom I hadn’t spo­ken with for two decades. Opening long-closed doors was scary and exhil­a­rat­ing, and it revealed curi­ous things about the nature of truth. As I asked ques­tions, rem­i­nisced, and lis­tened to the mem­o­ries of those who shared pieces of my adven­ture, I found they remem­bered things I didn’t. I remem­bered things they couldn’t recall. Some of the things we both remem­bered, we remem­bered dif­fer­ently. “No, that was me who said that to you!” If some absolute, fac­tual ver­sion of truth lies beneath the mem­o­ries, per­cep­tions, and other aspects of con­scious­ness that fil­ter real­ity, get­ting at it is a roman­tic fan­tasy. Facts are col­ored by mem­ory, view­ing angle, and time. Truth is an unat­tain­able absolute. Continue read­ing

A Manuscript is Not a Book: Ten Tips for Manuscript Preparation

In my work with writ­ers, I come across many com­mon tech­ni­cal prob­lems with man­u­scripts. These usu­ally spring from the best of inten­tions as the writer attempts to cre­ate the feel of the fin­ished book within the man­u­script. Though they’re try­ing to be help­ful, it requires more of the typesetter’s time to strip out all of these styl­is­tic addi­tions. When it comes to man­u­scripts, sim­pler is better.

Here are ten tips for writ­ers to con­sider while they cre­ate their man­u­scripts and ready their books for the design and pro­duc­tion process.

1. The dou­ble space — Digital type­faces have care­fully designed kern­ing tables that con­trol spac­ing between var­i­ous pairs of let­ters. That way a cap­i­tal “A” can nest closer to a cap­i­tal “W” than it would to another cap­i­tal “A.” Most style man­u­als spec­ify sin­gle spaces but if you want wide spac­ing, ask your type­set­ter to insert emspaces. Emspaces are sin­gle characters—wide spaces, not double-spaces. Double-spaces were a con­ven­tion that attempted to get type­writ­ers to imi­tate the wide spac­ing seen in book typog­ra­phy prior to the early 1960s when elec­tronic type­set­ting meth­ods took over. The first thing your type­set­ter will do is con­vert all your dou­ble spaces to sin­gle spaces but if you can break the double-space habit, you’ll save a step. Read more about sen­tence spac­ing here. (Really! Read it, espe­cially before commenting.)

Don’t put dou­ble spaces after a period. Your type­face already knows how much space is required.

Additionally, con­sec­u­tive spaces are often used by writ­ers who don’t under­stand how to set tabs and indents. An indent is not equiv­a­lent to five spaces. Indentation is con­trolled in your word processor’s para­graph set­tings dia­logue or by manip­u­lat­ing the rulers above the text (see below).

Don’t use con­sec­u­tive spaces to move text around. Use tabs and jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. When it comes right down to it, don’t use dou­ble spaces at all. Continue read­ing