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

Fine Control Over Justified Text

justification_articlePage lay­out pro­grams like Adobe Indesign and Quark, allow typog­ra­phers to exert fine con­trol over jus­ti­fied text to remove gaps and “rivers.” The default set­tings pro­duce “pretty good” results—better than a word processor—but a few small tweaks will dra­mat­i­cally improve the spac­ing of your text. This arti­cle explains how to bal­ance hyphen­ation set­tings with word spac­ing, let­ter spac­ing, and glyph scal­ing to opti­mize the appear­ance of jus­ti­fied text.

My last “Book Design Basics” post dis­cussed the impor­tance of hyphen­ation set­tings. These should be adjusted to suit the line width and the pur­pose of the text. A long legal dis­claimer in small print in a nar­row box can often be set with­out regard to how many hyphens are required to pro­duce con­sis­tent spac­ing. Body text is likely to be a com­pro­mise based mostly on one group of set­tings. A short blurb on the back of a book cover should be poked and prod­ded until spac­ing and hyphen­ation are ideal. This arti­cle explains how to com­bine hyphen­ation and jus­ti­fi­ca­tion set­tings to achieve opti­mal results.

Disclosure: If you’re read­ing this arti­cle, you’re prob­a­bly work­ing on your own next book and don’t care about mine (sell­ing books to writ­ers is like sell­ing boxed lunches at a chef’s con­ven­tion). At the risk of appear­ing self-promotional, I’m using the blurb from my new book’s back cover as the exam­ple text. It offers a per­fect, real-world, one-paragraph exam­ple of how adjust­ing hyphen­ation and jus­ti­fi­ca­tion set­tings can turn so-so text into a har­mo­niously spaced, easy-to-read mes­sage, but if you feel I’m “slip­ping an ad into your drink,” you can bail out here.

Still with me? Good. Let’s look at the text in its “pure” left-aligned form:

justification_01_defaultThe spac­ing is ideal for the font (Adobe Garamond Pro) as it’s unaf­fected by jus­ti­fi­ca­tion set­tings; the spac­ing you see is the spac­ing designed into the type­face. Many peo­ple pre­fer left-aligned (ragged right) text for this rea­son, but oth­ers pre­fer jus­ti­fied text because of the neat, tidy way it fills its box. Continue read­ing

September Publishing and EBook Workshops in Miami

Dave Bricker—award-winning author, book coach, designer, and cre­ator of the PubML™ eBook platform—will offer two September work­shops in Miami, Florida.

The free “All About Publishing” work­shop on Tuesday, September 2nd cov­ers writ­ing, edit­ing, book design, and how to dis­trib­ute your book on pop­u­lar retail sites. Learn about copy­right, print on demand, ISBN num­bers, and how to avoid pub­lish­ing scams—everything you need to pub­lish an excel­lent book. Continue read­ing

Scam Alert: Editors Beware

scammerI was con­tacted by a not-so-articulate per­son who requested my ser­vices as an edi­tor for an arti­cle. I looked at his doc­u­ment and found a ten-page para­graph that needed plenty of help. I wrote a polite response explain­ing that this piece would be time-consuming and expen­sive to edit, but the author seemed intent on hav­ing me rewrite it. He read­ily agreed to my price, explained his 30-day dead­line and told me he’d send a check.

If this doesn’t sound sus­pi­cious to you, it should.

Pay atten­tion and stay safe.

Continue read­ing

Book Design Basics — Use Hyphens for Justified Type

hyphens_article_artHyphens are an impor­tant con­trib­u­tor to ele­gant, easy-to-read typog­ra­phy, espe­cially when text is fully jus­ti­fied as is the con­ven­tion in book typog­ra­phy. This arti­cle explains how jus­ti­fied text works, and how proper hyphen­ation improves the leg­i­bil­ity of your type.

Text jus­ti­fi­ca­tion works by expand­ing the spaces between words on each line until the evenly spaced words pre­cisely fill the width of the text field. Some typog­ra­phers hate jus­ti­fied text; they pre­fer the nat­ural spac­ing of the type to the arti­fi­cially expanded spac­ing, and they don’t mind the uneven right edge. A com­pelling argu­ment can be made that ragged-right (left-aligned) text is the most leg­i­ble, but a beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned rec­tan­gle of text set inside the rec­tan­gle of the page is like­wise an engag­ing aes­thetic expe­ri­ence. Designers must bal­ance page lay­out con­sid­er­a­tions against the need to for­mat text that’s invit­ing and com­fort­able to read. Continue read­ing

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.