After completing the final draft of a manuscript for my fifth book, I wanted a reality check. I hired a professional editor and learned something important about self-publishing. No matter how capable you are as a writer and proofreader, you can’t accomplish your best writing entirely by yourself.
My initial editing process was hardly ineffective. My latest book is a memoir of my sailing adventures from the 1980s and 90s. I rounded up a capable crew that included people who were there, people who were college writing instructors and people who were simply avid readers. I sent them one chapter (1500-2500 words) per week for almost a year (so as not to burden anyone with a huge job to do gratis), and offered to edit their material in return. I got useful feedback about everything from seamanship to grammar along with their general reader reactions. The collaborative process also forced me to polish each chapter before I sent it out; I usually spent a few hours rewriting before posting the week’s installment on Google Docs and sharing it with my group. That unquestionably improved the book. Continue reading →
The new ePub3 format is talked about a great deal on the Internet, but aside from a short list of new features and capabilities, frustratingly little information is actually given about it. eReader manufacturers have barely begun to implement fragments of the new spec and they aren’t making promises about when upgrades will arrive, presumably because they don’t want to encourage consumers to hold out for new models.
Though this video is almost a year old, it does provide useful insight into the vision of the International Digital Publishing Forum (the organization that created and continues to work on the ePub specification). In the video, Bill McCoy, Executive Director of the IDPF, presents an only-slightly-technical perspective on ePub3 with demonstrations of a few of its capabilities.
In response to this older video, Bill McCoy suggested I share the following which was posted much more recently.
The first installment of WordPress Websites for Writers and Publishers covered how to download, install and configure a copy of the WordPress software from WordPress.org. WordPress is an ideal, free platform for building websites perfectly suited to the needs of writers and publishers.
This second article in the series covers plugins—what they are and how to install them—and how to create pages for your new website. Here, you’ll get down to the business of writing and organizing content for your new site.
WordPress Websites – Installing Plugins
Once you have set up an empty WordPress site (see the first article), you’ll probably want to hide it from the world until you’ve written content, organized it, and made it look the way you want it to. Fortunately, hiding your site is easily accomplished by installing a plugin. Literally thousands of plugins are available for WordPress. These are add-on technologies that enable you to set up mailing lists, enhance your typography, set up a digital download store, customize background graphics or just about anything else you can think of. Most are free; only a few are expensive. As you build your author site, you’ll rely on plug-ins to provide the unique combination of features that writers and publishers require.
Self-publishing educators tell you how to sell your book, but very few bother to ask if that’s a worthwhile pursuit. Tacking marketing on as the de facto second phase of writing a book places many worthy artists’ resources in jeopardy. How much time, money and energy should you put into marketing your book? The answer is found in an honest evaluation of where your work lies on the spectrum between art and business.
John is a landscape painter. He has painted for decades, cultivating the skills to complement his talent. He works as a restaurant manager but he’s passionate about his art and maintains a studio in his garage. He has sold several paintings, had some gallery shows, and dreams of gaining enough stature as an artist to quit the food service business and devote himself to painting. After all, he paints at least as well as famous artists who make good money.
Wilma runs a vinyl sign shop out of her own garage. She creates graphics on a computer, exports the files to her vinyl cutter and applies them to shop windows and hanging banners. She studied design and takes her typography seriously, choosing appropriate typefaces and kerning the letters more carefully than her competitors do. Sometimes, she gets tired of doing commercial work; she wishes she could spend more time painting for fun but she’s grateful not to be working in a cubicle.
John is a fine artist. Wilma is a commercial artist. For our purposes, they represent the fiction and the nonfiction writer respectively.
Have You Got Any Castles? is a Looney Tunes cartoon short released on June 25, 1938 as part of the Merrie Melodies series produced by Leon Schlesinger and distributed by Vitaphone. The first Looney Tunes‘ bookstore animation of two, the plot consists of puns on book titles and literary characters.
I originally posted a YouTube video of the short that some one else put online, but a friend correctly pointed out that I was not making proper use of copyrighted material. As a writer and publisher, I think it’s important to respect that so I have taken the actual clip off my site.
The second Looney Tunes bookstore video, Book Revue is a Looney Tunes cartoon short featuring Daffy Duck, released in 1946. It was directed by Bob Clampett, written by Warren Foster and scored by Carl Stalling. Mel Blanc and Sara Berner provided the voices. The title is a pun; a Revue is a variety show, while a Review is a critique. Notice the wonderful hand-lettered book titles. See it on YouTube here.
I will continue to round up animated and artistic works that celebrate books and publishing. Send me a link if you know of something remarkable you think I should share.
NITIAL CAPITALS have historical roots in the early days of book design; their use predates the printing press and the invention of moveable type. Today’s initial caps are not as fancy as those carefully rendered in gold leaf in ancient scriptoriums, but their association with classic book design remains strong. Initial Capital letters are often referred to generically as “drop caps” though a drop capital is actually a specific style of Initial Cap.
Some modernists discourage the use of initial caps, citing a host of typographical problems, but “Once upon a time” just wouldn’t be the same without a great big letter “O” at the beginning. Though not appropriate for every book, initial caps announce the beginning of a chapter with classical style. They suggest that the text you are about to read transcends mere data; this is literature.
Illuminated letter P in the 1407 AD Latin Bible on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England
This post examines different styles of initial caps and discusses the challenges of transitioning smoothly from large initial characters to the much smaller characters of body text. Digital tools and shortcuts make it easy to create initial caps but the easy way isn’t always the best way. Serious publishers understand the subtle differences between good typography and great typography. Many thanks to author and typographer Dick Margulis for editing and fact-checking.
IBooks Author is Apple’s new eBook publishing application, a drag-and-drop tool that allows publishers to create interactive books without having to write code.
From Apple:Available free on the Mac App store, iBooks Author is an amazing new app that allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.
Notwithstanding the fact that books have hardly failed to bring content to life these past five centuries since the introduction of the printing press, iBooks-Author looks pretty slick. However, Apple’s latest offering comes with sticky licensing restrictions that are unprecedented in the software industry.
After organizing their bookshelf, Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife decided to take it to the next level. They spent many sleepless nights moving and stacking books at Type Bookstore in Toronto to produce this whimsical stop-motion animation.
WordPress is a magic web publishing tool perfect for writers and publishers who want to build attractive websites without spending a fortune and build reader communities around their work. This is the first in a series of articles that explain in non-technical terms how to get your site started and how to publish content without becoming a programmer. Search engines and marketing strategies will be discussed and I’ll steer you around common stumbling blocks.
Over 70 million WordPress sites (including the one you’re currently reading) produce over a half-billion new posts every day. Other good options are available, but WordPress offers a huge support community, thousands of add-ons (plug-ins) that extend its functionality and thousands of themes that instantly customize its appearance. WordPress is fantastically search engine friendly.
WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform that enables writers to post articles and receive comments from readers. Eventually, WordPress expanded into a full-blown content management system. In English, this means you can post articles, create pages, embed images and publish many kinds of content with a simple Microsoft Word-style editor. Push the “Publish” button and your content magically appears on your website along with whatever links or navigation buttons are needed.
My latest article on GraphicDesign.com discusses the difference between designers and production artists.
What exactly is design? Do designers build projects or do they have a larger and more valuable role. What do designers really do? How can you find clients who understand the value of creative insight and quality work.
I pondered these things on an airplane on the way to a consulting job, then brought the questions back to my classroom.