Category Archives: Typesetting

Celebrating four years as a publishing freelancer

May 9 2013 was the day I made my last commute into London to the company I’d worked for for thirteen years. I’d gone part-time a year earlier, but this was it – I was on my own.

So four years later… did I make the right choice?

I love being involved in book creation: editing them, proofreading them, typesetting them, making ebooks out of them. I thrive when I’m working on a diverse range of books, using a diverse skill set, which is something you’d never get to do in-house. This past [freelance] year alone I’ve edited, copy-edited, proofread, typeset or ebooked: science fiction, romantic fiction, police procedurals, Second World War submarine fiction, thrillers, quirky Edwardian detective fiction, romantic comedy, fantasy fiction, historical fiction, a lovely book about gardening and bees, a fantastic allegorical animal story for adults, a collection of academic essays, a guide to Arab culture, a mind, body, spirit title, a children’s science book (back to my roots there), a human resources guide, YA fiction about a young rock band…

During my time as a freelancer I’ve worked with large publishers, tiny publishers, new publishers, agents, established authors… I’ve helped self-publishers get their books into print and I’ve been involved in some books that you’ll never see in the shops or on Amazon Kindle, but mean so much to the people they are made for…

Talking of which, last summer I was contacted by a woman whose mother was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Her mum had written a book and was desperate to see it ‘published’ [in print] – it was her life’s dream. The daughter knew no publisher would take it, but her mum so wanted to hold the book in her hands and her daughter so wanted to make that dream come true for her. So after much discussion about things like how far we should go with the editing and how much everything would cost, that was what we did. I tidied up the text as much as possible, given that the author wasn’t able to make any editorial decisions by this point and rarely remembered what she had written. I typeset it and had it proofread. The daughter painted a cover image, wrote blurb and a biography, and then we made it into a hardback book using Blurb.com and had a handful of copies printed for the family. Sadly, the mother died early this year, but her daughter told me she had read the book to her mum in her last days in hospital. I think about that a lot and it makes me so happy and proud that I was able to make that small wish come true for that family.

Then this year I was nominated as an Unsung Hero of Publishing, which is a recent initiative by whitefox to celebrate those of us who don’t normally get much recognition but do a lot behind the scenes of publishing. Rather aptly for me, whitefox are celebrating their 5th birthday tonight with a BookMachine event and I’m looking forward to going along.

So, did I do the right thing in going freelance? I think so, yes, and I’m looking forward to many freelance years to come. I wonder what I’ll get to work on next…?

 

 

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Star Trekking – Radio Times magazine August 1996

Radio Times magazine cover Star Trek 30 anniversary

OK – you may have noticed I’m a Star Trek fan. Star Trek and I are celebrating the same milestone birthday this year. My daughter is also celebrating (well in her case I’m not sure she considers it celebrating) a milestone birthday.

A couple of days ago I came across this issue of the Radio Times on Ebay. It’s from the week of my daughter’s birthday. I duly bought it from a fantastic seller who not only posted it quickly and carefully, but also used seventeen stamps from the 1970s to pay for the postage!

This has been a real joy to look though – and I hope my girl gets a kick out of seeing what would have been on the telly the day she was ten.

 

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Proofreading tips for self-publishers (from an editor and typesetter)

iPad stylus

Here are some of my tips for proofreading for self-publishers:
1. Don’t do it yourself unless you absolutely have no choice. I’m not saying this because it’s (part of) what I do for a living and so I would say that wouldn’t I. I’m saying it because proofreading is hard and proofreading your own work is harder. It’s harder because you’ve cut and pasted and reworked and reworded and deleted and added and changed … and you know your work intimately – or at least you think you know your work intimately.

A small example: you know you wrote, ‘The milkmaid went to the dairy to make some cheese’, but what you don’t know is that your fingers accidentally typed, ‘The milkmaid went to the diary…’, but your brain ever-so helpfully decided ‘close enough’ so you don’t notice the error when you read it back over. Your readers (pre-publication or otherwise) are coming to it fresh, so their brains might go, ‘Hang on a minute here – that says “diary” – surely a milkmaid would go to a dairy? This word must be wrong.’ Or they might not – brains are funny like that. Then your reader points out (sometimes in rather sneery and sarcastic tones that you wrote diary instead of dairy, and then you can’t see anything but diary and wonder how on earth you managed to let that obvious, glaring error slip though, and you berate yourself for days for your stupidity (or maybe that’s just me). But it’s just a result of your brain trying to be helpful. In fact it’s also pretty hard for an experienced proofreader to pick up these kinds of errors because we are generally experienced readers too. Once we have got past the learning-to-read stage we don’t read every letter in every word because our brains fill in the gaps. Training yourself to see what is actually there is tough. Proofreading is like doing a puzzle with no answers.

And spelling’s not the only thing you have to look out for. What about consistency, missing words, punctuation, grammar, continuity errors and typographic conventions? Are you really super-hot on when to use its and it’s and there, their and they’re?

2. If you can hire professional services it really is a good idea. If you can’t or won’t, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read your work. The more eyes you have on it the better. (Although be aware that it is a big ask of a friend to read your extended reworking of War and Peace set in the Star Trek universe in their spare time, and for the reasons noted above don’t expect your friend to pick up every error either.) Even if you do hire a professional have as many friends and family as possible read it.

3. Use a spellchecker to pick up the obvious typos – there is no excuse for ‘ebst’ or ‘freind’. Be careful though because it won’t pick up a correctly spelled word in the wrong context (see above and also note from/form, you/your, breath/breathe) or variant spellings such as leant and leaned (see below). Make sure it’s set for the right language – UK and US English have some spelling differences – the missing ‘u’ in US spellings of words like colour, for example. Some spellcheckers can search for duplicated words – another common error. I wouldn’t advise auto-correct unless you really know what you’re doing.

4. Try to keep your spellings consistent. Common variant words are leant/leaned, learnt/learned, burnt/burned, and words with ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ endings (e.g. realise/realize), cafe/café. Compound words should be consistently hyphenated or one word. ‘Search-and-replace’ comes in very handy here. Decide which spelling you are going with and run searches for the variant you don’t want. Don’t forget with ise/ize spellings you also have to look for realisation and realising. But don’t click ‘replace all’ unless you are really sure that your replacement is correct.

5. Try reading the text aloud or at least in your head. It can really help if your mind starts to wander – which it will. If you notice your mind has wandered, go back a few lines and re-read.

6. I work on a paper printout or an iPad when I’m editing – it’s hard to read sitting at a computer. I often tap each word with my pen or stylus as I’m reading aloud in my head. This can help you spot missing words. We often miss out small words like ‘a’, ‘to’ or ‘he’ and forget to end our sentences with full stops and/or closing speech marks.

7. Think about continuity. Errors often occur during your redrafts. Check that dates, ages and expressions of passing time tally up. Check that your blonde, blue-eyed heroine doesn’t suddenly have jet-black curls – unless she’s showing you her new wig. Pay close attention to your characters’ names and locations. Names tend to change during the editing process, and it’s really easy to accidentally leave in an old name.

8. If you find an error, re-start your reading from a couple of lines before. In all the ‘excitement’ of spotting a typo you could easily miss another error close to it. We have a tendency to imagine that errors are somehow uniformly spread out, but of course they aren’t.

9. If you’re proofreading a print book you also have to look out for things such as short or single-word lines at the tops of pages, words hyphenated across pages, words stacking at the end of lines. You have to check for consistent use of page numbers, check the running heads (if you have them) contents pages, copyright details and ISBNs…

10. If you can, ask your best friend/significant other (or better still several best/friends significant others) to read it too. The more eyes you have on it the better. (I know I’m repeating myself but it really is the most important thing.) And if you are having your work professionally typeset, try to pick up as many errors as you can before it’s set. Once it’s been typeset it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make changes without asking your typesetter to do it, which will probably cost you extra.

 

 

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Thrilling Stories From the Past for Girls 1970

Thrilling stories from the past

Edited by Eric Duthie, illustrated by Reg Gray and published in 1970 by The Hamlyn Publishing Group for Odhams Books. This is a collection of 14 stories by different authors – including KM Peyton.

I was an editor for the My Story series, published by Scholastic Children’s Books, for many years, and although I wasn’t in at the beginning (it was actually developed as the UK version of Scholastic’s Dear America series) this book was surely on someone’s bookshelf in the editorial team!

So how often do you see a story about the Lisbon earthquake in 1775?

Thrilling stories from the past

jacket blurb

There were more in the series. I shall be looking out for them. There were also books ‘for boys’ in the same format.

Thrilling stories from the past

Other books in the series

Every story has an illustrated opening page and one full-page illustration.

Thrilling stories from the past

Thrilling stories from the past

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The History of Tom Jones 1959 Folio Society edition

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Here we have a lovely 1959/1973 Folio Society edition of The History of Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. The illustrations are by Derrick Harris.

The History of Tom Jones was first published in 1749 and is one of my favourite early novels. I was really pleased to pick up this copy for £1.25!

It’s even got a slipcase…
Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

And tells you what paper it’s printed on…
Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

Tom Jones (Folio Soc)

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Good gracious – it’s GREP!

Grep definition
The other day I was asked if I could convert some short ebooks into PDFs using an existing print template set up in InDesign. Only thing was that the contents of the ebooks were edited sections of existing print books, and had never existed as Word files or InDesign files. So how to do it reasonably efficiently? To be absolutely sure that you have the right version of the text ideally you should work with the ebook files.

That’s fine – crack them open and you have HTML. That’s text, right? Well – yes, and in an ideal world InDesign could import HTML and use the HTML code to style your text. But this isn’t an ideal world – InDesign can’t import HTML yet. (I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, right, Adobe?)

But – back to the drawing board for the time being. So I copy and paste the text from my browser… That works, but – hey, hang on! – where’s my formatting? All those italics – gone. Oh lordy, am I going to have to go back over everything and replace the italics? Bolds? Headings!?

Back to the drawing board again. What if I copy-and-paste the HTML into InDesign? Yes but you still haven’t got any formatting? Ah, but you have got the codes for formatting.

HTML code

You can see here, each paragraph is surrounded by a little bit of code and italics, bolds and headings, etc are surrounded by codes too. These codes work with the css files to style the text in your ebook or browser, and the great thing about this is that they won’t ever be wrong or typed incorrectly (so long as the original text is styled correctly of course). So you can do some find/change work using the code tags as a guide and you’ll soon have styled text without having to go through comparing both versions. Hurrah!

The find/change panel in InDesign is really powerful and I spend a lot of time using it when I’m typesetting. But to sort out this little problem more efficiently, it’s really useful to know a bit of grep. I knew some grep and sometimes use InDesign’s built-in grep queries, but I went back to the trusty Lynda video-training site and brushed up on it. And, wowzers, it really is like magic. (I’m nothing to do with Lynda.com, but I cannot recommend them highly enough – their courses are superb.)

What you need to know here is pretty simple stuff, actually, and is only scratching the surface of the capabilities of grep (and don’t even get me started on the possibilities of grep styles). If you’re ever setting long documents, or have to change from one format to another, a little bit of grep is the way to go.

Here I’m clearing out the paragraph tags and styling the body text at the same time – one click (do check your code is working first though!) and the body text is styled and the paragraph tags are gone. You’ll see that the paragraph tags are in the search field and inside them is (.*). This pretty much means find anything inside this text. Then in the replace field the $1 means put in anything you’ve found but only what you’ve found – not the paragraph tags (actually anything inside those parentheses you see around .*). And at the bottom of the find/change panel I’ve asked it to change the style to ‘text’.

GREP

Clearing out paragraph tags

You can use the same method to style headings, opening paragraphs, etc, too. Just substitute your paragraph tags for whatever else you have (H1, div, etc).

Here I’m styling italics with a italic character style and getting rid of the tags at the same time. Again, you can do this with your bold, underline etc – just change the search criteria.
grep codes

You can also use ‘wild cards’ to clear out things like image tags that are slightly different throughout, so that you don’t have to search and delete manually through all the text.

Grep

Using wildcard codes to clear out unwanted text

You could also use grep to convert the image tags to placeholder boxes for the images if you needed too. Finally go through and clear out random div tags, etc. Then I’d do a final check for > and < which means you should pick up any remaining lurking code. Then you’re done. Ta dah! Styled text in just a few clicks.

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