Tag Archives: books

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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Books are exciting (Ladybird Keywords Reading Scheme) 1967

Books are Exciting Ladybird

Visiting the library

I found this in David’s Bookshop, Letchworth, for 25p. Result! This is a great book to show in this ‘100 years of Ladybird’ year.

This book is part of the Keywords Reading Scheme series (11c) and is all about books and reading. It covers fiction genres, non fiction (including facts, crafts, things to do, etc) writing your own books, visiting the library, using encyclopaedias, and finally how books are made. I don’t know if it was a mistake, but the book follows two children and their experiences of reading, but at the start they are introduced as Rita and Tim, but several pages in they turn into Peter and Jane (who were the usual Reading-Scheme characters) with no explanation.

Books are Exciting Ladybird

Choosing books

Books are Exciting Ladybird

Making books

Books are Exciting Ladybird

Fiction genres

I’m not sure Ladybird would use this image as a cover now! But to put it into context, it is the illustration from a story in the book about how some South Sea Islanders catch octopuses. Presumably this image was chosen as being (in the publisher’s opinion) the most exciting in the book. At that time (I’m not sure about now) cover images were always taken from the book.)

Books are Exciting Ladybird

Cover

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Some formatting tips for self-publishers or It’s all about consistency


shelves with books on

Formatting your book isn’t just about correct use of grammar and spelling. Here are some tips and pointers to making your book look like it’s been set by a professional.

  • Search-and-replace is your friend – but use it wisely. Always check that your search query is set up properly and never ‘change all’ unless you are absolutely sure you really want to ‘change all’.
  • Search and replace multiple spaces. In the past if you used a typewriter you would type a double space at the end of every sentence to create a clear sentence break in the monospaced typewritten text. Many authors still do this – particularly those who were brought up using typewriters. It’s not necessary anymore and can create weird spacing. This is one of the first things I do when I’m setting text.
  • Change double dashes – – to n – or m — dashes. Again this is a hangover from the days of the typewriter. Typists did this to distinguish an n dash from a hyphen. The typesetter would change these into n or m dashes as indicated by the copy editor. On a Mac keyboard an n dash is created by typing alt hyphen and an m dash alt shift hyphen.
  • Change default (′straight′) quote marks to typographers’ (or ‘curly’) quote marks.
  • An ellipsis … is used formally to show some text has been omitted, for example in a long quotation. But it is more common these days to use an ellipsis to indicate a tailing off or pause in thought. Ellipses are three dots – not four, five, or as many as will fit on a line. On a Mac keyboard type alt semicolon (…) not dot dot dot (…) or, worse, dot space dot space dot (. . . ). If you use dots (particularly in ebooks) you could end up with a dot or two at the beginning or end or a line. There’s no need to add a full stop after an ellipsis at the end of a sentence – although some people do. Don’t use a comma after an ellipsis in the middle of a sentence.
  • Check numbered lists are in numerical order. It’s very common to mis-number your points, and unless you are using an automatic list function it’s easily missed.
  • Be consistent about how you treat numbers. Which ones do you spell out and which do you write as numerals?
  • Check whether your numbered lists need to be numbered at all. Will bullet points do? You only generally need a numbered list if you are describing a sequence (eg a recipe) or where the amount of items on the list is an important point.
  • Widows and orphans. Try to avoid having the last line of a paragraph at the top of a new page or the first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page.
  • Avoid having only one word on the last line of paragraphs.
  • Avoid having words stacking on top of each other – particularly at the beginning and end of lines.
  • Check you’ve punctuated the ends of your sentences and that there is no space before the punctuation. […end of sentence. NOT …end of sentence .]
  • Paragraph spacing. Either have a line space between paragraphs or indent the first line of each paragraph. Don’t do both. Don’t indent the first line of the first paragraph after a heading.
  • Decide if you’re using double or single quotes (speech marks) and use them consistently.
  • Make sure your heading styles are consistent. Generally the more important the heading the bigger and bolder it should be. Make sure you capitalise your headings consistently too. Don’t have:

Heading Number One

Heading number two

HEADING NUMBER THREE

Heading no 4.

Lastly – a little bit about spelling

  • Make sure your spellings are consistent. There are often perfectly correct variant spellings (eg: OK or okay; curtsey or curtsy). Pick one and stick with it.
  • Use your spell-checker, but don’t rely on it. It won’t usually pick up words that are spelled correctly but in the wrong context. The girl wrote in her dairy. The girl wrote in her diary. […are two very different things!]
  • A spell-checker won’t be able to tell if you mean you or your and breath or breathe either. These come up a lot. For some reason we often miss the r off your and the e off breathe when we type.
  • And watch out for auto-correct – it’s often more trouble than it’s worth!
page showing typesetting issues

A couple of pages of Lorem ipsum showing typesetting errors and issues.

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