Tag Archives: publishing

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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More joy of text – Oliver Simon’s Introduction to Typography

Introduction to Typography book

Cover

By a Typographer, I do not mean a Printer, as he is Vulgarly accounted, any more than Dr. Dee means a Carpenter or Mason to be an Architect; but by a Typographer, I mean such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.

Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-works applied to the Art of Printing Joseph Moxon, 1683

Typography may be regarded as consisting of three parts: each distinct and indispensable, namely, punch-cutting, founding and printing. The practice of the different branches produces artists of three different kinds, the first punch-cutters, the second founders and the third printers, but he who combines a knowledge of all three branches is fit to be styled a Typographer.

Manuel Typographique Simon-Pierre Fournier, 1764

• the style and appearance of printed matter.
• the art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it.

Oxford Dictionary of English

This is the revised 1963 edition of Oliver Simon’s classic 1945 book – Introduction to Typography – edited by David Bland. The first two quotes are taken from the definitions of typography printed in the prelims of this edition. The third is the modern definition from the dictionary my Mac uses (the Oxford Dictionary of English according to my preferences panel). Oliver Simon was the typographer at Curwen Press from the 1920s until his death in 1956. This was in the days of the switch from physical type to film setting. I wonder what Oliver Simon would have made of things today.

Introduction to Typography book

Suitable typefaces for display type

Introduction to Typography book

Glossary

I find it fascinating how processes, terminology, ideas, rules and even roles in printing and production shift and change meaning. One small example: we still refer to the author’s final ‘manuscript’, but it’s many years since I received a sheaf of typewritten pages from an author.
Another example: the role of copy-editor isn’t mentioned in this book, but what we would think of as copy-editing tasks are that of the compositor or setter. There is a section at the beginning of the book discussing what to capitalise, use of small caps, quotation marks, parentheses, italics, etc – things that modern copy-editors would concern themselves with. But the onus is much more on the author to supply a ‘carefully prepared MS. [which] must be strictly followed as to punctuation and spelling’. And Simon also notes that: ‘An intelligent interpretation of an author’s meaning by means of correctly placed punctuation marks is an art that can be acquired only by long experience, and for which no hard-and-fast rules can be formulated’. I assume that the copy-editor’s role developed as publishing increased in order to streamline the process and allow typesetters to set type quickly without having to consider the finer points of grammar and style as they went along (I remember seeing typesetters use photosetting machines – speed and accuracy were critical), and presumably as part of trade publishers’ services to authors – longer expected to supply ‘carefully prepared manuscripts’!
Today the copy-editor’s role has changed again – in many cases there is no longer a need to mark up a manuscript for the typesetter to follow – often the author’s Word document is directly amended by the copy-editor before it goes on to the typesetter (if it goes to a typesetter at all) – and sometimes these copy-editing tasks are undertaken by someone who can not only edit, but set the text professionally too. With the rise in self-publishing and small, independent publishers there are definite advantages to being multi-skilled in all aspects of putting publications together, be they print or digital. Maybe we are coming full circle? Perhaps again a typographer will be ‘…such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning with himself, can either perform, or direct others to perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie.’?

Introduction to Typography book

Introduction

Introduction to Typography book

Discussing paper

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Exporting fixed-format ePubs from InDesign

I WANT CANDY

I WANT CANDY!! – Fixed-format EPub displayed on Readium

A couple of months ago Adobe launched InDesign CC 2014. Among its new features is the ability to export your documents as fixed-format ePub 3. This is really rather exciting. Prior to this update you either had to go to a specialist conversion company or pretty much hand code files. Either way it was a palaver and often an expensive palaver at that. I’ve been using a very good conversion script (ePub Crawler) for the past year (and will continue to use it for some projects), but this is something else! I’ve just got around to having a proper look at this new capability and I’m impressed. InDesign CC 2014 can now export valid ePub 3 fixed-format ebooks as quickly and easily as exporting a PDF. Barring a few minor issues and things-to-watch-out-for, the resulting file will be identical to the InDesign book file.

What is a fixed-format ebook?
Fixed-format ebooks reproduce what is on the printed page (like a PDF). The text is live and can be selected, searched, defined and read aloud (depending on ePub-reader software capabilities). The new InDesign export places all of the page elements exactly as they are in InDesign and each word is dealt with individually, so your line endings and spacing remain intact. (It also means that if you crack open the ePub files and look at the HTML it looks like the stuff of nightmares, but that’s another story.)

Currently Apple iBooks is the only platform that really has full support for all ePub 3 has to offer, however other retailers are following (I’ve had some success with opening the resulting files in Kobo apps, for example. They will also open in Google Chrome with the free Readium extension installed and I’m pretty sure they’d be fine on Google Play.) But I have spoken to some people who are still very dismissive about fixed-format ePub – there’s just not enough support on other platforms, why would you want to, isn’t it just easier to convert to PDF? Well, yes – but Apple don’t sell PDFs (nor do any other major ebook retailers to my knowledge) so if you want to sell a PDF book you’ll have limited places to sell it. And – did I mention? – if your book is set up correctly export is no more time-consuming than exporting to PDF. So you can still export to PDF if you want to and export a version you can at least sell on Apple iBooks for very little additional outlay – probably less than the cost of getting a proof copy printed.

Fixed-format conversion is most suitable for:
✔ Children’s picture books
✔ Photo books
✔ Highly designed and illustrated non fiction and reference
✔ ‘Coffee table’ books
✔ Cookery books (and other instructional books)
✔ Any book where it is important to keep the design and layout intact
✔ Prospectuses or catalogues

So who would benefit from this?
✔ Publishers and self-publishers wanting to release backlist titles quickly and cost effectively
✔ Publishers and self-publishers creating new titles in the above fields. If new titles are designed with an eye to exporting to ePub on completion, the convertion is very quick and pain free.
✔ Photographers and artists (Photo books, portfolios and ePub albums for wedding clients, for example)
✔ Bands and other performers (tour books, blogs, programmes, etc)
✔ Organisations and retailers who would benefit from conversion of prospectuses and catalogues, internal and external training materials, etc, to ePub to allow them to be read on a wider range of apps and devices

I’ve incorporated fixed-format ePub into the range of typesetting, layout, editorial and conversion services I offer. I don’t give flat-fee prices at the moment because every project is different.
I can:
✔ Convert your final InDesign files to fixed-format ePub more cheaply and quickly than I used to be able to offer. (If your files are suitable this takes the same time as saving to PDF.)
✔ Place video and audio prior to conversion
✔ Assess your files’ suitability and make font substitutions and layout tweaks prior to conversion
✔ Re-set and layout (from old backlist, etc)
✔ Set up new titles from scratch

Sample Books
I’ve set up a couple of 30-ish-page sample books. One is the full text of The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, illustrated by Walter Crane and the other is a section of The Candy Maker’s Guide, a recipe book first published in 1896 by a manufacturer of confectionary and baking equipment. (Both public domain texts – the photos are mine.)

Here are some screen grabs from Sleeping Beauty:

Note the overlapping text on the headings. The text is still live.

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

Ibooks screen grab showing thumbnails

IBooks screen grab showing thumbnails

This one has a path around the image of the girl on the left. Every word is in exactly the same position as in the InDesign file. (You might have noticed the overflowing text box below. InDesign will not warn you of text overflow on export – it just assumes it’s what you want.)

Indesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

InDesign layout sample – Sleeping Beauty

IPad screen grab showing thumbnails

IPad screen grab showing thumbnails

Now here are some screen grabs from the sweets book:

Again we’ve got a clipping path around the sweet jar and I put a feather on it (the path is rough, I know – but the point is that it is exactly as it was.)

Indesign layout sample – sweets

InDesign layout sample – sweets

IBooks screen grab

IBooks screen grab

Here’s a spread showing a mixed single- and two-column layout and images with transparency.

Sweets spread example

Sweets spread example

You can set the ePub up so that it displays a table of contents as thumbnails like this, or if you set up a table-of-contents style, you can have it display a multi-level toc in words.

Thumbnail Table of Contents

Thumbnail Table of Contents

This shows looking up ‘live’ words in the built-in dictionary.

IBooks showing definition of word

IBooks showing definition of word

So what can’t you have?
✘ Hyperlinks in text or internal links
✘ Live text that is horizontally or vertically scaled, or kerned
✘ Live text with strokes, gradient fills, drop shadows etc.
✘ Live text on a path (text will flatten on conversion)
✘ Gradients (this can be overcome by flattening to jpg first)
✘ This conversion process is not suitable for adding audio with read-along text highlighting
✘ Postscript fonts

(Adobe are still working on enhancing the export, so some of these issues will be overcome soon.)

Backlist conversion and fonts
The major issue when converting InDesign documents is fonts. Many publishers are still using (or used to use) Postscript files. These won’t work in ebooks, so if your books contain Postscript fonts they will have to be replaced with Truetype or Opentype fonts. Many common fonts have Truetype or Opentype versions, but more obscure fonts might have to be replaced with similar fonts. It’s also important to make sure your fonts are licensed for ebook use. They often aren’t. Ideally new titles should be designed using correctly licensed Truetype or Opentype fonts.

Multimedia
You can also add video and audio if you so desire – obviously if you are converting a print book you might have to make some design tweaks to make room for the media. Video and audio can be placed directly to the InDesign file. You don’t have any choice over the video/audio controls’ appearance (but I believe you can edit the css if it really bothers you.) There is also support to link to Youtube etc if you don’t want to embed your media.

Here are a couple of screen grabs from a small test file I made.

How video looks on the page. You can't customise the controls.

How video looks on the page. You can’t customise the controls.

The audio controls can't be customised.

The audio controls can’t be customised.

A note about tracking

I was asked about tracking text. The screen grabs below show text tracked backwards and forwards.

InDesign showing text without tracking

InDesign showing text without tracking

InDesign showing tracked text

InDesign showing tracked text in heading and bottom line.

EPub showing tracked text

EPub showing tracked text

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How it works: Printing Processes A Ladybird Book

Printing Processes cover 1971

Cover

How it works: Printing Processes A Ladybird Book

By David Carey and illustrations by BH Robinson. Ladybird Books Ltd 1971

I do love old Ladybird books and I came across this again* today for 50p in a charity shop. This is a surprisingly in-depth book about printing processes. I can’t imagine a children’s reference editor being able to get something equivalent through an Acquisitions meeting today…

This is a linotype setting machine.

The linotype process

The linotype process

A piece about galleys and proofs. Who remembers galleys?

galleys and proofs

galleys and proofs

This section is about offset litho.

offset-litho printing

offset-litho printing

How the book was made.

How this book was made

How this book was made

Finishing and binding. I talked about this a bit in this post.

Making up and finishing processes

Making up and finishing processes

And finally a handy list of proof-correction marks.

Proof correction marks

Proof correction marks

* I picked this up a few years ago, but took it to work for the Production department’s entertainment and education!

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Publishing lightbulb jokes

Lightbulb with books behind

How many?

I have just left the publishers I worked for for 13 years. While I was filing my emails I came across these publishing lightbulb jokes. They were doing the rounds in 2005 and I think they deserve another outing…

 

Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: I can’t tell whether you mean “change a light bulb” or “have sex in a light bulb.” Can we reword it to remove the ambiguity?

 

Q: How many managing editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: You were supposed to have changed that light bulb last week!

 

Q: How many art directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Does is HAVE to be a light bulb?

 

Q: How many copy editors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: The last time this question was asked, it involved art directors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.

 

Q: How many marketing directors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: It isn’t too late to make this neon instead, is it?

 

Q: How many proofreaders does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Proofreaders aren’t supposed to change light bulbs. They should just query them.

 

Q: How many writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: But why do we have to CHANGE it?

 

Q: How many publishers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Three. One to screw it in, and two to hold down the author.

 

Q: How many booksellers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Only one, except no one shipped them any.

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