Tag Archives: self-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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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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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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EXPORTING FIXED-FORMAT EPUBS FROM INDESIGN: An update

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Now you see it

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Now you don’t

Yesterday Adobe announced their latest round of updates to Creative Cloud apps. And they’ve fixed lots of the issues around their new fixed-format export feature that I wrote about here and added a whole lot of interactivity possibilities too.

The biggest issue I suppose is links. You can now have internal and external text hyperlinks. So you can add your website (or any website), index and cross-references. Whay-hay!

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

Cross references and multistage objects (That’s set up with a simple slideshow feature.).

But you can also add most of the interactive features that previously only applied to interactive PDF (and most of them wouldn’t work on iPad). I spent an hour quickly (and roughly!) animating page elements on my Sleeping Beauty sample book. Here some ‘blood’ fades in when you tap the page (draw shape, fill red and set to fade in on page click/tap). And in the pictures above the cat appears inside the cupboard (create closed-door cupboard by copying and flipping left side of cupboard, place on top of original image and set that to appear on page click/tap). When I exported the book everything worked as it should in iBooks (desktop and iPad).

Adobe InDesign fixed format export

And some ‘blood’ fading in on a page tap.

You can also add html animations too, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Another really useful feature is that there is now an ePub preview panel so that you can preview how things will look without having to export and load onto an iPad if you haven’t got a desktop ereader. This is brilliant, seems to work really well and is such a time-saver.

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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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Make your own diary

Softback weekly planner diaries

Softback weekly planner diaries

A spare hour, my photos and a slightly tweaked Blurb template. Very pleasing, quick delivery and a discount code. Ta–dah – Christmas presents!

Diary inside

Diary inside

Diary inside

Diary inside

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An Alphabet of Celebrities by Oliver Herford

An Alphabet of Celebrities cover

An Alphabet of Celebrities cover. First published 1899.

Something slightly different this week…  An Alphabet of Celebrities by Oliver Herford. I wonder what today’s ‘celebrities’ would be…?

I have been working on some out-of-copyright works to create samples in various ebook/digital formats. I laid this one out in iBooks Author, and then exported it as a PDF and used that  to convert to a mobi file.  The iBooks Author version has selectable text and you can turn the ‘speak’ feature on. The mobi version is flat artwork only, but you can zoom into the illustrations. I looked at making a KF8 panel-view version, but I think it’s only worthwhile if you have text that really is too small to be read comfortably.

This is by Oliver Herford, apparently called by some, the American Oscar Wilde. See here on Wikipedia

Here are the imprint details.

BOSTON SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY 1899
ENTERED AT STATIONERS’ HALL THE HEINTZEMANN PRESS
BOSTON U.S.A.

Some sample pages (jpegs) below:

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A small exercise in deciphering printing terms

shelves with books on

This week I spoke to a colleague about getting a quote for printing. When you ask for a quote the printer will, of course, ask you for the book spec – or what type of book it will be. This is what we got the quote on:

TPS: 198 x 129mm (B format)
Extent: 144 pages
Print + paper:
Insides – 1c/1c, for digital print copies 60gsm paper /for press copies 50gsm paper
Cover – 4c/0c, for digital print 240gsm cover board with gloss laminated finish / for press copies 220gsm cover board with gloss UV varnish finish
Binding: PB, perfect bound

Er – OK – so what have we asked for?

TPS: 198 x 129mm (B format)

TPS means Trimmed Page Size. So this is the dimensions of a page in millimetres height x width (therefore the dimensions of the inside pages). If you look at a paperback, you’ll see this is will be the overall dimensions of the book too. If you have a hardback TPS will be slightly smaller than the overall dimensions because hardback covers are usually slightly bigger than the pages inside.

B format refers a common book size.
B Format  198mm x 129mm

You might also see:
A Format 178mm x 110mm
C format ( or Demy or ‘trade’ paperback)  216mm x 135mm

Most of the books in the picture above are A or B format.

Extent: 144 pages

The extent is simply how many pages it will be. Incidentally – a page is one side of a sheet or leaf or piece of paper. So each piece of paper is two pages.

Many printers print books on large sheets of paper divided into eight page sections (this is called a signature). So each signature produces sixteen pages. If your printer uses this method they will prefer you to have a final extent (or page count) that is a multiple of sixteen. Have you noticed some books have lots of blank pages or an inordinate amount of adverts at the back? This is likely to be because the printer needed a multiple of sixteen pages, but there wasn’t enough text to fill a sixteen-page section. Typesetters and layout designers will employ all sorts of tactics to make the book fit a multiple of sixteen as closely as possible.

Insides – 1c/1c, for digital print copies 60gsm paper /for press copies 50gsm paper

This means that the insides will be printed with one colour on both sides (in most cases this will be black, but it is possible to use other colours). You say this as one back one, four back four, etc and you might see it written as 1/1 or 1 back 1. If it were a colour book it would be indicated by 4c/4c.

If the book is printed digitally it will be on 60 gsm paper (this is how heavy and therefore how thick the paper is) and if it’s printed on a press it will be on 50gsm paper. This is probably the printers’ ‘standard’ paper weight – there are other weights available, but weight affects the price.

Cover – 4c/0c, for digital print 240gsm cover board with gloss laminated finish / for press copies 220gsm cover board with gloss UV varnish finish

This is the cover – it will be colour on one side and not printed on the other. You might notice some books have printing on the inside of the cover – sometimes this will be in one colour so 4c/1c and sometimes full colour 4c/4c. Again the weight of the cover board (usually a thin card) is specified. Gloss UV varnish is the protective finish the printer (or print finisher) will give the cover. This is a very common finish that gives a shiny look.

Binding: PB, perfect bound

This is a paperback (PB) and it is perfect bound. This means that the pages are trimmed to size all the way around, the cover is wrapped around the book block and it’s all glued into place. This is the usual way of binding paperbacks these days.

Hardbacks are usually section-sewn and casebound. The book is formed of folded sections (usually of 32 pages) which are sewn together through the fold.

The pictures below show a perfect bound paperback (note you can see the glue), an old section-sewn paperback, a casebound hardback and a photo showing the stitching through the fold.

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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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iBooks Author experiments

Last week was a week for conversations with various individuals and companies about fixed-format epub, KF8, Adobe DPS, book apps and their various merits, capabilities, pitfalls etc. During those conversations I was reminded of iBooks Author. I downloaded it ages ago, but had only given it a cursory glance.

So over the weekend I took it for a test drive. (Please note: I’m using my own photographs and made-up or placeholder text. The ‘book’ is a test of the program’s abilities.)

On the plus side iBooks Author is free to download.
But on the minus side it only works on a Mac running Lion and above. Which leaves a lot of potential users out in the cold.

Another minus (for some people) is that if you want to sell any books you create, you must do it on the iBooks Store. But you can easily test them on your iPad, give them freely away, er, free, and you can make PDFs (although they won’t have any interactivity and I haven’t tested the quality).

Anyway:

When you open iBooks Author you’re presented with a number of templates to choose from. They range from photo book layouts to text-heavy ‘classic’ layouts, recipes etc. You seem to have to choose a layout to start with, but they are all completely customisable. The ‘basic’ layout is probably the one to go for if you want to go it alone.

This is a screen shot of the iBooks Author with my test book in progress. Note it implies that you have to import images through iPhoto. You don’t. You can drag and drop from desktop or Bridge. There’s a pull-out drawer of styles on the right and page thumbnails on the left.

Screenshot of iBooks Author

Screenshot of iBooks Author

You test your book by hooking computer to iPad with the iBooks app open and clicking Preview. The book is downloaded to iBooks and is completely functional – except it has ‘Proof’ written across the corner of the cover. (The book next to it is Animals from Miles Kelly.)

iBooks library screen

iBooks library screen

This is a chapter opener, with the thumbnail table of contents along the bottom. The table of contents is automatically generated and updated.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom.

Chapter opener and table of contents thumbnails along the bottom

If you work with InDesign, Quark or even Pages, Word, etc it’s all very familiar territory. It’s also quite similar in a lot of ways to Blurb’s BookSmart program.

The interesting stuff is the interactivity that is possible through widgets. The program comes with a selection of these which include galleries, scrolling boxes, interactive questions, media (video and audio), inserting Keynote presentations, pop-up labels, 3-d images and HTML functionality.

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Gallery. Tap the thumbnails to view

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format.

Embedded video has to be in .m4v format

Zoom-ins

Zoom-ins

Zoom-in zoomed in.

Zoom-in zoomed in

You can also make HTML widgets in programs like Hype, and I found a site called Bookry which allows you to create all sorts of widgets. I made a wordsearch to go in this book.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry.

Wordsearch widget from Bookry

Word search poster image

Wordsearch poster image

These are multiple choice question widgets. You can have standard text or picture questions with up to 6 options or drag label or image to target questions. It will show you the correct answer and total your answers at the end of the test.

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the answer to the correct spot

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot.

Questions widget. Drag the image thumbnail to the correct spot

I’m still playing with this, but I really like it and think it could have interesting possibilities if you’re happy to be limited to Apple platforms.

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