Archive for February, 2012

Do You Really Need a Book Designer?

Technology offers opportunity to do things yourself in publishing your book, but some things you still need to leave to the professionals. Just as you wouldn’t go to a dermatologist for brain surgery, you shouldn’t go to an English major for book editing or just any graphic designer for book design. Book editing and book design are specialized fields and require professionals to do the work well.

Here’s what you should expect from a book designer.

  • Someone who can analyze the manuscript for length of text, chapter headings, variety of pages required, and the inclusion of charts, photos, etc.
  • Someone who will skim the text to get a feel for the author’s style, the content, and the readership (audience).
  • Someone who will give you a proposal based on the two bullets above before starting the project.
  • Someone who understands book typefaces and will match the typeface to the author’s content.
  • Someone who will evaluate the content (including graphics and photos) to determine the correct book size (6×9, 5×7, etc.) and length (books are printed in signatures of 16 or 32 pages, so you want the number of pages divisible by one of those numbers).
  • Someone who will provide you with samples of each type of page in your book (chapter header, normal text, page with graphic/chart, etc.).
  • Someone who will style the pages (paragraphs, headings, captions, spacing, hyphenation, etc.).
  • Someone who will enhance images to assure they will print well, insert graphics/photos/charts into the text, and add captions.
  • Someone who will create an inviting book cover (one that invites readers to pick your book up and open it).
  • Someone who will provide you a galley (proof) to review for proofreading.
  • Someone who will make one set of final revisions after proofreading.
  • Someone who will prepare the final proof and electronic file for the printer.
  • Someone who will work with the printer, if necessary, if the printer finds something on the file that needs correction before your book is printed.

I trust you will keep and use this list to help you find the book designer you can work with to make your book the best it can be.

Happy writing!

 

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Five Things That Turn Readers Off

It’s no secret that successful writers enjoy a plethora of reading fans. Readers buy books. Readers tell others about their favorite authors. Readers are critical if your book is going to succeed in the marketplace.

So, what are some things that turn readers off? Here’s a quick list.

  • Cliches. Cliches are worn, tired out phrases that add nothing to the writing. Examples: Better safe than sorry. Dead as a doornail. Familiarity breeds contempt. Use it or lose it. Well, you get the idea.
  • Jargon. Everyone uses jargon (especially in the work or special interest areas of life) because it promotes special meaning to a select group and offers shortened definition. But jargon belongs more in the spoken than the written word, and you never know who in the masses will read what you write, so avoid jargon in writing.
  • Footnotes. I teach at a Twin Cities’ university and require footnotes  in research papers, but most writing that gets read isn’t academic. Use footnotes to acknowledge sources you haven’t acknowledged in the body of your work or to provide supplementary material that doesn’t fit in well with the text. Otherwise, avoid them when you can.
  • Intrusion. One of the biggest mistakes authors make is author intrusion. I’ve found this mostly in the fiction I’ve edited, but it occurs in nonfiction as well. The author creates all the characters and knows which one is thinking what and when, so intrudes by giving one character’s thoughts in one paragraph and another characther’s in the next. Since no one can know what another person is thinking (here’s where understanding point of view is critical), it becomes author intrusion when you get inside a character and you’re not writing from that character’s point of view.
  • Gimmicks. Gimmicks are things that take away from content and draw attention to themselves. Examples are ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, overuse of exclamation points !!!!, and uSING letters in an unUSual way to highlight a point such as singing or singing about us or singing about the United States (see how it doesn’t work?).

If you’re a writer, you’re probably a reader as well and may agree these five things are turn-offs. Use this list and your readers will thank you.

Happy writing!

Writing, not Punctuation, Should be Creative

Writers are creative people and often struggle with the structure of punctuation rules. But we have those rules so readers can follow (read and comprehend) our creativity.

One of the most common punctuation errors involves one of the most common punctuation marks–the comma.

There are specific rules regarding comma use, but when I asked one author why she put commas where she did, she replied, “Because that’s where I stop and take a breath.” She meant well and her answer was creative, but her writing wasn’t getting the reader reception she wanted. Why not? The misuse of punctuation implied she didn’t know what she was doing.

Another common punctuation error I see is overuse of quotation marks. Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard) calls these quotation marks scare quotes and says they should only be used when a word is used in an unusual manner. Here’s an example of what not to do: Sarah’s “special friend ” showered her with “big bucks” as an “expression” of  his love.

Yes, the example is extreme, but I intend to show how these quotes interrupt reading flow and add nothing to comprehension.

Finally, too many authors don’t understand when to use ellipsis (…) versus dashes (–). Ellipsis show something’s been left out (omitted). Dashes show pause or summary.

Authors tend to use ellipsis to show pause.  One of the things that makes ellipsis use confusing to writers is that ellipsis IS the correct punctuation when you have a pause  in dialogue. Example: George said, “I don’t know what to say…I mean…I thought I knew you, but it’s clear I don’t.” So, use ellipsis to show pause in speech, but use dash to show pause in the story/text/narration.

You have many punctuation marks available to you and you should use them. Just make sure you rely on your writing instead of your punctuation to show your creativity.

Happy writing!