May 29, 2008

The Recipe for Success

Posted in books, Design, production, Typesetting, typography at 1:49 pm by India

Book Cake

Following up on the popularity of her copyediting report, Rose Levy Beranbaum has posted another interesting entry about the production of her forthcoming cookbook: Book Production Phase 7 Pre Design Meeting.

The designer’s estimate had the text running forty-two pages over the initial castoff, so there was a lot of discussion about how to make it fit. She’s posted her notes from the meeting, which give a you an idea of the complexity of cookbook design. For example:

Page count issues
– Will explore decreasing the leading in the body text
– Ingredients and equipment chapters could be in a double column or smaller font– discuss with Alison
– Cheesecakes and Flourless Cakes stay together
– Tighter spaces between gridlines in ingredient grids
– Process shots can be smaller
– Line can increase by 1 pt
– Captions for process shots will just be one line
– Do not reduce beauty shot size unless Alison feels it is appropriate for that shot/recipe
– Can put shot at end of recipe instead of beginning if it saves space and is appropriate
– Chapter openers will go to one page

As you can see, the solutions are partly typographic and partly editorial.

Authors of the future, please note: You normally will not have anything like this level of involvement in your book’s design. Rose Levy Beranbaum has a say because she’s a best-selling author, and also because she is nice to her production people. E.g.,

Yesterday,in the pouring rain I delivered the 780 page copy edited manuscript . As there were no taxi’s to be found (there never are when you really need them) I walked the one mile to my friend Maury Rubin’s City Bakery, wheeling the manuscript in my new Magellan carryon bag that I thought to be waterproof. Much to my horror I discovered that the zipper component is not as the edges of the manuscript got wet. . . . I also brought slices of a flourless chocolate and walnut cake glazed with apricot lekvar (from the upcoming book) which managed to stay dry and perfect since I carried them upright all the way in an airtight tupperware container! Lesson learned—always put the precious manuscript in plastic bags and trust nothing else to be waterproof.

Emphasis mine. Tips from a pro, I tell you.

Photo: Book cake by Richard Jones; some rights reserved.


  1. I understand the necessity of killing white space and decreasing point size and leading, but even taking away the sobbing designer in me, I’m left with aging eyes and I’m getting really, really frustrated trying to read things these days.

    I have a stack of books by my bed that I simply can’t finish. It’s not because the books are poorly written or not interesting, it’s because the effort to read them took all the pleasure away.

    I am making a list of publishers to avoid because of this (are you listening St. Martin’s??).

  2. Sheila Ryan said,

    Well, blow me down (she says on reading Cathi’s comment). Maybe it’s not ‘just me’.

    Having relieved myself of that possibly tangential observation, I’ll note simply that I understand just enough of what is involved in book design and production to stand amazed before the fact of a cookbook’s being published in usable form at all.

  3. Sheila Ryan said,

    Speaking of being nice to one’s design and production people, this longish (eight-minute) clip of Lee Child addressing an audience at a Waterstone’s outlet includes more than a few seconds of praise for design and production people.

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