February 1, 2010

Clarifications

Posted in books, business, e-books, production, Rants, technology, Typesetting at 2:42 pm by India


Left: Eirik Newth. Right: Me.
Easy mistake; could happen to anyone, we’re so alike. Except that, y’know, he’s a genius.

Here (with some corrections), in case anybody else interpreted my posts from this weekend in similar ways, is a way-too-long comment I just posted in response to Doyce Testerman’s Publishing, Charlotte*, and John*. You should start there, or it won’t make much sense. The part of Doyce’s post where poor Eirik gets dragged into things and where my grumbling gets taken somewhat out of context is at the very end:

In the postscript to this piece, Eirik Newth explains why Big Publishing consistently cites costs to create ebooks that fall miles outside my experience and expectation.

Short version: they’re doing it wrong.

Long version:

Publishers are still producing paper books the “X-Acto–and–wax” way and then outsourcing their e-book production to other companies, which probably automate the conversion process, and then they’re not practicing any kind of QA on what comes back, because nobody gives a shit, because the people who make the decisions don’t read e-books.

No wonder they think making an ebook is an expensive, time-consuming process.

Yes, you read that right. Publishers aren’t producing workable electronic files when they produce a paper book — their product essentially has to be OCR’d by a third party company to get an ebook out of it. They start with a hardcopy and make someone else turn it into an electronic version, which they’ll never read.

Oops. So I sez to him I sez, No, actually, you didn’t read that right:
Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

January 30, 2010

What’s been gnawing at me lately

Posted in books, business, e-books, hardware, Rants, Reading, technology at 7:23 pm by India

cat chewing on an e-reader

One of the things that I find gets more difficult year after year—and I can’t tell if this is more because I’m getting older, or because I’m letting myself be pelted with information faster and harder than ever before, or because I don’t write as regularly as I used to—is synthesizing ideas. I spend hours each day gathering information, and some days it seems like for every page I read on the Web, I open or bookmark two more to read later. Yet when an occasion arises for me to state what I think about what I’ve read, I most often end up blurting out whatever my gut tells me, rather than what’s the result of deliberate analysis and consideration—because who has time to ruminate? I’ve heard the rumor, of course, that our guts know more than we think they do, but as I haven’t yet had time to read up on the subject, I can’t say to what extent or in what circumstances that’s true. My gut is whispering to me, however, that my gut is often misguided or misinformed.

For at least the last few months, as I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do (a) for my master’s thesis and (b) to pay back my student loans after I finish the damn thing, I’ve been trying to absorb as much information as possible about e-books, e-readers, and the future of the book in general. I’ve read articles, essays, and tweets; listened to podcasts, panels, and lectures; watched videos and (sorry to have to use this word:) webinars; and talked with a lot of people. I’ve done a lot of talking at people, too, pushing and no doubt breaking the limits of courtesy with dozens of unfortunate friends, acquaintances, and strangers as I try to articulate what my gut tells me about all this partially digested input. And I’ve written about a few small things, trying to finely chew at least some corners of the subject.

Just in the last week, thanks to the Digital Book World conference and Apple’s iPad announcement, I’ve skimmed, read, watched, heard, or bookmarked thousands of chunks of content—most of them tweets, since I wasn’t present at either event but followed along through hashtags and Twitter lists—having to do with books in the digital era.

And what do I think about all of it?

I don’t know.
Read the rest of this entry »

August 26, 2009

Mysteries of publishing revealed!

Posted in books, business, production at 3:35 am by India

Secret of the Old Clock

My esteemed former colleague Shelby Peak has written a tidy breakdown of ye typical book production schedule, When’s that book coming out? It’s based mostly on her current day job, which is at a large academic publisher, so I’d love to hear others chime in (ouch?) on how the timing in other contexts differs.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 1, 2009

What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

Posted in advice, books, business at 4:19 pm by India

sprucing up the books

For the past several days, novelist Jason Pinter has been posting responses by publishing people to the question “What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?” There’s a wide range of recommendations, from people in many parts of the industry. Some snippets that I found worth noting (in most cases, these are excepts from longer comments):

I’d get the major publishers together on a standard e-book format, one that’s DRM-free and not tied to a device (like the kindle). Most important, we need to get e-book prices down. Charging the same price (or more!) than a hardcover for a digital file is absolutely ludicrous—we’re hamstringing this technology at a crucial phase in its development.
David Moldawer, editor, Portfolio/Penguin Books [part 2]

 

If you’re not passionate about books, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to fight for something better, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to dust yourself off the ground, get out of this business. If you’re not helping others and you’re being selfish about preserving your meager place on the ladder, get out of this business. If on the other hand you’re living in the present and paying attention to the future, and you have the chops and the fortitude to persuade the stubborn holdouts . . . , then you’re absolutely vital to the future of publishing. You’re needed. And you must go in and change things for the better.
Ed Champion, editor of Reluctant Habits and creator of ‘The Bat Segundo Show’ [part 2]

Read the rest of this entry »

January 30, 2009

How to pick better fonts

Posted in advice, books, business, Design, Reading, typography at 4:29 pm by India

golden section tattoo

How do you pick your fonts? It’s easy! Just look at type samples and find one that catches your eye. Throw that one out.

All this month, Tom Christensen of the always interesting Right Reading has been guest-blogging over at ForeWord magazine. For his final post, he offers “a simplified speed course in making books that readers will want to pick up”: “Book Design Primer.”

It’s very basic, as advertised, but he mentions a way of using the golden section that I’d never considered, so you, too, may learn something.
Read the rest of this entry »

January 12, 2009

Wrong, all wrong!

Posted in books, business, Editing, humor, Video at 10:53 pm by India

The didn’t mention anything about how each character of the book is placed on the page using tweezers.

Also? That guy at the 2:54 mark is really scary.

(Via BoingBoing)

August 8, 2008

Job application tips

Posted in advice, business, Rants, Work at 9:33 pm by India

help wanted

I’m in the process of hiring an assistant, someone who can toil away at the work thing while I’m at school making crafts, and I’ve finally dug down to the bottom of the pile of résumés that began pouring in thirty minutes after I posted the job. (And if you haven’t heard from me yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t—I’m still sorting and procrastinating, as will soon become more obvious.) And do you want to know what’s the most striking thing about most of these hopefuls? They are completely wasting their time. And mine, of course, but mostly their own. Because they’re not only not going to get a job with me, they’re not going to get a job with anyone unless that person is as slovenly and illiterate as these applicants.

Howlers spotted among the hundred-odd submissions include

  • Misspelling or camel-capitalizing my company’s name
    • Notebook
    • Next book
    • Nextbbook
    • NextBook
  • Misspelling the name of a past or present employer
    • FexEx
    • Merril Lynch
    • Pareksy Ctr. [This is at my own college, so I know it’s Paresky]
    • BabyAlpalca.org
    • Rollingstone Magazine
  • Misspelling a degree or job title
    • bachelors | masters
    • B.F.A | G.P.A | F.I.T | C.U.N.Y
    • assitant [I feel that this should be a word, but if it were, it would denote someone who is an undesirable employee]
    • photo- retoucher
    • Communication’s Coordinator
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of a piece of software the applicant supposedly knows inside out
    • PhotoShop
    • Quark Express
    • the In Design program
    • Word Press
    • In-Design CS3
    • Abode Photoshop / Abode Illustrator / Abode InDesign [this is presumably marketed as a hamlet]
    • Indesign
    • word, excel [but the same person managed to type PowerPoint]
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of the site where the applicant found the listing
    • Media Bistro
    • media bistro
    • MediaBistro.com

Read the rest of this entry »

April 20, 2008

Well, nobody can accuse book designers of price fixing.

Posted in books, business, Design, Typesetting, Work at 6:35 pm by India

revised price list

Tom Christensen did an informal survey of four book designers to find out how much they’d charge for a hypothetical job.

I was trying to determine a reasonable price for a 320-page hardcover collected poems, interior and cover/jacket design. . . .

According to the 2001 edition of the Graphic Artists Guild handbook of Pricing and Ethics, for an average poetry book a designer might charge $7,500 to $15,000 to design and set the interior plus $1000–$2000 for the jacket. That gives a total range of $8500–17,000. Those figures are seven years old, but several people say the prices in this publication skew high.

Yes, in my experience, they do.

The results? Each different, like a snowflake: $3,100, $8,000, $8,800, and $12,800. See Tom’s post for each designer’s breakdown of charges: rightreading: Book design fees.

Photo: price list by Nick Sherman; some rights reserved.

October 19, 2007

Is an educated author our best customer?

Posted in books, business, Design, production, Typesetting, typography at 12:39 pm by India

unhappy author at work on an earlier stage of the book

At the beginning of this week, I spent part of my lunch hour at the cafeteria (aka Whole Foods) casually consulting with a friend of a friend who’s checking the page proofs for her first book. It’s an anthology of articles about filmmaking, and it’s being brought forth by a reputable publisher of scholarly and professional books. Unfortunately for the author, her publisher is determined to produce the book as cheaply as possible: completely generic and poorly thought-out design, executed by apparently quite error-prone compositors in Hong Kong. She loathes the display type, she doubts the wisdom of the layout, she’s unhappy with the cover, . . . and her publisher has been fighting her at every step, since the moment the contract was signed. All in all, she’s not having a very warm and fuzzy experience as a first-time author.

And I’m torn, because she’s right—the interior design is hideous, and a lot of the layout choices just don’t make sense. For instance, perhaps half of the articles are interviews, and they’ve been indented on both sides, for their entire length. This wastes so much space that the body type in the book as a whole has had to be squeezed down quite small in order to make castoff. The design of the epigraphs and head notes is also ill-considered, and the front matter and display type throughout are extremely homely: too many fonts, too many styles, and utterly random indents throughout.

These are problems that a competent book designer/compositor, such as, oh, me or the designer friend through whom I know this person, could fix in one to two hours. I am dead certain that I could make the whole thing look much more inviting and coherent, while sticking to the desired page count, in less time than it will take the distraught author to mark up every single chapter title to be even small caps instead of caps + hideous fake small caps, as my friend and I cautiously recommended.

At the same time, however, looking wincingly at her stack of proofs, covered with Post-Its and liberally scrawled with deletions and additions, wordy corrections using nonstandard proofreading symbols, and requests for global layout changes, I deeply pity and sympathize with her editor and production crew. Read the rest of this entry »

September 16, 2007

The A Rate

Posted in business at 7:53 pm by India

Best rices in town

Somewhere once, I want to say it was in a Ruth Birmingham mystery, a former colleague found a passage about the different rates the private investigator would charge. This passage was read aloud to me, and I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to remember things I hear rather than read on paper; but in my probably flawed memory there were three tiers of fees: the B, or basic, rate; a lower rate for nice people or those especially in need, which may have been C for crazy (which doesn’t quite make sense—part of why I don’t trust this paraphrase); and the A, or Asshole, rate. The latter is the only part I’m sure of, because to this very day, that friend and I joke about charging certain clients “the A rate.”

In practice, of course, neither of us does this. (In my case, this is mostly because I tend to work for friends, who say to me, “This is all the money we have/are allowed to pay. Is that enough?” And it’s often not, but they’re my friends, so I do it anyway.) But some people do, and more power to them. Do you?

Via Tiny Gigantic, who propose a more mature and sensible way of coming up with fees.

Photo: Best rices in town by juicyrai / al; some rights reserved. See also: Prices by vasta.

Next page