June 29, 2008

Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition

Posted in printing, production, Tools, Work at 1:17 am by India

Archipelago Books catalogs

Twice a year I lay out a cute little catalog for a publisher friend, and I’ve been doing it for four or five years, so the files have gone through several software upgrades. They were originally supplied to me as Quark XPress 4.1 docs, and I probably kept it that way for one or two issues before converting it to InDesign CS. Then the files upgraded to CS2, and then the fonts upgraded to OpenType. For the latest issue, I started the job in CS2 at home (hello, my name is India, and I am a late adopter) and then made the final round of corrections at my office, using CS3. Everything preflighted okay, and I sent the printer both PDFs and application files.

Two weeks later, I got an excited message from our rep at Kromar. They’d had some problems with the files, which they’d taken care of, but their prepress guy wanted to tell me about it. Ooh, curious! So I called back immediately, and the nice man in Winnipeg tried to explain to me what had happened.
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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. Read the rest of this entry »

May 11, 2008

Patience is bitter, but its fruit extremely sweet.

Posted in books, Editing, production at 2:53 pm by India

heart-shaped cakes

The production editors notes are in grey pencil, the copy editor’s in red, and mine in purple.

It is at this point of the book production that I start to imagine opening the window and jumping out.

Awesome cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum (The! Cake! Bible!) describes one of her least favorite stages in the making of a cookbook: Book Production Phase 6 Copy Editing. Notable for the all-too-rare shout-out to her production team:

I feel doubly blessed to have the support and encouragement of Ava Wilder, head of production at Wiley who cares so much about all these details. And triply blessed to have Deborah Weiss Geline as the most amazing copy editor of all time.

Sing it, sister! Poorly copyedited cookbooks can waste not only trees and time, but also chocolate. [Shudder]

Photo: Valentine’s Cakes at Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana by LexnGer / Lex; some rights reserved.

December 8, 2007

Yap, yap, yap

Posted in advice, community, production, Reading, Typesetting at 5:57 am by India

Operator by Jeremy Brooks, at Flickr

John Oliver Coffey dropped me an e-mail the other morning about a new discussion forum for typesetters, aptly called . . . Typesetter Forum. It’s

a new (and free) forum for questions, answers and opinions related to the publishing industry with particular emphasis on typesetting.

Its not exactly a free-for-all (will be lightly moderated) and is oriented towards collaboration . . . and solving common typesetting challenges whether in applications or techniques. We will also post jobs, contracts, news and resources for everyone interested in the industry.

So, of course, because I was supposed to be getting ready for work, I decided to check the site out instead. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

January 28, 2007

4 colors x 144 pages x 4 weeks

Posted in books, Design, production, Reading, typography at 3:04 pm by India

Oh, do go look at Tom Christensen’s wickedly detailed walkthrough, Manuscript to Art Book in Four weeks: The Making of Masters of Bamboo. Cool, cool, cool!

(Thanks, Tom!)

January 24, 2007

Designery People, Take Note:

Posted in bookbinding, books, Design, printing, production at 10:38 am by India

Ampersand Duck has put up a pithy post about planning a printed publication, which is addressed to “aspiring artists and performers”—e.g., your friends and mine, who’re often asking if we can just help them design this little tiny promotional card or booklet or brochure, and then sticking us with an impossible deadline and budget, as well as worthless art and copy. And here is her story of why she was inspired to write the piece.

Sometimes you might get hit with poorly thought-out projects even at your day job, though of course I’ve never encountered such misfortunes myself.

I recommend that you write your own version of Ms. Duck’s how-to to address your own typical quick-and-dirty undertakings, and keep it handy to give to those talented friends when they inevitably ask you for help.

November 19, 2006

Checking Proofs

Posted in Design, Editing, production, Typesetting, typography at 2:34 pm by India

How much of a designer’s work consists of actual designing as opposed to meeting, doing paperwork, fiddling with FTP software, watching YouTube, organizing bloated font libraries, etc.? It depends on what kind of design you do, and what kind of place you work, but for most designers I’d guess that designing proper accounts for less than half of their time at work. Maybe less than a third. Of course, designers also tend to be constantly thinking about design, so you could say they’re designing around the clock; but while their heads are doing one thing, their hands are quite likely having to do another much less interesting thing.

For me, the bulk of my job consists of checking proofs. Not proofreading, which we hire someone to do, nor comparing old and new passes of a manuscript to make sure editorial corrections have been made correctly, which the production editor does, but checking for layout errors. There’s plenty of instruction on regular proofreading to be had (I recommend Mark My Words, if you want to go the book route; I’ve never taken a class in it myself, but I know many who’ve done so at NYU and the New School in NYC), but nobody’s ever told me how to check page layouts.

Well, not nobody. On my first or second day at this job, my teammate gave me a stack of manuscript and said to look for “weirdness.” That’s a bit vague for me, so in the past six months, I’ve come up with my own system:

Proofing notes

Hello, my name is India, and I am a geek. Read the rest of this entry »

October 24, 2006

Wouldn’t you like to be a PODder, too?

Posted in bookbinding, books, Drawing, print-on-demand, printing, production, Reading, Tools at 12:40 pm by India

Yay! I just received fellow DrawMonaut Elizabeth Perry‘s selected days: 2005,

selected days

and not only am I looking forward to poring over the content, but also I’m very glad to have satisfied my curiosity about the printing. Because selected days is printed by online POD outfit Lulu.com, and I was very interested in seeing what the quality would be like.
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September 9, 2006

What Happens When

Posted in books, Design, production, Work at 4:14 pm by India

I don’t have a good internal sense of time. I tend not to know what day it is, can’t guess the hour with any accuracy, forget to eat lunch until 3 p.m., often let my tea steep for far too long, never leave the office at 5:00 unless I have to be somewhere else (in which case I’m typically late), stay up til 1:00 almost every night even if I’m having to hold my eyelids up with toothpicks, and tend to underestimate how long it will take me to do things. I try to counter this deficiency by setting my watch and all the clocks in my house at least five minutes fast, always setting a timer when I make tea at home, and making vigorous use of the alarms in Entourage and Google Calendar.

At my last two jobs, the problem was compounded by the fact that there were no schedules—or, at least, none that were posted or that anybody paid attention to. At the latter place in particular, the work plan was a mystery served with warm enigma glaze and an invisible cherry on top. I started to write you a timeline for a typical day, but then I thought I might get arrested and put in one of the CIA’s secret—but empty, honest!—prisons. Such opacity and evasion as I and my fellow “production artists” witnessed when trying to figure out what was really due when could only mean that our schedule was a matter of national security, and that we were being left out of the loop for our own protection.

So instead, I will focus on the positive, which is that I now work in a place where the schedules are explicit, universally distributed, and continually updated. I usually receive the necessary piles of manuscript or proofs well in advance of their due dates, and I even have time to file papers, eat lunch outside the building, study my predecessors’ work, chat by the water cooler, and once in a while turn things in before they’re due. Crazy.

So, what’s on these magnificent schedules? Here’s the typical order of operations for designing a book interior, as seen from my (heptagonal!) office:
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