Book Designers Do It

I ran across this post on and thought it succinctly put one of the issues book designers (and web designers) deal with all the time, line length. It’s more than creating a pretty product. If your audience is getting a feeling your material is choppy or they feel like they’re having to slog through the information, your line length may be off. If you care about  your book (and I certainly hope you do) you want to do everything you can to create an atmosphere and experience the reader enjoys. If you don’t want to learn about typefaces, line length, leading and a whole raft of other information, you will want to have al designer work with you to create your beautiful book..

Editors Association of Canada

On April 13th, I attended ProPub unconference in Vancouver, sponsored by EAC. I work in a vacuum generallly, all alone at my desk figuring out how to make projects work. Consequently, I don’t always have a sense of whether my skills are up to date or if there are better methods out there for what I do. Although, I’m a production person by trade and not an editor, I have edited material for others and, as a writer, have worked with my fair share of editors. Unsure of how useful it would be for me to hang out with a bunch of editors for the day, I attended somewhat reluctantly.

I’m so happy I went. I got to hear from disparate sources how people accomplish the work of bringing words to life. The attendees (editors, publishers, designers, partners) were completely open to sharing what works (and what doesn’t) in their operations. I learned quite a bit and also came away feeling really happy that what I do is relevant. If you are looking for an editor for your project or would like to know more about becoming an editor, this is a great organization to know about.

Get an Editor


At the Federation of BC Writer’s self-publishing fair on March 3rd the main sentiment echoed by almost every speaker was “Get and Editor.” Nothing destroys the chances of success for your book more than poorly edited text. I’ll be adding more editors to the links page as I connect with people here in the Vancouver area. Remember, an editor is a lot like a therapist—you have to find one who understands you. When the fit is right, you’ll have more than a grammatical watchdog by your side; you’ll have a true collaborator..

What does it cost to…

It’s the first question most people ask when they find out what I do. “About how much will it cost to do my book?”

I’d love to give you a quick easy answer, but there’s not one. There are so many facets to creating a good book and now so many different ways to get your book produced, the money you dish out can vary wildly.

However, I can give you a couple of tips to keep the cost down.

First, work with a good editor—a real editor, not your aunt Mary, unless she happens to work at Random House in the editorial department. Work initally with a development editor, a person who helps shape your book. If you are writing fiction, your editor will help you find your voice and help you pace the work. If you’re writing non-fiction, it’s even more important to work with someone who can give structure to your information, making your work clearer, cleaner and more enjoyable. Once you are out of the development stage, you’ll want a copy editor to go over your pages. Some editors do both, some don’t. I’ll talk more about finding the right editor in upcoming posts.

My second tip is keep your manuscript clear of extraneous characters. Never use spaces when you mean to tab, and never use tabs when an indent will work. Don’t use double paragraph returns to create space and use only one space after a period. (I know some people will argue this point for various reasons, but really, they’re going to come out before the book is published, so why not leave them out from the get-go?) Learn to use style sheets in your chosen word processor. Many of the settings you input manually become automatic when associated with a style sheet..

How to Begin Your Book Marketing Plan

I know you have a great idea for a book, or possibly you’ve already written the manuscript. Now, you’re wondering whether to do a print book, an ebook, or both. You want to decide whether to go with a traditional publisher or self-publish. And you want someone to give you a simple answer of which steps to take.

Here’s my advice. Begin with your audience. Who exactly are you trying to reach with your material; what ages, income level, professional associations, and interests best describe your target market? The more you can hone in on the your perfect reader the more likely you will answer your own questions. If you want to reach 20 somethings with young children you will make different choices than targeting upscale, business professionals in their 50s. Where do people go to find information? Are they following the latest trends on REDDIT or looking in the NY Times Review of Books? Very different markets with different approaches.

Decide how much you are willing to travel and speak to promote your book. If you are terminally shy in front of people but great at sending out press releases, this is another part of building your marketing strategy.

Don’t let this work scare you away. Have some fun imagining people finding out about your book. Envision them reading it, talking about it, sharing it. Not only does your vision help you make decisions about which format or formats to use, it adds energy to the actual creation.

Here are a few marketing questions to answer as you ponder the creation and sales of your book.

  1. What is the perfect description of your book?
  2. Who is your perfect customer?
  3. Where does your perfect customer get their information?
  4. What other books are there in your area of expertise or what other genre writers are similar to your style?
  5. How great is the competition for audience in your area?
  6. What are your personal marketing strengths? Great copy, good presenter, excellent researcher, tireless promoter. What do you do well?
  7. Do you have a personal network of friends or business associates that can help you market your book? Do you belong to a professional organization that can lend support?

Be inventive and have some fun with it. Learn to enjoy all the parts of creating a wonderful, successful book..

Style Sheets

Use them.

Whether you’re planning to create a book for print or ebook, you need to learn to use style sheets and use them well. You’ll save yourself a ton of time and money by doing this one thing. Not only do production people use style sheets to assure all the text in your book is consistent for printing, ebooks are written in HTML and use a CSS (cascading style sheets) file to describe the attributes of your book. When you use appropriate styles in Word or Open Office (or your word processor of choice), those styles can easily be translated into whatever software is being used to create your final product..

A Word Template

I have a love/hate relationship with MS Word. I loved it long ago in its infancy, but having worked in publishing for a while, I realize it pretends to be a page layout program but gives you just enough capability to produce something less than professional. Still, it’s the word processor of choice and many of you are comfortable using it. So, that’s where we’ll start the process of creating your beautiful ebook. I’m working to create a template that is both easy to use and will give you results you can be proud to call your own. This process should be completed in the next few weeks. I’ll also be creating some documentation to help you be more efficient using both the ebook template and Word in general. But for now, it’s back to work..

It Can Be Better

Searching the web for templates for ebooks, I realized most of them are ugly. It doesn’t have to be that way (alright, if it’s on Kindle maybe it does have to be ugly). For most ebook formats you have at least some possibilities of creating a pleasing layout for your information that supports what you have to say rather than fighting with it..