Crafting books…

A wise man probably once said,

It’s one thing to write a novel, and quite another to make a book.

Which is true, as far as it goes. A novel is a long series of words placed one in front of another in order to tell a story, or several several stories that link to tell one meta story, or a long winding memoir of someone who never existed in a version of the world that never existed, or a exploration of a psyche fighting for a way to come to terms with a trauma so shattering  that the mind has splintered to hide the truth of it all from itself… Or you know, words..

A book on the other hand is sheets of paper with words upon them, carefully laid out in order, bound in thicker paper to form a cover with pictures and words upon it, a blurb , a bit about the author, chapter heads, contents pages,  an also by page, copyrights , fonts and choices of style, presentation, layout, typesetting’s and a whole bundle of other stuff. Or to put it simply, much more than just a bunch of words placed one in fount of the other…

To put it bluntly, being a writer takes one skill set, making a book takes a whole different skill-set, and this is very important for the independent writer to realise. They have a few choices about how they approach the task of creating a book but there is one very important thing they have to remember when making a decision on how they do it. No matter how skilfully they have crafted their words, no matter how fine their writing, the intricacy of their plots, the depth of their characterizations, and all those little bits of their soul they have poor into the mix… How it is ultimately presented can make every hour they spend on the words worthless…

A wise author therefore is one who seeks help and guidance, knows the limitations of his or her skills, and unless they have the correct skillset they seeks out those who do, be that friends, colleagues or professionals offering a service…

I should point out here, I am not talking about proof-reading and editing, that is a whole different kettle of fish. A damn important kettle, indeed as important a kettle as it is possible to have, but a different kettle all the same. This, however, is about the skills of  typesetting, designing covers, presentation and has more than a little to do with graphic design. A whole different skill set from writing as I say, but one that is just as important, and that no one should be afraid to buy in. Frankly unless you are utterly confident in your own abilities, and even if you are, buying in those skills is is exactly what you should do, and a wise man would know this…

Pick up a book, one of the papery things full of words, you might have one to hand. Now hold it a moment and feel the weight of it. If its a professional book, and by that I don’t necessarily mean one from a big publishing house, just a book that has been professionally produced, it will have a cover that looks inviting in some way, that tells you something about the words within. It will also have a cover that could sit next to any other book on your book shelf. It will be the right size and shape as other books on your bookshelf as well. It will look like a book you might find in a bookshop.

When you open the book up, at any random page, the fonts will be of the right size, pleasing in a none offensive way, easy to read for hours, there be a small indent at the start of a paragraph, but only a small one, there will not be an extra space between paragraphs like you might find in a word document. Paragraphs will be justified right and left, the last sentence of a paragraph will never be at the top of the next page, there will be a header with the title, or the chapter title on the odd pages and the authors name even pages, page numbers. Chapters will usually start on odd page numbers to the left, and when a chapter ends on an odd page there will be a blank even page to the next starts on an odd again… And not all of that will be true for every book, but there will be an internal logic to how it is typeset. ( and it will never have an extra space between paragraphs BTW, I have lost count of the times I have come across indie books that do and it’s like nails raking down a blackboard when ever I see it…)

The point is however the book is laid out it will have been laid out by someone who has put thought and experience into the typesetting. Its a skill all of its own, as is deciding how to present chapter names and numbers and everything else, and just as important as a cover. Many indie authors are willing to pay for a cover, they should likewise be willing to pay for typesetting because even if you could not tell me what the inside of a book should look like, I almost guarantee if you open one that is badly typeset you will notice, even if your not sure what it is your noticing, you will notice and you’ll put the book back down because it will be less inviting.

Of course, you can learn to do all this yourself, but is it really something you want to learn through trail and error?  A wise man would go to someone like my friends at 6e who publish the Harvey Duckman books, or other author services, for advice, help and typesetting, (though I recommend 6e, as they are as good as it gets.)  So if you have done all that hard word writing you book, don’t be foolish, be the wise man and get a professional to do your typesetting for you…

I of course am not a wise man… But I learned how to do it all myself the hard way… take my advice and don’t do what I did 🙂

And then of course strip out every bit of typesetting and build the ebook version from scratch…

This entry was posted in amediting, amwriting, books, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, self-publishing, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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