Tag Archives: design

From desktop to publication

Averill Buchanan works primarily as a fiction editor, but it’s not the only way she helps self-publishing authors. Here she talks about her background in graphic design and explains how it has enabled her to offer book production services as well.

From Word document to InDesign to printers’ proofs to finished book

I’ve been working as an editor now for 14 years, specialising in fiction, but it isn’t the only aspect of the publishing process I can help with. I started my working life as a graphic artist, serving my time as an apprentice at a printers before moving on to run my own design consultancy. Twenty odd years later, the advent of self-publishing has drawn me back to my first career, and nowadays I also provide a range of book production services – typesetting and design for print, as well as ebook conversion.

Transferrable skills

The graphic design industry has transformed since I left it in the mid 1990s to study English at university as a mature student. Computers and desktop design software have replaced Letraset and SprayMount, and designing for the web is a new area of expertise. But the thing about graphic design is that regardless of the tools you use, you never lose your aesthetic sensibilities, your feel for what works visually, or your tendency to volunteer an opinion of a book cover or logo even when you haven’t been asked. Once a graphic designer, always a graphic designer, I add by way of apology.

Me as a graphic designer in 1990

Self-publishing

I joined the editing profession at just the right time. Around 2009, technology was making self-publishing available and accessible to anyone who had a computer – no design ability required. It didn’t take me long to realise how useful I could be to many of my editing clients – self-publishing authors who just wanted to write but didn’t have the design nous or patience to teach themselves how to produce good-looking books.

When I first offered book layout services, I used Word to create the interior of books destined to be printed through CreateSpace, Amazon’s old Print-On-Demand (POD) service. But I’ve since taught myself to use professional design software, notably Adobe Creative Suite, and now do all my typesetting and layout work in InDesign. It was a steep learning curve, but well worth it. Among other things, InDesign gives you superb control of text, pagination and layout, and I’ve been able to progress from producing text-only novels to full-colour coffee table books.

I’ve also taught myself how to make ebooks, thanks to extensive on-the-job training in xml encoding and html during a stint as an academic research assistant. I use Jutoh software to convert well-formatted Word documents, with or without images, into epubs and mobis (Kindle’s proprietary ebook format).

I tend not to offer cover design unless the client is publishing for friends and family only or is on a very tight budget. I prefer to send clients with commercial aspirations to a professional cover designer. It’s quite a specialised field and I don’t have the Photoshop skills (yet!) to make covers that can compete with trade-published books.

Hand-holding

Many authors find the online world challenging and it seems a shame to allow that to get in the way of them pursuing their life-long dream. So in addition to actually making the books, I also offer a hand-holding service to shepherd nervous authors through the online publishing process.

For instance, using screen-sharing software, I can sit with the client online as they set up their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and upload their book(s), or I can record a short video of me doing it on their behalf, which I later email to them. Some authors just want it all done for them, leaving them to log in to their dashboards to check sales figures.

Publishing consultancy

As the self-publishing industry has matured and become more professional, the options available can be overwhelming for authors. I can explain things in layman’s terms and offer advice about the route to publication that best suits their needs.

It’s important to establish authors’ objectives at the outset – not everyone wants to be published to make money. Some have written memoirs that are only for family and friends; others want to raise awareness for charities. For many writers it’s simply a personal ambition to get a book published – they don’t want to make a career out of it. At the other end of the spectrum are authors determined to set up their own presses and be as professional and business-like as their budgets will allow.

I advise authors with little to no knowledge of publishing about things like buying ISBNs, setting up their own imprints, the differences between POD and litho printing, and the value of producing ebook editions. I can also help them cost it out. I don’t offer marketing as a service, but it needs to be factored in when offering advice about production. For example, if it’s important to an author that they see their book on the shelves of a high-street bookshop, they need to be aware of how difficult that is to achieve as a self-publisher. Or if an author’s ultimate goal is to give talks and handsell their book at events as well as online, they might want to consider getting, say, 100 copies printed at a printers, in addition to publishing via KDP. My aim is to help authors make the best decision for their circumstances, taking into account their goals and priorities, their budget and how they plan to market their book.

One-stop shop

While some authors prefer to build their own self-publishing teams, hiring different freelancers to handle each aspect of book production, others prefer to work with the same person from start to finish. It’s easier for them to manage the project this way, and as we develop a good working relationship, things go more smoothly. I alert authors to the pitfalls of having the same person edit AND proofread the text, and often, with their permission, I’ll outsource the proofreading. But if they prefer me to do it, for whatever reason, I’m somewhat reassured in the knowledge that other processes, like typesetting or layout further down the line, are another opportunity for me to see the text in a new way; any lingering typos or inconsistencies usually leap out at me later on.

When I quote for large projects that involve several steps, I break the work down into its discrete tasks and agree staged payments with the client in advance. Scope creep is almost inevitable in a big job; the important thing is to keep the author updated and informed of any increased costs.

Some of the books I’ve worked on recently

Book production uses a different part of my brain – I can listen to music while I do design work, whereas I need total silence when I’m editing or proofreading. I enjoy the variety of the work and getting to flex my design skills again. And, of course, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing a publishing project through from the editing stage (sometimes even earlier) to the finished product. But the best reward of all is hearing from an excited author when they see their book for sale on Amazon or when they get to hold a copy in their hands at last.

Averill Buchanan is a recovering graphic designer and fiction editor. She is an Advanced Professional Member of CIEP, a Full Member of AFEPI Ireland and a Partner Member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She also runs her own publishing imprint, Herself Press, which aims to (re)publish the work of neglected women writers from the North of Ireland.

 


Over 170 Professional and Advanced Professional CIEP members offer ‘book production‘ as a service.


Proofread by Alice McBrearty, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

25 tips for writing effectively for older readers

Vera

Sarah Carr’s friend, Vera, celebrating her 100th birthday – when she was born in 1911, the UK had 102 centenarians; by 2013, it had 13,780.

Misleading information, unclear instructions, technical jargon and illegible print: these are all barriers that can stop older people accessing products and services. Apart from the obvious ethical problem – it is unacceptable for a civilised society to withhold important goods from citizens – it makes good business sense to value older consumers. The 65-plus age group represents 20% of the UK consumer population (those aged 16 and above) and is expected to rise to 25% by 20301.

As experts in written communication, members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) are well equipped to help ensure that texts meet the needs of target readers. The SfEP is launching a three-tier commercial package for organisations targeting older consumers. Comprising a communications audit, editorial consultancy and in-house training, the project kicks off with the publication of a booklet on communicating with older readers. Drawing on research and anecdotal evidence gathered with the help of SfEP members and editors from other English-speaking countries, Sarah Carr presents in this blog a list of 25 top tips. For more ideas, and advice on how to implement these in your work, watch out for the booklet!

Attitude

  1. Do what you can to challenge attitudes towards ageing and older people.

Features of older people

  1. Understand the needs of older readers, remembering that they have widely varying abilities, and encompass two or even three generations.

Inclusive writing

  1. Take an inclusive approach to writing, suitable for all members of the public (sometimes known as ‘plain language’).

Purpose, content and structure

  1. Before you start writing, think about why you are doing so, what you want the text to achieve, and the best medium for this purpose.
  2. Plan your messages and ideas, ensuring they are clear and honest.
  3. Organise the content logically, using an appropriate structure and good navigational aids, and avoiding very long paragraphs.

Style and grammar: words and phrases

  1. Consider using graphics to help present your ideas.
  2. Omit redundant words, and use short, familiar words and phrases.
  3. Use jargon and abbreviations only when necessary, and explain each term when you first mention it.
  4. Ensure that you refer to people equally; failing to do so may not only offend readers (and so lose their attention) but also helps prolong inequality.

Style and grammar: sentences

  1. Ensure that you use good grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  2. Aim for an average sentence length of 15 to 20 words, with some longer and shorter for variety and effect.
  3. Use strong verbs (rather than nominalisations/deverbal nouns, e.g. ‘decide’, not ‘make a decision’).
  4. Favour active verbs (‘the team decided’, not ‘it was decided by the team’), writing in the first and second person (‘I’/‘we’ and ‘you’) and phrasing points positively.

Layout and design

  1. Use a simple, clear font, in sentence case, at a size of 12 to 14 point, avoiding italics and underlining.
  2. Align text to the left, with lines of a reasonable length, and avoid splitting words between lines.
  3. Use white space effectively, for example to help show the logical structure of your text.
  4. For text on paper, use good-quality paper with a matt finish, ensuring a good level of contrast between background and ink colours.
  5. Keep images clear and simple, ensuring they do not stereotype older people.

Writing for the web

  1. Ensure it is easy to understand the structure of your website, and to navigate around the site.
  2. Think about web-specific aspects of layout and design, and the readers’ familiarity with using computers and the internet.
  3. Include text alternatives, e.g. audio and video.

Checking the suitability of your text

  1. Aim for a reading-age level of 12 to 14 years, using a readability formula (available in Word).
  2. Consider testing your text on a real audience, if time and money allow, or otherwise using plain-English editors to provide an expert opinion.

Acquiring or commissioning the skills

  1. For a professional and cost-effective service, commission support from SfEP members. And don’t forget our specialist training courses and publications!

1 Analysis by the Personal Finance Research Centre at Bristol University quoted in Age UK (2010) Golden Economy: The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society (research by ILC-UK).

Sarah CarrSarah Carr works as a writer, editor and proofreader, specialising in plain English and business communication. She feels strongly that our society should value old age and older people more, and is saddened by its mysterious obsession with youth. As a practical demonstration of her principles, she refuses to dye her (increasingly) grey hair!

Proofread by SfEP ordinary member Louise Lubke Cuss.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.