Friday, May 29, 2015

Some unpleasant facts of life for self-publishing authors




You’ll probably see ads proclaiming “FREE PUBLISHING” and you’ll also encounter publishing packages priced under $200. Here’s the truth: (1) No self-publishing company will print and deliver a book for free. (2) Unless you are prepared to spend $1,000 or more ($3,000 or more would be better), you probably won’t get a high-quality book and will not be able to tell many potential readers that the book exists and convince them to buy it.

Writing your book is just your first assignment as an author. Unless you are prepared to make a major effort to publicize your book, few people will know about it or read it.

Most books lose money—even those published by media giants with huge staffs of highly paid and experienced experts. Million-sellers are very rare in the book business. In self-publishing, thousand-sellers are very rare.

Most writers love to write but few people get rich from writing (or from poker, painting or singing). Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing, and work as hard as you can to produce a fine book. But don’t quit your day job and don’t remortgage your house to finance your publishing.

Although a first book can be profitable, don’t assume that your first will be profitable. Write your first book for the joy of it, or to impress your friends and family, or to change some minds, or as a learning experience or a business builder. Over months and years, as you improve your writing skills and learn more about the publishing business, the profits may come. If writing is not either fun or profitable or both—stop writing.

There’s nothing wrong with publishing for pleasure. The cost of publishing a book may be much less than the cost of a boat, a vacation or even a pool tableand nobody expects them to show a profit. If you can afford to publish for fun, do it. If you can make money while having fun, that’s even better.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's important to look at your book without reading it


After you've read your new masterpiece 74 or 1183 times, sit a bit farther back from your screen and LOOK at the pages -- but don't read them.

You'll probably be amazed at all of the errors you detect when you are not concerned with content, meaning and story-telling artistry.


I aim my eyes at the three-o'clock position and maker a clockwise scan on each page, but do what works best for you.

Check your book for these bloopers:
  1. Wrong typefaces or wrong fonts, (not necessarily the same thing) particularly when text is pasted-in from another source
  2. Commas that should be periods -- and vice-versa
  3. Straight punctuation that should be curly "typographers' marks"
  4. Curlies that curl in the wrong direction
  5. Missing spaces between paragraphs or sections
  6. Bad justification in the last line of a page
  7. Chopped-off descenders where you decreased line spacing or if the bottom of a text box is too close to the text
  8. Wrong-size bullets
  9. Rivers
  10. Too-big word spacing
  11. Normal letters that should be ligatures (more for large type than in body text).
  12. Accidental spaces after bullets
  13. Improper hyphenation
  14. Roman text that should be italic, and vice versa
  15. Ignoring highlighted warnings in MS Word
  16. Automatically accepting MS Word suggestions
  17. Gray text that should be black
  18. Insufficient space adjacent to images
  19. Images or text boxes that floated over the margin
  20. Images or text boxes that "slid' down and covered up footers
  21. Missing periods at sentence ends
  22. Missing opening or closing quote marks.
  23. Periods that should be inside a closing parentheses -- or outside.
  24. Repeated words caught by the software
  25. Wrong headers, missing headers, switched verso and recto headers
  26. Subheads that are too close to the text above and too far from the text below
  27. Too much space between lines in a multi-line title, chapter name or subhead
  28. Pages with numbers that should not show numbers ("blind folios")
  29. Words that shifted from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page
  30. And one that does require reading: chapter names in the table of contents that don't reflect a change made in the actual chapter name
  31. And another: a topic not in the index because you added something after completing the index

More in my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice: Learn to plan, write, title, edit, format, cover, copyright, publicize, publish and sell your pbooks and ebooks

 
------

glasses: Ed Hardy Gold EHO-732 Women's Designer Eyeglasses - Tortois Gold

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Small caps can be a big pain in the ass -- or nice


A small cap stock is a stock with a relatively small market capitalization (total market value of the company's outstanding shares). Generally, market capitalization of between $300 million and $2 billion is considered small cap. Apple has recently been the world champ in market cap -- over 400 billion bucks! 

A small cap letter is an uppercase (i.e., "cap" or "capital") letter that's about the same height as nearby lowercase letters. I first noticed them in Business Week about ten years ago, and found them disconcerting.
  • Small caps are frequently used for decorative effects on book covers and title pages and at the beginning of a block of text.
  • They're also used for abbreviations and acronyms like USA, FBI, SCUBA, RADAR, A.M. and IBM. Some publications have rules to use small caps for abbreviations and acronyms longer than three letters, which results in arbitrary and awkward typography. Abbreviations a.m. and p.m. are often smallcapped -- but may be uppercased or put in standard type.
The theory behind small caps when not used for decoration is that they blend in well with surrounding text instead of SHOUTING AT THE READER like full-size caps. The use of small caps is supposed to be a sign of sophisticated typography, like hanging punctuation (which I may deal with in the future).

There are several problems with a few letters in small caps.
  • They look stupid at the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes a sentence can be reworked to avoid the problem. Some typographers switch to full-size, others keep the small caps up front. I prefer to rewrite.
  • If you have the names of two competing entities nearby, and one has normal lettering and one has small caps, there is an implicit downgrading of the one with small caps. USA looks less important or powerful than Canada. B&N is dominated by Amazon. HP and IBM are overpowered by Dell.
  • If you have a compound name like "U.S. Capitol," "U.N. Building" or "PR Newswire," it looks silly for the "U" or the "P" to be smaller than the first letter of the next word.
  • A title like "HTML Guide" would look silly if "HTML" was smaller than the "G."
As with many aspects of writing, publishing and typography, sometimes you just have to go with what seems right, rather than apply rigid rules. If you follow any rule 100% of the time, your work will seem stupid 10% of the time. Unfortunately, when you bend or break rules to make what you think is a better book, some people may think you made an error. That's life.

I avoided small caps in my first nine self-pubbed books, but as I tried to get "more professional" I started to use them in book #10, Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book. After several hours, I got so frustrated trying to resolve inconsistencies, I gave up and went back to full-size caps.

If you have a lot of time to kill and are a graphic masochist, you can try using small caps. I doubt that I'll try them again, except in titles or other small doses.

Some typeface packages include characters specifically designed to be use as small caps. Software (including Microsoft Word) can make 'fake' small caps. The real small caps look better adjacent to full-size caps because they have thick strokes to match their big brothers. The fakes are "scaled down" caps and have unnaturally thin strokes. Fakes may be noticed by professional typographers, but probably not by readers.




(above) These two similar title pages from Scribner use all caps for the authors' names and some small caps in the titles. I think the titles look nice. (However, I would have slightly tucked the "H" under the "T" in "The" on both pages. That's called kerning.) Strangely, the typography for the name and locations of the publisher are composed differently on the two pages.



(above) This piece of a cover page from Stephen Crane's book mixes drop caps and underlined small caps. I think it looks like shit.



(above) It's common to start text in a newspaper or magazine article or book chapter with some small caps. I don't think they add anything useful or attractive here. This looks silly to me. It's an ancient affectation -- maybe a typographer showing off. Why bother?


(above) This is the opening of The Great Gatsby. I think it looks silly to start with a big "I," then switch to small caps, and then use normal type.


(above) This chapter-opener has a full line of small caps following a dropped-in illustration. The word "winemakers" is half small caps and half normal. I think that's silly.


(above) Small caps often follow raised caps or dropped caps in chapter openings. You can left-click on the image to enlarge it. Maybe you'll recognize the books.)




(above) This page from Paradise Lost suffers from an overdose of small caps. Why does "Satan" get the special treatment, but not "Angels" and "Messiah?"




(above) This is the cover The Look of a Book, an ebook I wrote, designed and published. It's the first time I used small caps on a cover and I like the way it looks. I particularly like the way the tips of the "H" and "E" in "THE" butt together, and the way the "O" nestles into the "K" and "F" in "LOOK," "OF" and "BOOK." I think this treatment is much more attractive than ordinary upper and lower case lettering would be.

When you self-publish you can even change a title to take advantage of the way type looks. Publishing freedom is wonderful and powerful.



This posting is based on material in my upcoming Typography for Independent Publishers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Try not to piss people off online. The web never forgets.


In the 21st century, when many people consider doing business with a company or making a purchase, one of the first things they do is to search for comments online.

Fourteen years ago my wife ignored abundant bad reviews and has been suffering with a big-buck Dacor 'pro-style' gas range ever since. I check reviews several times a week before ordering from Amazon (recent winners include a dandelion puller, pool-cleaning robot and socks), and I read comments about the Honda Crosstour before even visiting dealers. (The car is great.)

A search for Outskirts Press on Google shows more than 5 million results. However, on the critical first three pages, many are NEGATIVE. Two negative links on the first page are for this blog.

A search on Bing showed two negative links for Outskirts on the first results page and more negative links on other pages.

Any person or business with an online existence may accumulate online criticism -- and it may be on the web forever. Do the right thing, and do things right.

Yes, I know that the blog title warns about pissing people off, and I often piss people off with what I write on this blog. I like to think that I am performing a public service (and maybe providing some entertainment). The targets of my criticism deserve to be criticized. So far, no one I've pissed off in this blog has sued me. I am willing to take the chance. I like the First Amendment very much. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

To me, authoring is no longer awesome.
To many readers, it is.


I majored in journalism in college. I've written many hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines. I was an award-winning advertising copywriter. I've written more than 40 books.

For a while I kept a "clip file" of all of my published articles, and had a portfolio of my ads that I could use to impress a prospective employer.

But, after 40-plus years making money by tapping a keyboard, I no longer think writing is a big deal.

I won't say it isn't fun anymore. One fundamental Marcus maxim is, "If it isn't fun, don't do it." If writing wasn't fun, I wouldn't still be doing it.

When  I was younger, I loved getting fan mail from people who liked my articles and reviews in Rolling Stone. Later there was lots of satisfaction when I was told how many  dollars my ads and websites generated. It was cool seeing people wearing T-shirts I had designed. In more recent years, I've enjoyed reading the mostly good reviews of my books.

I still love to tweak, adjust, manipulate and rework blogs, websites and book pages so they sound and look just right.

But writing a good book in 2015 just does not generate the same smiles and internal giggles as the first big cover story I wrote for High Fidelity Trade News in 1969, or getting into movies and concerts for free when I showed my Rolling Stone press ID in 1971, or getting laid after giving a girl a stack of records I had gotten for free when I worked for Stone.

Maybe the problem -- if it is a problem -- is that writing is much easier than it used to be, so I don't feel I am overcoming a challenge. I was fired from my job at High Fidelity Trade News when I had a two-week dry spell, but it's been decades since I've suffered with a severe case of "writer's block."

Maybe simply getting older -- and accumulating more experiences -- makes it easier to write. (But harder to type accurately.) 

At age 69, I can write about almost anything.

I had a demented high school English teacher [she's in Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)] who made 'surprise attacks' on our class. One day she commanded us to "write 500 words about tobogganing." Another time she wanted 500 words about "How Capri pants are the downfall of western civilization."

I hated the evil idiot, but she provided good preparation for later on when my paycheck depended on my being able to write about things I knew absolutely nothing about (ads for women's bathing suits and the Metropolitan Opera, and a fundraising letter for the YMCA, for example).

Getting published is infinitely easier now than when I was younger. Years ago, if I had a brilliant idea for an article or book, I had to query editors and publishers to try to ignite their enthusiasm and open their checkbooks.

Today, if I have something to say, I write a book and publish it myself, or post something on one of my blogs or on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on someone else's blog, or start a new blog or website. It's infinitely easier than pitching an article to an editor or convincing investors to put money into a new magazine.

Those of us in the book biz know how easy it is to publish now. But many “civilians” are still in awe of authors.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I was at a brunch meeting of about 25 members of a "burial society" that I’ve inherited membership in.

Although I’ve theoretically been a member since birth, this was the first time that a meeting was held near enough for me to conveniently attend. I was surrounded by relatives I am scheduled to spend eternity with, but I had never met any of them before.

During the meeting, someone spoke about a milestone in family history that occurred about 100 years earlier. I casually mentioned that I had written about the incident in one of my books.

I was surprised by the response. Some people were in awe! Someone said, “Oh, you wrote a book!” and there was at least one “Wow.” People asked the name, the subject and where they could buy it.

I answered the questions quickly and politely. I didn’t want to hijack the meeting and turn it into a book promo event.

My extended family (mostly 'sophisticated New Yorkers') thought that meeting a writer is unusual.

I certainly don’t think writing is unusual or that writers are unusual (well, maybe a little unusual). I spend a lot of my online and offline time communicating with writers, editors, designers and publishers. My close relatives and neighbors and employees know that I write and publish and they are not impressed. (Well, actually, a few are.)

I know how easy it is to get published; but to the group of strangers at the meeting -- who share some of my genes, and will share a final address -- it was a big deal. I’m certainly not a celebrity like Elvis, JFK or Shakespeare, but some of these folks seemed to be a bit excited to be related to an author and maybe even to be buried near one.

It made me feel good. Not as good as getting laid because I was an editor at Rolling Stone -- but nevertheless, good.

Magicians don’t explain their best tricks. Maybe we shouldn’t reveal how easy it has become to publish books and have them sold by Amazon and B&N.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

If authors don't care about their books, why should readers?



This is probably the least-interesting cover design of all time. Maybe the poetry in the ebook is more stimulating than the cover. Will anyone find out?

Sadly, I found out. The typing, spelling and grammar inside the book are probably the worst I’ve ever seen. YIPES!







The book has a four-star review on Goodreads -- posted by the poet himself


Gerard wants us to know that this is his finest work. That's not encouraging. Neither is the sloppy typing in the review itself.

Here's what the pathetic egomaniac put on Goodreads: "wonderful collection of poetry by Irish author ,this is a flowing melodic poetry of raw honesty, this ebook will delight tantalise and frustrate you for sure"

If Gerard didn't care enough to produce a quality book and proper promotion, why should a reader care enough to invest time and money?
  • If you produce crap, maybe the only people you'll attract are critics like me.
  • It's extremely difficult to make money selling poetry books.
  • If you want to have a chance, do it right. 
  • If you can't produce a proper book yourself, hire qualified people to do it for you.
UPDATE: since the first time I wrote about Gerard, he produced a new cover. It's better -- but incredibly dull. The pages inside the book have not been improved.

His other book,
Snatches Of The Mind, has better interior typing, but bad grammar and different titles on the cover and title page. Oops.

Here's the abominable promotional text: "The word's paint pictures , like an artist lovingly applies paint to a canvas , the heart and mind as one, the story between the lines , as revealing, as the tears of a broken hearted lover"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Roman roman Roman" makes sense, really

  • "Times New Roman" is a common typeface.
  • The opposite of italic is roman.
  • Roman numerals use letters to represent numbers.

I've wanted to type that for years.



Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on Vespa motor scooter
in Roman Holiday (1953).



I bought a much more modern Vespa "150" in 1964, but never sat behind Audrey Hepburn or in front of Gregory Peck.



I also had a 1978 Fiat 124 Spider. Audrey has never been in it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BIG SECRET REVEALED:
There are no secrets in books.
Avoid hackneyed titles.

Are there any secrets in this book? Naah!


"Secrets" are exciting. Starting in childhood, everyone wants to learn some special, restricted bit of information. The American government has a Secret Service and the United Kingdom has an Official Secrets Act. Lots of very smart people spend their careers trying to uncover or protect secrets -- especially "top secrets."


"I've Got a Secret" was an extremely popular TV show that originally aired from 1952 until 1967. It was revived for brief sessions in 1972-'73 and in 1976 and from 2000-'03. There was even an at-home game based on the show.


In Animal House, Delta Tau Chi fraternity was put on "Double Secret Probation" by Faber College Dean Wormer who wanted to find a way to ban the fraternity for bad behavior and bad grades.  



Do you want to know a secret? was an extremely popular Beatles song from the 1963 album Please Please Me, sung by George Harrison.The single reached #2 on the Billboard chart in 1964 and the #1 position in 1981.

Apparently, lots of people want to know secrets, especially "dirty little secrets." Amazon.com lists nearly 300,000 books with "secret" in the title. Some are fiction, and many are nonfiction. The term is a very popular book title cliche. A huge number of books use "secrets of success" in their titles.

Here's a dirty little secret: none of the books promising secrets actually reveal secrets because no secrets are secret after even one person reads the secret.

The author of Secrets of Self Publishing 2 is so proud of his secrecy that he put the title TWICE on the cover of the book. The slim book is badly written, badly formatted and apparently unedited. I found exactly one alleged secret in the book: "The secrets of self-publishing are the same as the secrets of success. One must be willing to research all outlets, and find a method which fits your program." That's not much of a secret.

I questioned the author about the apparent lack of secrets. He wrote to me: "In regards to your question (statement). It kind of reminds me of a many centuries old question millions of Christians and Muslims have about life. They read their holy books, go to services weekly. Yet beyond the parables have not been able to extract the simplicity of life that one does not need a book, treatise, big words or to be around others to understand. They go out into the world, and when they're out of their religious houses they're not good people at all. Yet life is very simple, all things are interconnected. All you have to do is Respect all life. This understanding is Love at its highest form. Both books display this. Yet the people don't see b/c its not spelled out to them. In regards to The Secrets of Self Publishing, self publishing as outlined can be done many ways. A business period in order to be a success needs to be built around the individuals personality and initiatives. Self Publishing is no different, the (book)work speaks about stepping outside of the box and developing a program based around the author/publishers abilities. This is so even though authors and publishers run around following and stealing programs and ideas from others. Some find success, most don't, and some of the ones who find early success will run into problems in the longrun. A copy is nothing like the original.  In so many words the work advises people to learn the basics of self publishing, then develop their own program. In this is the Secret. Be Blessed."

It's nice to be blessed, but I'd rather learn some secrets.

E-Book Publishing Secrets has 24-pages and a $15 price! After nearly three years it has had almost no sales on Amazon. I’m not surprised. Who would pay more than sixty cents per page for a book? (The subtitle has several grammatical errors—bad for a book about publishing.) Of course, there are no secrets in the book. Strangely, the author likes to refer to himself as "Mr." John Wallace Hayes.

Please find some way to attract readers to your book without putting "SECRETS" in the title.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Even highly paid professional designers mess up


Some people who have the title of designer, architect, art professor or art director turn out major failures — like the Pontiac Aztek, above. A poll published by England’s Daily Telegraph put the Aztek at the top of the list of the ugliest cars of all time.



New Jersey’s Pulaski Skyway was called “the ugliest man-made structure in the world” — by my father.

The book below was named one of the ten best books of 2011 by the New York Times, and one of the best books of the year by at least seven other book review media.  It was published by Random House and designed by Casey Hampton.

Sadly, even professionals working for big publishing houses forget to kern and condense. I fixed the first line of the title for them. I’ll let Random’s 'pros' fix the second line—if they care.

(This posting is derived from my upcoming No More Ugly Books!)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Novelists won't make a penny from me. Sorry.




This book was featured on NPR. I was all set to buy it and then I realized it was (GASP!) a novel.

If my memory is correct, I've
read only about 10% of one novel in over 47 years since I finished college. I find reality very entertaining. I buy two or three books each week, but all are nonfiction. For fiction, I use TV and movies, not books. That's just the way I am 

Apparently, at age 69, I have the patience of a two-year-old.



I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we often see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.
  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there are few car crashes or murders in the first few pages of most novels.
I have a problem with movies, too. It takes a lot of action to attract and maintain my attention. Sadly, when I go to a movie, it usually turns out out to be a $12 nap (or $24 with popcorn).

I inherited my mother's love of reading, but not her drive to read every bestselling novel. My father read a lot too, but mostly newspapers. I guess I inherited his need for information, not my mother's need for escape.

I've always been an avid reader -- even when I wasn't supposed to be reading.
  • As a young child I read books under the blanket with a flashlight after my official "lights out" time.
  • By around age eight, I employed more advanced technology. I tied a string to the pull-chain that controlled the light in my closet. I attached the other end to a tennis ball with a hole poked through it. I could read with the closet light, and when I heard one of my parents walking down the hallway towards my room, I'd pull on the string to extinguish the light, and then toss the ball and string into the closet to hide the evidence before mom or dad opened my door to check on me.
(That was a long time ago. I wonder if modern parents care how late their kids stay up -- especially if they're reading.)

As a pre-teen, I did not bother with the Hardy Boys series that interested many of my friends. Instead, I eagerly devoured each new book in the Tom Swift, Jr., series. Books like Tom Swift and His Flying Lab, Tom Swift and His Giant Robot and Tom Swift and His Diving Seacopter provided my ideal combination of adventure and technology.

My favorite magazine of the period was Popular Electronics. Although the mag included construction projects (amplifiers and short-wave receivers) and technical discussions (i.e., VOM vs. VTVM?), each issue included a short story seemingly written just for me. Like the Swift series, John T. Frye's Carl and Jerry stories combined technology and adventure, and sometimes the young geeks used electronics to catch bad guys and impress girls.

I remember one story where Carl and Jerry were on a small boat and its outboard motor conked out. The boys used the boat's battery and parts of the motor to build a primitive "spark gap transmitter" and transmitted Morse Code to get help. This was long before MacGyver used his Swiss Army knife to make a nuclear reactor from a vacuum cleaner, a sponge, a pair of snow shoes and a pound of shrimp.

I did most of the assigned reading in public school, but I sometimes cheated and wrote book reports based on the "Classics Illustrated Comics" version of the books. On the other hand, in my senior year in high school, to fulfill an informal bet with with my English teacher Frances Leighton, I did read and report on a book each day for several months.



I've written more than 40 books. One was half-fiction. One was about 10% fiction. I have no desire to write The Great American novel. Or to read it.



As Sgt. Joe Friday said on the ancient "Dragnet" TV series, "All we want are the facts, ma'am"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A simple, important thing that Amazon, authors and publishers get wrong

(above) While analysts' percentages vary, Amazon clearly has a huge share of the ebook market -- but it could sell more ebooks

I talk to lots of readers online and in the real world. All of them are aware of ebooks. Almost all are aware of Kindles. A few have Kindles. Many who don't have Kindles think they can't read an ebook formatted for Kindles if they don't have a Kindle. 

They seem to think that the ebook business is like the old videotape situation where a VHS player could not play Betamax movies.

While there is still some incompatibility with less important readers (and the availability of adaptive apps and hacks grows constantly), the simple fact is that books formatted for Kindle reading can be read on many kinds of devices. It's time for Amazon, authors and publishers to make that important fact known!


Starting with my 2014 book, Anthology of Third-World Email Scams: learn from the best and worst!, I am promoting the concept that my Kindle ebooks can be read on a PC, an iPad or other tablet, a Nook, a smart phone or other device.


Sure, it's probably good to publish in multiple ebook formats. But, just as many people think that the World Wide Web is the Internet and that Earth is the center of the Universe, there are people who think that "Kindle" is synonymous with "ebook."

Authors: if you can make potential readers know that they can read your books without investing in additional hardware, you may sell many more books.


  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Plagiarize, don't shade your eyes (but change the words!)



The first part of today's title is from the great song, "Lobachevsky," by singer - writer - pianist - mathematician Tom Lehrer, who has long been one of my literary gods.

Tom claims he “went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.” He graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude at age 18 and made Phi Beta Kappa. He taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley and the University of California, but is best known for hilarious songwriting, much of it political satire in the 1950s and 60s.

Tom's musical career was powerful but brief. He said he performed a mere 109 shows and wrote only 37 songs over 20 years. Britain’s Princess Margaret was a fan, and so am I. I can still sing Tom Lehrer lyrics I first heard in seventh grade. 


Here's part of the "Lobachevsky lyrics:"

"I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Plagiarize, Let no one else's work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don't shade your eyes, But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize -- Only be sure always to call it please 'research'."

So, why am I writing about Uncle Tom today? I am researching typography for a book I am writing about book design called No More Ugly Books! 

I have about 4,000 books in my personal library, and about 100 books are related to publishing.

One my favorites is The Non-Designers Design & Type Books, by Robin Williams (no, not Mork-from-Ork Robin Williams).

Below is part of a scan of one page:

(left-click to enlarge)
The highlighted text made sense to me, but it seemed strangely familiar. I took a look at one of my other favorite books about books, Book Design & Production by Pete Masterson.

(left-click to enlarge)



Yup -- it's about 95% the same thing.

This seemed really strange. The same sentence appears in two copyrighted books that are sort of competitors. It was strange enough to motivate me to do a Google search, and I found this:

(left-click to enlarge)

Yup -- here are Robin's words again, this time in a teaching tool produced by a teacher at a big high school in Texas,


And if that's not enough, I also found the same text on a website operated by the South Newton School Corporation in Indiana. It was apparently copied from Robin's book, but the homepage shows:  "Copyright © 2011 South Newton."

(left-click to enlarge)

And, of course there's more.

I have no idea who wrote the sentence first, but the same text can't have multiple valid copyrights. I wonder if the school teachers who have apparently copied the material from another source would approve of a student submitting a term paper with text copied directly from Wikipedia.

We all do research. I read lots of book in fields I'm interested in, and try to distill what others have said and then REPHRASE IT IN MY OWN WORDS and try to add my own insights and discoveries.

In another song, Tom Lehrer wrote, "Don't write dirty words on walls if you can't spell. Be prepared!" That's good advice -- especially with the Internet. If you copy and publish someone else's work, be prepared for someone to notice.

Back when I was a journalism major at Lehigh I was taught never to copy more than four consecutive words without attribution. That's good advice.

(My own research technique may be imperfect. If I have been an accidental copycat in my 40-plus years of writing, I hereby apologize.)



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Valuable cheat sheet for menu-makers and foot critics







----

Mickey pic from Disney.
Bullwinkle pic from
Mouse photo from I don't remember
Marian photo from sunriseresortandmarina.com
Mesclun photo from scarboroughfarms.com
Hamburg photo from Daniel Schwen
Big Mac photo from Mickey Dee's

Thanks.