Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Outskirts Press 'best book' contest is not what it seems to be

Outskirts Press is a notoriously sloppy and sleazy pay-to-publish company. The Outskirtsers do so much so badly that they are frequent targets of this blog.

Outskirts knows that most authors -- like most creative people, and probably most people in general -- crave recognition for their efforts. Outskirts Press operates a book award program to provide recognition to authors. However, the program exists to increase business, not to honor great books.

If you want to win an Outskirts "Best Book of the Year" award, you must be one of Outskirts's authors/customers/victims. If your book is published by Vantage, CreateSpace or Simon & Schuster, and it wins a Pulitzer Prize, it is not eligible for an Outskirts Award.

Outskirts says, "The talented author of the best book we publish this year will earn $1,500 plus a lot of bragging rights!"

Like much of what Outskirts says, that's a lie. The award is NOT for the best book that Outskirts publishes. Many (maybe most) Outskirts authors have no chance of winning.

Unless you pay at least $999 for an Outskirts publishing package, your book will not be considered for an award. If you have a limited budget and can afford just $699 to have your book published by Outskirts. . . TOUGH SHIT. No matter how good the book is, you have no chance of winning an award from Outskirts.

And if you do win the top prize, the $1500 is a "credit to your account" -- not real money. The credit can only be used to purchase the often-overpriced or crappy services from Outskirts. 

The award is the literary equivalent of the "company store." You may remember the song "Sixteen Tons" made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford. It's a song about the life of a  coal miner who was paid in "scrip" that was valid only in a store owned by the mining company. The miner fears he can't go to heaven when he dies: "Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."

The Outskirts award is connected to the EVVY Awards: "Every fall we hand-select 2%-5% of our best books for official nomination to the Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards. Your book must receive an Official Outskirts Press EVVY Nomination from us in the fall, and you must accept the nomination, which includes the EVVY Nomination entry fee, the cost of the judge's copies for your book, and the shipping/handling fee to complete your application on your behalf."

So, even if you've paid $999 or more to publish, and Outskirts thinks your book is award-worthy, you -- not Outskirts -- must pay the cost of entering the EVVY contest. That means that up to 5% of Outskirts Authors will pay Outskirts for copies of their books to be sent to the judges. You can be damn sure that Outskirts makes a profit on each of those books, and every entry generates publicity for Outskirts -- paid for by its authors.

And if that isn't bad enough, the $1500 prize isn't awarded merely for writing the best book that cost at least $999 to publish. The author must also win a popularity contest.

Outskirts wants you to know that: "The ultimate Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award will be determined by the readers of SelfPublishingNews.com blog in an open, public vote. Yes, that means the three finalists hold their own fate in their hands. The Best Book of the Year Award is meant to demonstrate to agents, editors, and publishers that the author has the talent to excel at writing an award winning book and the tenacity to excel at marketing it. Being a finalist means you have the talent. Do you have the marketing tenacity to get the most votes for YOUR book in an open, public vote? Leverage your Twitter and Facebook accounts; email everyone you know and ask them to vote for your book. The voting will determine the most talented writer with the best author platform."

And, of course, everyone you can motivate to vote for you will be exposed to Outskirts advertising. You'll be spamming for Outskirts. That's a good way to lose friends.

You could be the next Shakespeare or Hemingway, but unless you have lots of online followers and friends -- even if they have never read your book -- you are a LOSER.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More lies from (no surprise) Outskirts Press

Outskirts Press is a notoriously dishonest and incompetent pay-to-publish company.

Its website has a page promoting dubious "Outskirts Press Benefits." 

It says: "Say good-bye [sic] to the hassles of independent self-publishing, like guessing print-runs, managing inventory, and the responsibility of order fulfillment."

With print on demand (which Outskirts and most independents use), there is absolutely no reason to even think about print runs, inventory or fulfillment. Outskirts is FULL OF SHIT.

Its website shows the following chart (with my corrections in red) comparing Outskirts to two other paths to publication: traditional and independent. The uncorrected chart is FULL OF SHIT.

(left-click to enlarge)
  • The chart says that with Independent Self-Publishing, there is no wholesale distribution to Ingram and Baker & Taylor. That's a LIE.
  • The chart says that with Independent Self-Publishing, there is no automatic online listings with top book retailers. That's a LIE.
  • The chart says that with Independent Self-Publishing, there is no marketing support. That may be a LIE. An independent publisher can pay for marketing support if needed, and Outskirts support is not free. It is not included in the company's least expensive publishing package. You can pay Outskirts $218 for an hour of telephone time with a marketing person having uncertain knowledge and experience. For that price -- or less -- an independent publisher can hire a real expert.
  • The chart says that with Independent Self-Publishing, there is no order fulfillment. That's a LIE.
If Outskirts Press says this year is 2012 and there are fish in the ocean, ask someone else.

Sometimes the company is outright dishonest when competing for your dollars. Other times it is merely inaccurate. Outskirts boss Brent Sampson wrote in Self-Publishing Simplified that  "Peter Mark first published the Thesaurus in 1852," strangely ignoring the much more famous Peter Roget who published his Thesaurus in the same year.

Actually Mark was the middle name of Peter Mark Roget, so Brent was two-thirds right. That's not good enough. A publisher should know better. Brent also wrote "forward" instead of "foreword." A publisher should know better.

As shown up above, the company's 'highly skilled editors' don't seem to know that "goodbye" and "print run" don't need hyphens.

Whether the Outskirts errors are due to sloppiness, ignorance or dishonesty, the errors are not forgivable and reveal big problems. STAY AWAY. 


I am not sure who created and photographed the Pinocchio puppet up above, but I thank her, him or them.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Inept author declared that his shitty book is "perfect"

On SPANnet, newbie Leon Terrell Ash confessed to making a stupid and expensive mistake (probably paying over $2,000 to print and send 300 copies of his book to "bookstores, and agents and famous people.") He wrote, "I have excepted the fact that this was a major insult to intelligence."

I responded, ". . . the proper word is 'accepted' -- not 'excepted.' If your book has errors like this one, marketing won't help it."

The noob came back with: "the books dont have errors. Perfect is how I would describe the writing."

Even this brief defense has a missing apostrophe in "don't" and the second sentence is strangely Yoda-ish.

Since I'm cynical enough to know that no book is perfect -- not even the "Good Book" --  I had to take a look.

I visited the author's website, and was not really surprised to find errors mixed with egomania and bad writing.
  • ". . .  I realized that I had created a masterpiece and did not want to share the credits with a publishing company that did not help in any type manner. I authored, edited, typeset and did the graph design. Terrell Ash Publishing seeks excellence in all avenues we pursue that deal with the advancement. Progress, a true word that I promote. This company believes that in order to get to your desired successes a person must learn to give away freely what God has given them."
  • The site shows the covers of two books the author proudly designed. They are ugly and amateurish.
  • One book is a 58-page paperback selling for $20! How many did he sell? Probably somewhere between zero and none. Is he out of his fucking mind?
  • The e-book version is priced at $10. That confirms it. He is out of his fucking mind. What happened to "give away freely?"
  • Here's the horrid book description: "The Goal of this autobiography was to inspire and help reinvigorate the belief people once had in themselves. It is an autobiographical guide to living a better life." Do we really need to be told it's an autobiography in two consecutive sentences?
  • Surprisingly, there was no online preview for the e-book. Is Leon hiding something?
  • Not surprisingly, I found just one review: "Excellent book! Everyone should have a copy." The author wrote the review! He was not even smart enough to use a fake name.
  • I had to see this book. In the interest of serving my loyal blog followers, I decided to invest (i.e., throw away) ten bucks. I may be the only one who ever buys this book.
  • I downloaded the PDF e-book from Lulu. I actually paid ten bucks for 58 pages. Oops -- there are only about 40 pages of text. The book is grotesquely padded, perhaps in a futile effort to hide how little the purchasers receive for their money.
  • The book is ugly and mostly uninteresting.
  • It is a collection of the worst errors that new self-publishers make.
  • The text is double-spaced, flush-left, very-ragged-right. It has no hyphens, but does have orphans. Type that is supposed to be centered, is off-center. Some punctuation is ancient typewriter-style, not proper curlies. The typeface is, of course, Times New Roman (a major faux pas). No sans serif type is used anywhere, not even in chapter names or subheads. Words that should be capitalized, are not -- and vice-versa. Some words, like "grandmother," appear with and without initial caps. Blank pages have numbers. So do pages with nothing but section names. There are many grammatical errors which would not be tolerated in fourth grade. Some chapters start on the tops of pages. Some start half-way down. One paragraph fills a page and a half. There are extra spaces between many sentences -- but not all sentences. Some sentences just don't make sense. Neither do the author's poems. (E.g.,"When Ten Commandments are given from you.")
  • The book makes a stupendously stupid error which I had heard of, but never seen before. I thought this fuckup exists only in theory, but Leon did it for real. Pathetically ignorant, he put the odd-numbered folios on verso pages (i.e., odd page numbers on left-hand pages).
  • This author who seeks excellence did not want to risk his book being messed up by an editor -- so he messed it up himself. (E.g., he wrote "breathe" instead of "breath.") The book needs editing, or maybe euthanasia.
  • In a chapter about money, Leon says, "I have purchased enough books on money that I no longer have any money. Maybe I should ask the authors of those money books how to get the money back that I wasted on their book."
I understand Leon's disappointment. I have purchased a great many books in my life, but have never asked for a refund. I will ask for a refund on this one.
    Leon is a nurse. In a promo for his book about nursing, he spells "spell bound" as two words. If I was his patient, I'd want someone else to verify the drugs he was giving me.  He is definitely guilty of literary malpractice.


    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Your (type) face is familiar but I can't recall your name

    A typeface is a distinctive type design.
    Just as companies like Chevrolet and Chanel were named after their founders, typefaces are often named after their designers, such as Goudy, Caslon or Lubalin.
    Sometimes a typeface is named to honor a person important in type design (Garamond), a place (Memphis) or an event (Renaissance). The Inland Type Foundry named typefaces such as Studley to honor important customers. Robert P. Studley was a printer in St. Louis.

    [above] Some names imply a mood or genre. “Harlow” implies glamour. “Asylum,” “Trashco” and “You Murderer” do not. Typefaces named “Goofball” or “Carnival” are probably not suitable for the annual report of an insurance company.

    [above] Some “Grotesk” and “Grotesque” faces are not grotesque at all. Wikipedia says that grotesque "was originally coined by William Thorowgood of Fann Street Foundry, the first person to produce a sans-serif type with lower case, in 1832. The name came from the Italian word 'grottesco', meaning 'belonging to the cave'. In Germany, the name became Grotesk. German typefounders adopted the term from the nomenclature of Fann Street Foundry, which took on the meaning of cave (or grotto) art. Nevertheless, some explained the term was derived from the surprising response from the typographers."

    What can you learn about a typeface from its name? Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. Maybe nothing.

    [above] Typefaces with similar or identical names may not look similar.
                Several typeface names seem humorous—even if they were not intended to be so— like “Zapf Dingbats,” “Friz Quadrata,” “Bodoni Bold” and “Harry Heavy.”

    [above] “Roman” may mean a typeface with serifs. “Times New Roman” (“TNR”) is a “new” roman typeface designed for the Times newspaper in London and first used in 1932.
                “Roman” may also be used to mean type that is vertical, as opposed to slanted “oblique” or “italic” fonts. You can use Times New Roman roman or Times New Roman italicThe “Roman” in “Times New Roman” is part of a proper noun and is uppercased, but when “roman” is used as a description for a kind of typeface, it is lowercased.

    [above] “Gothic” may mean an ornate typeface like Waters Gothic. “Gothic” may also mean a simple, sans serif face like Century Gothic.  By one standard, both of these Gothic typefaces are also roman. By the other standard, only Waters is roman. They both could be considered grotesque -- or just one could.

    [above] Some typefaces with different names look very similar.  Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. “Helvetica”  comes from “Helvetii,” a tribe occupying part of current Switzerland over 2,000 years ago. 

    [above] The “Alpine” typeface looks nothing like the other “Swiss” faces. (The Alps are also in Germany.)
                Some typeface names seem to be deliberately deceptive.  “Helvetic” is likely named to make people think they are getting “Helvetica.”  You can download Helvetic for free while seeing advertising and possibly infecting your computer with a virus. Genuine Helvetica (from Linotype) costs $29 for one variation or $693 for the complete set.
                [below] There are even websites offering free (i.e., illegal) downloads of genuine Helvetica and other faces.

    This blog post is adapted from my upcoming e-book, Typography for Independent Publishers. 

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    What does that mean in English?

    "Printers using new technology can publish a book published.Publishers also share in the last ten years in favor of helping aspiring authors self-publish their books with little or no cost."

    Self-publishing no longer a need for a certain fee. After this, you can enjoy the returns and rights for yourself. Like any business venture, self-publishing may have more potential for upside, but it may also have a book for a literary agent or an editor to discover you; instead, you can use your own money.If your book to a publisher usually means they do most of the cost. Printers using new technology can publish a book for a literary agent or an editor to discover you; instead, you can still find many publishers who accept unsolicited proposals and book manuscripts.

    If you are serious about publishing your book, do not have to wait for a certain fee. After this, you can still find many publishers who accept unsolicited proposals and book manuscripts. If you have money to self-publish, then self-publish.Self-publishing also has pros and cons. The pros include: full control over your manuscript; publishers or editors will not request revisions; and you keep all royalties.. You can earn some money in the past few years. Today’s book authors are empowered with new alternatives to publish your book, then do a lot of research to make the process complicated and confusing.

    Selling your book publisher carefully. The advantages and disadvantages of choosing a publisher make the process complicated and confusing.Selling your book publisher carefully. The advantages and disadvantages of choosing a publisher usually means they do most of the cost. Printers using new technology and printing techniques called Print on Demand is a growing market for books and independent products, and this just may be your ticket to get your book your way. ticket this, to you find know the how cost.

    to Book a authors proven are track unable record to with your type of book. This will require legwork on your part. To find the best choice.Many publishers are looking for new and fresh materials. This can be your passport to your writing career. OTHER WAYS TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK Every writer dreams to publish your own network of people and marketing skills to sell your book. Self-publishing no longer costs you six to seven thousand dollars; you can enjoy the returns and rights for yourself. Like any business venture, self-publishing may have more options, thanks to the Internet, and such online publishing services offered by Lulu.com and CreateSpace.com. Online services and new printing technology empowers authors to publish your book, then do a lot of research to make self-publishing a viable option to publish his or her own book. Traditionally, to get your book to a publisher usually means they do most of the grunt work to ensure your book’s success. Publishers have industry contacts as well as the finances to produce and distribute your book. The cons include: lack of guidance from editors and publishers; you are diligent during the distribution process; and market their own decisions and retain all creative rights.

    Gone are the days you waited 4-8 weeks to hear back from a major publisher about your book becomes a hit, then you can now self-publish at a fraction of the grunt work to ensure your book’s success. Publishers have industry contacts as well as the finances to produce and market your book; and upfront fees may be large to produce and market your book aggressively to generate steady sales.

    from http://www.buydigitalbookreader.com

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    What's a hero?

    Hyperbole often stems from naivete -- and a perceived need to impress and excite readers.

    "Hero" may be misused as often as it is used properly. Maybe it's misused more often. To many writers (and non-writers), any war veteran, police officer or fireman is a hero.

    I knew a guy who was in the Navy during the Viet Nam war and spent most of his time teaching sailors' wives how to water ski in Hawaii (and having sex with them). He joked about marching in a "Welcome Home, Heroes" parade. He said his biggest risk was getting a venereal disease, or being shot by a returning husband.
    • A water ski instructor, cook, musician, programmer or uniform dispenser is not in the same league as someone who got shot, bombed, burned or poisoned while rescuing comrades from a battlefield, ocean, prison or burning building.
    • A cop who sets a new monthly record for writing parking tickets is not the equal of a cop who loses fingers while disarming a bomb.
    • A fireman who inspects restaurant kitchens is not like the heroes who went up the stairs while the World Trade Center was collapsing. 
    • I don't think that a soldier who was severely wounded by an explosion or a sniper while sitting in a bar -- or even while riding in a Humvee -- is a hero.
    • Similarly, a pilot who is shot down, captured, imprisoned and tortured is a victim -- not a hero. If he risked his life to break out of his cell and helped other airmen to escape from the enemy, then he is a hero.
    Being wounded or killed while in the armed forces can certainly be tragic, and a major sacrifice for one's country. But unless the wound or death is the result of actually DOING SOMETHING, rather than merely being someplace, I don't see the heroism. Being drafted or enlisting is not necessarily heroic.

    JFK was a war hero. George H. W. Bush may have been. Dubya was not.

    I am not writing this to criticize military service or civil service, merely to discuss semantics. And, no, I am not a hero.

    Monday, July 23, 2012

    If egomaniacs Kylee and Heather can be queens, I am the king! They can kiss my royal ass.

    Years ago, "Queen for a Day" was a popular radio and TV game show, where ordinary women competed to be treated royally.

    Today, there is no need to impress a studio audience, or be the daughter or bride of genuine royalty. If you want to be a queen, just proclaim it and so be it.
    • Kylee Legge calls herself "The Publishing Queen" and insists that she "has been involved in writing and publishing books since the day she was born." She thinks she can teach people how to write a book in just seven days. She's an egomaniac and an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
    • Heather Covington beats Kylee in the Queening competition, two-to-one! She has TWO realms, as both "Print-On-Demand Queen" and "The Queen of Murderotica Suspense." She also brags that she is a "YouTube marketing expert, editor-in-chief and publisher." Her Highness has also claimed to be "Literary Diva," "The Literary Heat" and "Babe Charisse Worthington."  This queen wants us to know that she is an entertainment journalist, author, motivational speaker, awards official and promoter. Like Queen Kylee, Queen Heather is an egomaniac and an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
    • Queen Elizabeth II became queen the old-fashioned way -- she was born into royalty, as the first daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I. This Queen is Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, Tuvalu and Jamaica. Her son and grandson are scheduled to become kings. Liz seems to have her ego under control, and I don't know anything about her writing or editing ability.
    • Queen Heather lives in the Bronx, New York. I was born in the Bronx, in the ROYAL HOSPITAL, and lived in the Bronx from 1946 to 1952, and then again from 1970 to 1975. I am therefore even more royal than Heather Covington, and I hereby proclaim myself to be Publishing King. Bow down, Kylee and Heather, and prepare to kiss my royal ass.

    Friday, July 20, 2012

    Microsoft Word 2013 initial impressions

    I just started using MS Word 2013 a few minutes ago. I'll let you know how it goes. So far I have not found any important new features, but it does scroll thru a long 500 page document REALLY fast.

    (left-click to enlarge)

    The ribbon interface is a cleaned-up version of the earlier ribbons, and doesn't take much getting used to. It now has a smiley face you can click on to tell Steve Balmer if you're happy or sad. How many engineer-years did this new 'feature' take to develop? The old animated paper clip was more fun.

    Some stupid things have not been fixed yet. More later.

    The software will work with a touch screen and cloud storage, which I am not yet ready for, and is optimized for Windows 8 -- due in the fall.

    I am curious to see if Word 2013 hyphenates better than Word 2007 and 2010 -- e.g., not providing "the-rapist" for "therapist."

    Installation was fast and glitch-free.

    You can read some comments and get a
    free trial download here.

    Microsoft's own page

    And more

    And more

    And more

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    Is it shit, or crap, or junk, or trash?

    When I moved from an apartment to my first real house in 1977, I felt that for the first time in my life, I had enough storage space for all of my shit. Unfortunately, I failed to realize a basic fact of life: shit expands to fill the available space, and then it overflows.

    The move to our second house in 2001 required FIVE MOVING VANS, plus about 70 trips in our own minivan, plus the disposal or recycling of about 50 CUBIC YARDS of crap, junk and trash.
    • Shit is stuff with value that is mostly sentimental.
    • Crap is stuff that can be eliminated with little debate or tears.
    • Junk can be eliminated with no debate or tears.
    • A collection is a bunch of junk which can be classified and displayed.
    • Trash should have been thrown out, not stored for later debate.
    • Garbage usually is disposed of promptly because it starts to stink.
    • A husband's shit may be considered junk by a wife.
    • And, vice versa.
    One good way to classify stuff is by applying the 90-day rule (or one-year or five-year rule, or whatever time interval you select). If something has not been used in the last year (or other time interval), there's a good chance that it will not be used in the next year, and can be eliminated.

    Unfortunately, if you have enough space, the 90-day rule can be easily extended to become a 30-year rule.

    Our second house is huge. Most people think it's much too big for two people and a dog. It's not. A house can never be too big. Not even Buckingham Palace.

    Well, we've been in this house for over 11 years. The house now contains a lot of both shit and crap (plus lots of stuff and things). The formerly cavernous attic is almost impenetrable. The three car garage has become storage space. It has about 10 cartons that have not yet been unpacked from the 2001 move. (A shelf in our laundry room has a carton containing a silver serving thing which was packed for a move in 1975 but never unpacked.) A guest room has no room for guests.

    I know it's summer, but it's time for spring cleaning. It's always time for spring cleaning.

    We have 14 huge bags which were supposed to go to Goodwill by the end of 2010. I hope they get there this year. They're supposed to go today. I'd rather write, go in the pool, watch TV, and try a new restaurant. I also should visit my mother. What the heck. Goodwill is open tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. 

    I'm faced with a major decision.

    I have a growing stack of early versions of my books which were marked up for corrections. I don't want anyone to read them, so I can't sell them or give them away. I can't throw them away, because destroying books is one of the few (or maybe the only) sin that I recognize.

    Sometimes, when overcome with egomania, I have a vision that some future literary critic will analyze the stash and proclaim to the world, that "AHA! -- in version 3.68, Marcus changed a comma to a semicolon in the last sentence on page 254."

    I realize that there is little likelihood that this will happen. But just in case, I'll keep the books. Besides, retention is better than sinning.

    The next time I move, I want to go horizontal, feet first, in a black zipper bag, with a tag on a toe. I'll let the next generation decide what is valuable shit and what is mere crap or junk.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Favored (and loathed) faces

    Just as Lady Gaga never looks the same in two appearances, no two words have to look the same. Not even two letters.
    There are many thousands of different typefaces (“faces”), and infinite variations including size, boldness, slant, color, shadow, embossing, distorting, outlining, filling, etc. If you wait until next week, there will probably be even more faces and modifications to choose from.

    Choosing the right face requires a mixture of knowledge, experience and artistic ability. Don’t make your book look like a ransom note made from letters cut out of magazines, or like a ten-year-old’s website, with a dozen different typefaces. You can probably get by with just two — or maybe three — faces and their variations on your pages and on your cover. If you think your book needs a third typeface, choose something that’s obviously different from the other two. 
    [above] JustCreative.com says these are the “Top 7 Most Used Fonts Used By Professionals In Graphic Design.” I have no idea how the research was carried out. The face on the top is more appropriate for invitations than book covers, but the others are certainly common.
    [above] InspirationBit published a list of the most overused typefaces, and there is some overlap with the other list. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these faces come with Windows.
    [above] Type maven Simon Garfield declares that these are “the worst fonts in the world.”
    [above] Most people who work with type develop personal favorites. When I was in advertising in the early 1970s, I fell in love with Korinna Bold. I used ‘her’ for headlines, posters and even personal notepads. In around 2008 I started using Rockwell Bold as my personal bold, and ‘Rocky’ has appeared on most of my title pages and some covers, too. For inside my books, I had a brief fling with Trebuchet, and then replaced ‘Trebbi’ with Tahoma and Calibri for sans serif text (but I use ‘Trebbi’ in this blog). For serif text I started with Times New Roman (oops) and then moved on to Calisto and Garamond, and then started using Constantia for most of my books.

    (This blog post is adapted from my upcoming e-book, Typography for Independent Publishers.)

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Can you really produce a decent book with Microsoft Word?

    Book expert and self-described curmudgeon Dick Margulis said, “Word is not a page layout program. It is a word processing program. . . . it is best suited to preparing a manuscript, not laying out pages.”
    Graphic designer Michael Dyer agrees: “Don’t use Microsoft Word to lay out your book! . . .  the results just don’t measure up. . . . Word’s ability to handle text for print does not compare with any of the page layout applications and it shows in the final product. . . . If you want your book to look professional you need to use professional tools. . . . Some might not notice the quality of your book design and typesetting, but many people in the industry will. Do you really want to put your project at that kind of disadvantage? Either hire a professional to lay out your book or buy the software and learn how to do it correctly yourself.”
    Printer/designer/author/advisor Pete Masterson advises: “Microsoft Word is not an appropriate program to lay out a professional quality book. Word, and other word processing programs do not have the correct features or programming to produce food quality typesetting with good letterspacing or wordspacing.”
    SelfPublishing.com provides Word templates for its customers, but warns: “The Do-it-Yourself method is not recommended if you are thinking of printing more than a couple hundred books. It is not that expensive (in most cases $250) to have your text professionally formatted. Homemade is fine for small print runs. It will probably not, however, work in the mainstream publishing world. You are kidding yourself to think otherwise.”
     On the other side is Zoe Winters, an excellent author and a Facebook friend of mine. In Becoming an Indie Author, she says: “Typesetters will probably notice if you use Word or Open Office. . . . Your audience is not professional typesetters. . . . If you can make your interior layout professional and non-distracting to your actual readers, then you have done your job. Anyone else who wants to say anything about it can say it, then go back to picking their nose and nay-saying. It’s pointless to try to impress people you don’t even like and who are not part of your demographic. You need to pull a Rhett Butler and be selective about whose opinion you give a damn about.”
    Book designer/author/blogger Joel Friedlander has a compromise position, and hope: “Typesetting with a word processor is never going to give you the smooth color, sophisticated hyphenation, and fine control over your type that you can get with a professional-level program. But by picking the right typeface at the beginning, you’ll ensure that your book can be readable and conform to long-standing book publishing practices. And that’s no small thing.” He also said, “. . . the books we see that look bad, only look that way because the author couldn’t work out how to make it look the way it ought to. . . . It isn’t because of the tool that was used the create them.”
    I've used Word to make more than 20 books. They probably don’t look too much worse than books that were composed with Adobe InDesign or Quark Express, which are used by traditional publishers and some self-publishers. Ironically, some of the ugliest books I've ever seen were formatted with InDesign (and some of the ugliest were formatted with Word). Knowing how to use ‘professional’ software doesn’t mean someone recognizes or is capable of good design.

    (left-click to enlarge)

    The page above was formatted with InDesign and is from a book about using InDesign.The multiple typefaces, mixture of margins, lack of hyphens, distracting squiggle and light bulb icon make it a chore to read.

    (left-click to enlarge)
    For contrast, the page above is from The FOB Bible, designed by Moriah Jovan with Word 2000. Some of the wordspacing seems oversize, but overall, the page is beautiful
    Many self-publishing companies endorse the use of Word. 48Hr Books says, “We now have Free Templates for Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, Open Office, Pages or just about any other word processor.” Bookstand Publishing and CreateSpace provide similar templates—but if you can use Word, you shouldn’t need a template.
    The ‘adult’ software can cost as much as $849 and can take a long time to learn how to use properly. I’ve done some test pages with InDesign and have been planning to try it for a future book — but I’ve been planning that for two years and still have not used it. I am happy enough with Word.  I could probably write a book and format it in Word in the time it would take to learn how to use InDesign properly.
    Additionally, much (or maybe even all) of the advantage of using professional formatting software is lost when producing e-books, which are becoming increasingly important in the publishing business — especially for independent publishers.
    And finally, most writers already own Word and know how to use it. They can quickly learn how to use some of its often-untapped power to produce a manuscript that’s nearly ready to become a book.
    Both time and money are usually limited for independent authors. If you have an unlimited supply of both, sure, go ahead and buy InDesign and learn how to use it. If you do have limits, my new book (below) will tell you how to make better use of the software you already own.
                                 The weaknesses of Word
    1. Word often makes mistakes with hyphens. See yesterday's blog for some horrifying and funny examples.
    2. Although Word can make numbered lists automatically, the lists may be ugly, inconsistent and unstable. I’ve seen some ghastly spacing after two-digit numbers in a list. It’s sometimes better to insert numbers manually from the Symbol section.
    3. Word often puts too much space between letters. The “loose” text will make a book look much worse than one designed with ‘real’ publishing software.
    4. Word sometimes seems to have a mind of its own — and it’s ignorant, confused, obstinate and sadistic. Text within headers and footers will shift just to piss you off, and horizontal lines may appear, shift and refuse to go away.
    5. Word 2010 will stretch out a document that originated in Word 2007.
    6. ISPITA: If you go from Word 2007 to 2010, or 2007 to 2010, some spaces between words may disappear. The document may also become unstable, with frequent crashes.
    7. Sometimes Word refuses to let you click on spaces that you want to modify.
    8. Word — like many computer programs — will stall or save just when you want it to do something.

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    The test page above was composed with Word using 16-point Constantia type, with no modifications.

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    This page was composed with Adobe InDesign CS6 using 16-point Constantia, with no modifications. The second line is tighter than the same line produced with Word and looks better. The second paragraph is too loose. Without modifications, neither page is perfect, but it is possible to produce an attractive page with Word, without incurring the high cost of InDesign or taking a long time to learn how to use it.

    (This blog post is adapted from my upcoming e-book, Typography for Independent Publishers.)

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    O-h Ste-ve, Micr-osoft ma-kes fu-nny hyp-hens

    Microsoft Word often makes mistakes with hyphens. Sometimes it seems to guess or to follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than 2007. 

    [above] Strangely, hyphenation is debatable. Microsoft Word and Dictionary.com accept “eve-ryone.” Merriam-Webster does not. Neither do I. My own rule for hyphenation is that the first part of a hyphenated word should not be pronounced differently by itself than when it’s part of a larger word. I think most people expect “eve” to be pronounced “eev”—not “ev” or ev-uh.” The “eve” in “eve-ning” is not pronounced like the “eve” in “eve-ryone.”

    Word’s hyphenation system sometimes makes bad guesses and you’ll have to overrule its decisions. Proofread very carefully and never have complete faith in robots.

    “The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also really like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “Fa-cebook,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity,” “misunders-tanding,” “mi-nimize,” “sa-les,” “me-thod,” “libra-rian,” “mi-spronounced,” “alt-hough” and “bet-ween.”

    Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “Ste-ve,” “the-se,” “cre-dit” and “se-tup.”

    Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon.  Someone has to fix this stuff.

    You may want to override Word’s hyphenation decision with “heteronyms”—words that are spelled the same way but have two meanings and are pronounced in two ways. Word gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute” and rec-ord even if you want “re-cord.” The automatic hyphenation “inva-lid” makes it seem like you are writing about someone who is ailing, not an “in-valid” contract. Word 2007 and 2010 won’t hyphenate either “Po-lish” or “pol-ish.”

    Word’s automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names, such as “Fe-dex,” “Publi-shAmerica” and “Pa-nasonic.”

    The free “Writer” software from Open Office has problems, too. It produced “unders-tanding.”

    I once read a book that advised, “If you do not use a professional your manuscript will not be perfect. Do not proofread it yourself and declare it perfect.” The professional approved “loo-ked,” “winso-me” and “proo-freader.”

    Automatic hyphenation by e-book readers is both funny and sad. I’ve seen “booksto-re,” “disappoin-ting, “depen-ding” and “increa-sing”—within a few pages in the same book.