Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When you flip a foto, don't make a flop

In designing books, ads, websites and other graphic projects, it's common to do a left-right "flip" to make a picture or layout look better. Unfortunately, it is also common for photos to get accidentally flipped, and sometimes no one notices the flopped flip until publication -- when it's too late.

If you flip a photo, watch out for a text reversal in such things as name tags, keyboards, initial jewelry, clocks, wristwatches or signs or license plates in the background. Watch for reversed flags or logos. Make sure wedding rings are on the correct hand (usually the left in the USA).

Some products, even if made by hundreds of different manufacturers, have standard formats. Don’t reverse a telephone and end up with the handset on the right side instead of on the left, as shown above. On old televisions, knobs were almost always on the right.

Be careful if you flip a photo of a car or a truck. Remember which side the steering wheel is supposed to be on.

Sometimes a flag is supposed to be “backwards.” When the American flag is on the right ("starboard") side of an airplane (including Air Force One) or on the right sleeve of a uniform, the stars go on the right. This mimics the way the flag would fly from a mast on a moving ship or when carried into battle.

The image above, from the White House Museum, has the flag going the wrong way. Those folks should know better.

On the right side of the Marine One chopper, the flag rightly faces the wrong way.

But someone designed, and someone approved, a model with the flag facing the wrong, right way.

It’s important not to have a person or a vehicle looking or traveling “off the page.” It’s natural for the reader to follow the eyes of the person (or the headlights of the car), so don’t direct a reader’s eyes away from the page. If you are using stock photos or clip art, you can easily flip the photo to keep the readers’ eyes focused inward. Be careful of the effects on your flipping if you change pages from recto (right) to verso (left). If you use a photo of a well-known person where the flipping would be noticeable (such as moving a pimple, wart, pierced eyelid, missing tooth, tattoo or nose ring from the left to the right), rearrange the page so the eyes lead into some text instead of off the page.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Authors: pay attention to your back covers

Most authors -- but not enough authors -- pay a lot of attention the front covers of their books.

Every book that has a front cover also has a back cover (unless someone tore it off, or it’s an ebook).

In a physical bookstore, the back cover is an important selling tool. Your back cover is an advertisement. Make the most of it. It gives you an excellent opportunity to convince a prospective customer to purchase the book he or she has plucked from a shelf or display.

It’s very different when you are selling online. Amazon does not automatically show your back cover. If you want potential customers to see it and read it, you have to upload the image yourself by clicking on "Share your own customer images."

(above) It’s customary to indicate the book’s classification, such as “humor” or “gardening,” so bookstore people know where to put the book. There’s no rule against listing two classifications such as “history” and “geography” if they both apply. Find out how competitive books are classified, and check the huge book subject list at the Book Industry Study Group. The classification is usually printed at the top of the back cover.

(above) If you want your book to be sold by booksellers, your back cover must show an ISBN and its associated bar code, which usually go at the bottom of the back cover.

Many books have their prices printed near the ISBN bar codeand many don’t. If you don’t have a printed price, it makes it easier for you to experiment with price changes.

Here’s what else you should include on the back:
  • What the book is about and why people should buy it
  • Comments (blurbs) from readers and reviewers if available (see top photo)
  • Unless you are a superstar, your brief biography, to establish yourself as an authority in the field you are writing about (less important for fiction and poetry)
  • Your photo -- a studio portrait, not an amateur snapshot (unless it is elsewhere in the book)
  • Name of publishing company, with city, state and web URL
  • (Optional) list price for United States and possibly other countries, particularly Canada

Your back cover needs as much attention as your front cover -- in writing, editing, design and formatting. The back cover shown above has many problems:
  • The first two ‘sentences’ are not really sentences.
  • The second ‘sentence’ has three unnecessary apostrophes.
  • The last sentence has one unnecessary apostrophe.
  • The third sentence has an unnecessary comma -- and probably should be several sentences.
  • The text has full justification, but lacks hyphens, so there are horrible gaps between words.
  • The writing also has problems. In the last sentence in the second paragraph, “poses” is probably not the best word to use. In the last paragraph, Malik is described as “conscious.” The proper word is probably “conscientious.” Where was the editor?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Plagiarize, don't shade your eyes (but change some 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 the late 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.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Should you publish sooner or later?

Aaron Shepard is a busy guy. He’s a publisher and author. He’s been an actor. He supports readers’ theater, makes flutes and plays them, and is an authority on self-publishing.

Aaron taught me a lot. I’m particularly grateful for this advice: “Set the book aside for a month or two.”

In 2011 I wrote and published eight books. That's much too high a number for a one-person publishing company -- especially when the boss has another business, with employees, to watch over. I learned that it takes much more time and effort to promote a book than to write it. In 2012, 2013 and 14 I published about four books per year.

The 100 Worst Self-Publishing Misteaks: How amateurs can publish books like professionals -- or even better was supposed to be published in July of 2011.  

Co-author Sheila Clark and I worked on it intermittently, but now it's almost finished. It's been almost finished for a long time. I learned a lot when I wasn't working on it, and the book will be better because of the pauses. 


And now some reasons to NOT delay a book:

  1. You may lose interest in the subject.
  2. The subject may become less relevant to potential readers.
  3. There may be fewer potential readers.
  4. Someone else may publish a similar book.
  5. The similar book(s) may be better than yours.
  6. You can't stand reading it again and again.
  7. You have come to hate the title.
  8. You have come to hate the cover.
  9. You delay income.
  10. You may become ill, disabled or dead. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's winter, so spring is on the way

We've passed the winter solstice. That means that, despite an expected high of 55 degrees today here in Connecticut, we are officially in winter. Several months of cold, messy weather are ahead of us.

However, spring is coming, too.

Every day we get a minute or two of additional sunlight (as Australia loses light). By the end of January we'll have nearly an hour more "day" and an hour less "night" than today.

Despite the coming blizzards, the earth beneath our snow shovels will be inexorably warming up.

In about seven weeks, as we eat our Valentine candy, crocuses will pop up through the snow.

Unless Kim Jong Un does something really stupid.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WARNING! Some blogs are really ads for self-publishing companies

There are millions of blogs on the web. I write this one because: (a) I like to write, (b) I think I am providing a useful service, (c) I hope that some readers will buy my books.

I write other blogs that have absolutely no commercial aspect or intent.

On the other hand, there are blogs where making money is the prime raison d'être. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but what I don't like is what seems to be a growing trend for "corporate" blogs to hide behind personal, non-corporate names that mask the intent of the blog.

Some blogs display corporate logos, but it may not be apparent that the logo belongs to the operator of the blog and is not just a paid-for ad.

A casual visitor seeking unbiased information from a blog is often given a dose of highly biased -- and often inaccurate -- information.

Here are some examples:
  • Self-Publishing Advice looks like advice about self-publishing, but it really exists to promote inept and dishonest Outskirts Press.
  • was not merely a blog about "free" self-publishing. It was an advertising medium for recently shuttered Wordclay, part of self-pub behemoth AuthorSolutions.
  • "Self-publishing is the new black" was really advertising for Xlibris, also part of AuthorSolutions. The blog's host says, "This site has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service."
  • Indie Book Writer is the blog of Keith Ogorek, vice president of marketing of AuthorSolutions.
  • is not sneaky. It's obvious that it's the blog of the boss of Thomas Nelson, a "Christian" publisher that now provides paid-for publishing services. Although it's not sneaky, the blog IS sleazy, because it's programmed to block comments -- even complimentary comments -- from people who are on Hyatt's enemies list. I am one of them. 
  • It should be obvious that LuluBlog is not written by or about someone named Lulu. It's presented by pay-to-publish company, and provides useful and interesting content. While I dislike Lulu as a self-publishing company because of high printing prices, I have been pleased with their PDF ebook publishing service, and the company is more honest than some of its competitors.
  • Although I am on the verge of puking as I type this paragraph, I have to give a little bit of credit to the blog operated by Outskirts Press boss Brent Sampson. Although Brent and Outskirts are frequently dishonest in the way they portray other paths to publication, at least this blog does not hide its corporate connection and I have not yet noticed any big lies. On the other hand, the blog is not very useful or interesting.

Monday, December 22, 2014

First Postmaster Ben Franklin would be embarrased

I admit that I'm not a logistics expert. I've never managed a trucking company. I never even delivered newspapers.
Despite my ignorance and inexperience, I must express dismay and surprise at the route that the USPS selected to get a package to me.
It was shipped from Mt. Vernon, NY on Friday. It should have traveled about 50 miles northeast to reach me in Milford CT. With no stops, the trip takes about an hour.
But no.
Instead, my package was sent about 25 miles southwest (THE OPPOSITE DAMN DIRECTION) to Jersey City.
Today it will apparently travel northeast, passing very close to Mt. Vernon, and will allegedly reach me on Wednesday. The fuel and labor needed to carry it from Mt. Vernon to Jersey City and back were a waste.
I ordered the item on eBay. I was able to choose to buy from several suppliers and I picked the one that was closest to me.
Did it help? Naah.
I know that delivery services -- like FedEx with Memphis -- often use central "sorting hubs." But in my case I just don't see what was gained by the round trip to Jersey City and back to Mt. Vernon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Are you as sloppy a writer as I am?

Sheila M. Clark, my hawk-eyed editor, noticed that I had used the word "illicit" instead of "elicit" in a new book ABOUT PUBLISHING MISTAKES we're working on. Some of my books share material, so I checked and found the error in three books. It was also on a website and on this blog.

As a renowned and committed nitpicker, I am deeply embarrassed by this horrible senior moment (a.k.a. "brain fart").

OTOH, I am greatly disappointed that none of you folks caught the error. It would have been a great opportunity to dump on me for being a damn hypocrite.

There are lessons for all writers and publishers in this, of course:
  1. A spell-checker won't let you know if you have used the wrong word, but spelled it properly.
  2. Heterographs and homophones are dangerous. 
  3. All writers need editors. Even editors who write need editors.
  4. The English language is a minefield.
  5. Nobody is perfect -- even nitpickers like me.
Will this recent failure mean that I'll become mellow, tolerant, compassionate and understanding? Will I stop complaining about other people's fuckups?

Naah! To err is human. It can also be funny.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ebook text does not have to look like crap, so why are so many ebook pages so ghastly?

With most ebook formats, designers don't have the freedom they have with pbooks.

However, the constraint is not an excuse to produce and distribute ugliness.

It's possible to publish very nice ebooks -- but knowledge, taste and care are vital.

from I Call Him King by Quiet Storm, published by Esquire Publications: 


(Minor criticism: the diagonal stress of the old style drop cap "O" is disconcerting.)

from I Invented the Modern Age by Richard Snow, published by Scribner

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The most useless email of 2014 (so far)

The email subject is "what’s missing?" and Kevin Wilke repeatedly refers to "this industry." Nowhere in the email does Kevin tell me what industry he is referring to. I'm involved in several industries. Does Kevin know anything about me?

Kevin also refers to his neighbor, Peter. Who the hell is Peter? Should I care about Peter?

What a stupid waste of effort and electrons!

If you're sending a sales letter, don't leave out vital information.

Hi Michael, 
That’s been a question I’ve asked the past 5 years
of being involved in this industry.
With such an over-abundance of information and
training on what to do… then what is missing for
the people that are not making at least 
$100,000 or more in this industry with ease?
I bet if we open up your hard drive or email,
there is enough information there to last you
5 lifetimes!  lol
What if you don’t need more information to
create a dramatic and profound leap forward
in the results you start getting right now
in your business?
Having spent the past year working with Peter,
(he lives a couple blocks from me in New York)
he has radically opened my eyes to 
Its no wonder that the clients that work with
him (he charges a small fortune to work with him too)
get INSANE results compared to everybody else
in their industries.
And as a personal favor he is going to share
final training webinar of the year.
This is THE webinar to attend if you want to make
radical leaps forward in your business going into 2015.
I’m calling it the “NO More Shiny Objects!” training!
Seriously, you can be free from an overwhelming list of 
complicated tactics and shiny objects distracting you.
And instead be taking more action, that’s HIGHLY
productive, consistently every week then you ever
dreamed possible.
       This Thursday You Will Discover…
***  The #1 Reason You Are Not Accomplishing More 
In Your Business (and how evolution has programmed 
you to constantly fail)
***  How to start using the 5 Pillars To High Achievement 
And Unstoppable Action in your business today.
***  The Secret to Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and 
Elon Musk’s extraordinary success that you can 
duplicate for yourself.
***  How To Use Jerry Seinfeld’s Simple #1 Method 
To Mastering Comedy To Become a Master Local Marketer
***  How to use what you already have and powerfully 
take action and set yourself up to Crush It in 2015. 
***  You will leave and start making dramatically more 
progress and start accomplishing more in 1 week 
than you used to in 1 month (while using the same 
amount of time you do right now.)
Register today and Show Up Early because this 
will be a packed-house training because its solving
the missing piece in this business for you.
To Your Success,
Kevin Wilke

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chappy (oops) Chanukah (oops)

And now, while western civilization is once again debating "Merry Christmas" v. "Happy Holidays," Michael declares the right way (or two right ways) to spell the name of the Jewish "festival of lights" in English.
- - - - -
As a language maven and a nitpicker I have long been pissed off by the multiple efforts to transliterate the Hebrew word חֲנֻכָּה into English.
Transliteration is often a tough task, but it's often necessary. Problems are caused by the unavailability of an appropriate English letter, and by multiple pronunciations of the same English letter or combination of letters ("digraph"). The beginning of חֲנֻכָּה suffers from both problems.
The first letter of the Hebrew word for the holiday is called "chet." It is not pronounced like the first name of deceased NBC newsman Chet Huntley. The "ch" sounds like you're clearing your throat. It's not like the "ch" in "Chevrolet," "Chrysler" or "chair." The sound is common in Hebrew, Yiddish and German.
You probably say it without thinking in the name of Johann Sebastian Bach (not "back," "bash," "batch" or "bock"), and in the "ich" sound you make when encountering something really disgusting.
In Hebrew written for beginners, vowels are presented as diacritical marks (little symbols under or adjacent to a letter). The vowel under the letter for "ch" is pronounced like the "a" in "far."
The second letter in the Hebrew word (Hebrew is written and read from right to left) makes the "n" sound and its vowel indicates "oo." It could be transliterated as "noo," "new" or "nu" (as in "numeral," nut "number"). While the Hebrew vowel indicates "oo," the English pronunciation is usually the most common English vowel sound: "uh" -- like the "u" in "butter"
The third letter and its vowel sound like the "ca" in "car." It's commonly written as "ka" and I'm willing to go along.
The fourth and final letter causes a problem for me. It's the Hebrew equivalent of the English "h" and is silent, like the "h" in "bah." There is no need for it in an English transliteration but it's an accurate representation of the original Hebrew.
"Chanuka" works just fine, and starting today that's how I will spell it. "Chanukah" is too long by one letter, but doesn't piss me off too much. It has about 7 million Google links. It's used on some -- but not all -- cards from American Greetings. It's also used by the UK's Times newspaper -- but only sometimes.

The dominant and stupid version of the holiday's name is "Hanukkah" (Wikipedia, Adam Sandler, the White House, the USPS, the New York Times, Hallmark Cards and American Greetings, sometimes). It has about 22 million Google links.
The "H" at the beginning is simply inaccurate. It's Hebrew for dummies, dammit. The doubled "k" is Hebrew _from_ dummies. Unlike the initial "H," the final "h" is true to the Hebrew -- but it's superfluous in English.
"Hannukka" eliminates the silly final "h" but maintains the inaccurate initial "H" and stupidly doubles both the "n" and the "k." Wikipedia shows more than 21,00 links for this aberration, including the Facebook page for the Israeli army. Fortunately, they fight better than they spell.
Other strange variations include Channukkah and Hanooka.
The favorite sport of Jewish people is disagreement, and disagreeing about spelling and other aspects of language is normal. Oy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Market research trick, and bookselling tip

If you know what you want to write about, the Internet will make it much easier to do market research than before the world was online.

With a little bit of typing, clicking and reading you can find out what potential readers are interested in -- and where you can reach them when it's time to sell books.

Use search engines to find terms like I’ve listed below. Simply replace “golden retriever” with “super hero” or “Argentina” or "beer" or "horseback riding" or whatever you want to write about.

“golden retriever forum”
“golden retriever message board”
“golden retriever bulletin board”
“golden retriever club”
“golden retriever association”
“golden retriever community”
“golden retriever organization”
“golden retriever news”
“golden retriever newsgroup”

When your book is nearly finished, return to the same websites and mention to appropriately articulate participants that you are writing a book on the subject, and would like to send them a preview copy for their opinion. You can mention that you may want to quote them on the book cover.

After publication, go back again and answer some questions, and point out that your new book provides additional valuable information.

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's time to abolish the term "published author."
It's easier to become a published author than a Cub Scout.

A great many years ago I was a Cub Scout. I have four memories of scouting:

(1) At one meeting some of us stood behind cardboard 'rocks' and held up a flag to re-enact the Iwo Jima flag-raising scene.

(2) At another meeting my father won a prize for bending some pipe cleaners into a horse and cart.

(3) As part of a fundraising project three of us went door-to-door trying to earn money. The kid in charge would ring bells and ask "Do you have any chores to do?" He should have asked if there were any chores that WE could do for money. This sinful sentence was spoken more than 60 years ago but so hurt my ears that I have not forgotten the sin nor forgiven the sinner.

(4) The lowest rank in Cub Scouting is Bobcat. Every Cub starts as a Bobcat. You can't be a Cub Scout and not be at least a Bobcat. A Bobcat is lower than a Wolf or a Bear. A Bobcat doesn't have to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, build a crystal radio, bandage a wound, walk on snowshoes or help an old lady cross the street. To be a Bobcat a kid has to learn and say the Cub Scout motto, promise and the Law of the Pack -- and tell what they mean; show the Cub Scout sign, salute and handshake -- and tell what they mean; and show that he understands and believes that it is important to be honest and trustworthy.

Since those requirements were so basic, (if I remember correctly) we were not allowed to wear our Bobcat pins on our spiffy new uniforms.

I thought of that recently when I was reading an introduction from a new member of an online group for authors.

The newbie said, "I am a published author."

I wanted to say, "BIG FUCKING DEAL!"

At one time being a published author implied that either:
  • A person wrote something so important or wonderful that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is so famous (like Levi Johnston, the almost-son-in-law of Sarah Palin) that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is egotistical and wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars to a vanity press to publish the book.
Today, it takes almost no skill, time or money to become a published author.
  • If you can click a keyboard and move a mouse, you can be a published author.
  • The cost can be ZERO.
  • You don't have to impress anyone.
  • You can be a terrible writer and still be a published author.
  • It doesn't matter if nobody reads your book.
  • It's easier to become an author than to become a Bobcat.
  • You don't even have to learn to salute or promise to follow Akela.
Since it is so easy to become a published author, it means nothing to say you are one.

(By the way, it means almost nothing to say you're a bestselling author -- but I'm one.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Am I a writer or a ball?

Too much to do that people expect me to do that I don't feel like doing.
Too much to do that I want to do but can't start or finish.
Too much that was fun but is no longer fun.
Too many books unread and unwritten.
Too many bills that I can't pay.
Too much news I can't stand.
Too little to look forward to.
Too little tolerance.
Too little energy.
Too little time.
Too little joy.

Is this depression, sadness, pissed-offedness? Sometimes I seem like a ball on a pool table, bouncing around and reacting, not initiating action.

I still have a tear in my right eye from a Bob Edwards interview on the radio over an hour ago.

I have to pee but lack the motivation to stand up and go to the john.

Some body parts always hurt. Others have no sensation. My typing is filled with errors caused by my brain malfunctioning, not by sloppy typing.

Have I lost "it?" Where/why did "it" go?

Have I finally, at age 68, passed from middle age to old?

Why did I type this instead of finishing writing three long-past-due books?

Will reading this help me? Can I give myself a good kick in the ass?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I beat the Tweet but I'm not as popular as sex or God

Amazon ranks the sales of all of its products -- books as well as computers and Tootsie Rolls. The competitive ranking can be terrible for an author's ego -- or good.

One morning just over two years ago, I had a big thrill. (Actually, just getting out of bed can be a thrill. Some people can't do it.)

Amazon’s sales ranking is cryptic, confusing, convoluted, confounding, complicated and not particularly useful. Amazon says, “The calculation is based on sales and is updated each hour to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold.”  The lower the number, the better the book was selling at a particular moment

It can feel really good to crack the top one hundred.

I am using today's blog post to exercise my bragging rights (temporary as they may be).

[below] A book about writing dirty books was ranked #22 in the authorship category.

[below] A book about writing 'Christian novels' was ranked #51 in the authorship category.

[below] My brand-new book about tax deductions and other business issues for writers was ranked #72 in the authorship category. It had been on sale for just two days. I had not done any significant promotion, so this ranking made me feel really good.

As we enter the season for doing tax returns, this $2.99 book might save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

[below] A book about author tweeting' was ranked #84 in the authorship category. I beat the Tweet. Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Want real fame? Try to get on Wikipedia

"Internet fame" can be measured in several ways. Kids compete to be the first to accumulate 1,000 friends on Facebook. Adults may count their search engine links. (My best friend from childhood has about 200,000 Google links. I have about 8,000. However, I have about 17,000 links on Bing and he has just 3,240.)

But none of these statistics is as impressive as having a biography on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the Internet’s mammoth free encyclopedia, a valuable reference source — and an addictive time-waster — for millions of people worldwide. Almost anyone can gain Google and Bing search links, but most people are not deemed worthy of an article on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia says: “The topic of an article should be notable, or ‘worthy of notice;’ that is, ‘significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded.’ Notable in the sense of being ‘famous,’ or ‘popular’ — although not irrelevant — is secondary. This notability guideline for biographies reflects consensus reached through discussions and reinforced by established practice, and informs decisions on whether an article on a person should be written, merged, deleted or further developed.”

While you can publish an article about yourself, or have someone write about you, you must be noteworthy and the article mush be neutral and verifiable. An inappropriate article will usually be deleted quickly. If you want to be enshrined in Wikipedia, do something important that others will notice, like D. H. Lawrence, above.

Of course, being on Wikipedia doesn't mean you're wonderful. Atilla the Hun, Torquemada, Stalin and Hitler made the cut. Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle were approved, too. So is the cockroach.

Two of my high school classmates have their life stories on Wikipedia. I am mentioned on Wikipedia, but so far, alas, no full biography.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Font" does not really mean "typeface," but the terms are merging

[above] A typeface is a distinctive type design, often named after its designer such as Goudy, Caslon or Lubalin. Sometimes a typeface is named to honor a person, place or event. Some names imply a mood or genre.  “Harlow” implies glamor. “Asylum,” “Trashco” and “You Murderer” do not. Typefaces named “Goofball” or “Comic” are probably not suitable for the annual report of an insurance company. Strangely, “Grotesk” type actually looks nice.

Some typeface names are humorous even if they were not intended to be so like “Zapf,” “Friz Quadrata,”“Bodoni Bold” and “Harry Heavy.”

[above] The varieties within each face, such as bold, italic and roman (i.e., not
italic) are fonts. Rockwell is a typeface. Rockwell bold is a font. Sometimes “font” is used to mean all of the varieties within a typeface (e.g., “The Rockwell font has 832 characters.”) — or even the typeface itself. The terms “font” and “typeface” seem to be merging.

Sometimes “font” is used for a very specific typeface description like “24 point Century Gothic bold italic.”

Millions of people who probably never thought much about "typefaces" have to make daily decisions about "fonts" because of the ubiquity of computers, e-readers and tablets. “Font” takes up less space than “typeface,” and spatial efficiency is important on a small screen.

[below] Lots of software, including Microsoft Word and CorelDraw call typefaces “fonts.” It’s probably an irreversible trend. Adobe sometimes uses “font” to mean “typeface,” but also explains the difference between the terms.

[below] I was pleased to see that my Kindle Fire differentiates between “font” and
“typeface -- but the Nook and iPad use “font.”

A font family is a group of similar typefaces, presumably based on one face. For example, Arial and Helvetica are in the Swiss font family. Adobe uses the term more specifically: “font families are collections of fonts that share an overall appearance, and are designed to be used together, such as Adobe Garamond.”

[above] At one time, a character was the image of a letter, number, punctuation mark or symbol produced when a  piece of type made of metal or wood, with ink on it, came in contact with a sheet of paper. Today, a character is a bunch of data bits that describe the image to be produced, or the printed image, or the image on a screen.

"CPI"is the abbreviation for “Characters Per Inch” — a general indication or a precise
measurement of how many characters are put into a line of type.

A letterform is the shape of a letter, but it can have several more specific meanings:

[above] “Letterform” may mean the basic shape of a character, regardless of the typeface. You could say that “the letterform of a zero is oval.” Almost every version of the uppercase “A” has the same letterform: two converging vertical (or almost vertical) lines with a crossbar.

[above] Sometimes a minimalist “A”—in such faces as Pirulen, Mars, Mari and Mogzilla—will have no crossbar but is still recognizable as an “A” because no other letter has a similar shape.

[above] The farther a letterform evolves from its traditional shape, the more likely it is to be unrecognizable, or confused with another letter.

[above] “Letterform” may also mean the specific design of a character, or characters, within a typeface. You could say that “the lowercase letterforms in Calibri are much easier to read than in ITC Snap or Braggadocio.”

[above] The basic letterforms for the same character may be entirely different from one face to another. The lowercase “a” in most faces is like the ones on the left, but others, both in script (cursiveand conventional (block letterfaces, resemble the handwritten “a.” Strangely, some dollar signs have one vertical stroke, but some have two.

[above] TIME OUT:  Sometimes an individual letter may be hard to identify, but it makes sense as part of a word — especially if viewed from a distance.

Glyph rhymes with “stiff” and is related to “hieroglyph” and comes from the Greek word for “engrave.” It may be used to mean the same thing as a character or a general letterform. I prefer to think of a glyph as a specific letterform — the shape that represents a character in a specific typeface.

This material is adapted from my upcoming No More Ugly Books!