Wednesday, December 12, 2018

New authors: how do you start to write a book?



  1. Decide on your primary objective(s): Change the world, entertain the world, educate, inform, preserve memories, personal fulfillment, fun, money, fame, status, revenge, something else.
  2. Decide on your target audience. If your audience is 'everyone,' it will be very expensive to reach them. If your target is too small, you may not sell enough books to make money. Your mother may be wonderful, but your potential sales of a book about her may be seven books. Or two. More on choosing a topic 
  3. Check out the competition. Does the world really need another barbecue cookbook, JFK bio or post-apocalypse teenage vampire sex novel? More about competition
  4. Come up with about ten possible titles, then cut back to three, and then one. More about choosing a title
  5. Even if you have no artistic talent, make some rough cover designs. More about covers
  6. Write a one-paragraph book description that could go on the back of the book cover and on booksellers' websites, and should keep you focused.
  7. Read books for authors. I've written a bunch
  8. Write. How to deal with writer's block 
  9. Oh yeah, if you plan to write poetry, forget about making money.
  10. Think about how your book will be published: (A) traditional royalty-paying publisher (difficult for a first-time author), (B) self-publishing company, (C) your own little publishing company. If you are considering A, this book will help. If you are considering B or C, this book will help.
  11. Figure out what help you'll need from artists, designers, formatters, editors, coaches, lawyers, accountants. Find them. 
  12. Decide whether you'll use your real name or a pen name.
  13. Decide when your book will be published (it will likely be late).
  14. Decide what formats you'll publish in (paperback, hardcover, various e formats, spoken word—and tentative prices.
  15. Decide how you'll promote the book to potential purchasers and book reviewers.
  16. Decide on the approximate length of the book. Longer books take longer to write, longer to produce, cost more to produce, and have more errors to correct.
  17. Decide on the software you'll use for writing. I use Microsoft Word, but many writers use Google's free "Docs" version, or software intended for writing, such as Scrivener.
  18. Decide on whether you'll write with a desktop, laptop, tablet, phone or multiple devices. Some people insist that they write better books when they use paper and pen or pencil. I think that's ridiculous.

     

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hershey's has wonderful chocolate, dreadful typography


For at least the fifth consecutive Christmas season, Hershey's has been running a very pleasant, very effective and very simple animated Christmas commercial featuring its iconic Hershey's Kisses. 


Sadly and inexplicably the company—with sales of more than $7.5 billion, a city named after it and an advertising budget budget of over $500 million—used amateur typography in the commercial.

Instead of a proper curly or slanted apostrophe, the company name at the end of the commercial has an inappropriate straight apostrophe. That's what comes from an old-fashioned typewriter or the primitive software used in a blog like this one, not what can come from word processing or graphics software that produces proper typographers' marks. The text line includes two copyright symbols, so the software certainly could have produced a curly apostrophe. Did the designer fuck up, or was she or he being deliberately incorrect?

Am I the only one who notices and cares about this stuff?


With primitive equipment or software the same straight symbol is used for an apostrophe, a foot, a minute or a quotation.


In packaging, logos, advertising and on books, it's important to use a proper curly apostrophe.


Hershey's has been in business since 1876. Early packaging used traditional curly apostrophes. The typographer did a nice job kerning the apostrophe and "Y."



The Hershey products now use modern, non-curly, slanted apostrophes. That's OK, too.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Authors: there are at least 50 ways to mess up your book



Paul Simon sang about the 50 ways to leave your lover. I've found 50 ways to mess up my own books. How about you?

  1. Factual errors
  2. Spelling errors
  3. Grammar errors
  4. Words or dates you meant to fill in "later" but didn't
  5. Wrong typefaces, particularly when text is pasted-in from another source
  6. Commas that should be periods—and vice versa
  7. Straight punctuation that should be curly "typographers' marks"
  8. Curlies that curl in the wrong direction
  9. Missing spaces between paragraphs or sections 
  10. Flush-left justification that should be full justification
  11. Bad justification in the last line of a page
  12. Chopped-off descenders where you decreased line spacing (leading) or if the bottom of a text box is too close to the text
  13. Wrong-size bullets
  14. Text not aligned at tops of pages. (Professional page formatters try to align tops and bottoms.)
  15. Rivers
  16. Too-big word spacing
  17. Normal letters that should be ligatures (more for large type than in body text)
  18. Accidental spaces after bullets
  19. Improper hyphenation
  20. Misaligned numbers in a list
  21. Roman text that should be italic, and vice versa
  22. Normal text that should be boldface, and vice versa 
  23. Ignoring highlighted warnings in MS Word
  24. Automatically accepting MS Word suggestions 
  25. Gray text that should be black
  26. Insufficient space adjacent to images
  27. Images or text boxes that floated over the margin
  28. Images or text boxes that 'slid' down and covered up footers
  29. Missing periods at sentence ends 
  30. Missing opening or closing quote marks
  31. Missing page numbers
  32. Pages with numbers that should not show numbers (blind folios)
  33. Periods that should be inside a closing parentheses—or outside
  34. Repeated words 
  35. Wrong headers, missing headers, switched verso and recto headers
  36. Subheads that are too close to the text above and too far from the text below
  37. Too much space between lines in a multi-line title, chapter name or subhead
  38. Inconsistencies such as 3pm on one page and 3 P.M. on another
  39. Inaccurate internal referrals such as "see comments on page 164" 
  40. Words that shifted from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page
  41. Chapter names and page numbers in the table of contents that don't reflect a change made in the actual chapter name or the first page of the chapter
  42. Chapters missing from the TOC
  43. A topic not in the index because you added something after completing the index
  44. Words that should have been deleted but were not
  45. Names that were changed in some places but not in all places
  46. Paragraphs that accidentally merged
  47. Missing photo or illustration credits 
  48. Credits for deleted photos or illustrations
  49. Photos or illustrations accidentally flipped left-to-right
  50. Wrong ISBN or other information on the copyright page 

Here are some sad rules of life in book publishing: 

(1) The bigger the book, the more errors it will have.
(2) Every time you try to correct an error, you risk creating more errors.
(3) If you strive for perfection, you will never complete the book.
(4) No book is perfect.
(5) Errors will be caught by readers, reviewers and nitpickers like me.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Write-rs: Hyp-he-na-ti-on c-an b-e h-ila-rio-us. B-e ca-ref-ul


I take a perverse joy in discovering stupid hyphenations produced by Microsoft Word. One recent discovery is "bin-aural," instead of "bi-naural." It's not as good as "the-rapist," "of-fline" "fi-ne" and "proo-freader," but is worth including in my li-st.

Here's some classic hy-phen humor from Saturday Night Live.

Microsoft, however, is not the only offender. The New York Daily News has presented us with a powerful piece of innovative typography:

iP-hone

Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software—not sentient beings—produce some gems. A while ago I savored a wonderful memoir, the Kindle edition of The Brothers Emanuel, by Ezekiel J. "Zeke" Emanuel. On one page I encountered "swit-ching." Is it related to the I Ching?

Automatic hyphenation by ebook 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.

Microsoft Word often 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.” Ouch.

Monday, December 3, 2018

How is an ebook like Pizza Hut pizza?



Maybe an ebook is to a pbook as Pizza Hut is to pizza

I live and write in Milford, Connecticut. Milford is in New Haven County, an area known for—and proud of—excellent Neapolitan pizza. (Many of our traditional pizzerias spell pizza as "apizza" and pronounce it "ah-beetz.")

According to a "study" published by USA Today three of the nation's best pizza joints are located on one street (Wooster Street) in the city of New Haven's "Little Italy."


Some of our local pizzerias have been owned by the same families for two or three generations, and new ones seem to open every few weeks. Because of the loyalty of the locals, it has been hard for the national chains, which have been so successful elsewhere, to build business here.

Everyone in this part of Connecticut has one or two favorite pizzerias. We are experts, fans, aficionados and snobs. People here are less likely to switch pizza sources than to switch cola or jeans brands.

By Mafia decree (or maybe because of simple collusion) most local pizzerias are closed on Mondays so the pizza makers can spend time with their families.

Apparently Pizza Hut and Domino's have dispensations from the Pope or from il Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of all bosses" in the Mafia), and are open seven days a week. This means that locals who must have something vaguely pizza-like on the first workday of the week, will go to the Hut or Dom's on that day—but probably not on other days.

On all days, the pizza chains serve customers who have recently immigrated from places like Kentucky or Utah and don't know what real pizza is supposed to look and taste like.



(above) Vaguely round, sloppy and delicious traditional New Haven "ah-beetz" from Frank Pepe, and perfectly round and bland pizza from a national chain's factory

And now, about Hut-like books:

I hate the bad typography and laughable hyphenation common to ebooks. But ebooks have made ugly books seem normal, and they are apparently acceptable to a great many readers.

I faced a personal dilemma with ebooks:
  • Some years ago I published a few ebooks as PDFs which maintain the page formatting of my pbooks. I was reluctant to release the books in the more popular—and uglier—ebook formats used by Amazon and other booksellers.
  • Because of my elitist attitude I missed readers and income, but I just don't like ugly books.
  • I ultimately gave in, and now make much more money each month from ebooks than from more expensive pbooks. Readers have not complained.
I really enjoy the convenience of reading ebooks. I recently had a great time reading 
Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins on three PCs, my Kindle Fire, my iPad and my phone. I hate the improper hyphenation, but love that Jeff Bezos keeps track of my reading progress and "opens" the ebook to the right page—no matter which device I use to read it with.

I suppose at some point I will stop comparing ebooks to pbooks and will come to accept a Kindle page as normal. Maybe it's part of a parallel universe of publishing.

My cousin Dave Marcus is a pizza maven (enthusiastic expert) with very high standards—but he will sometimes tolerate chain pizza. Rather than dismiss Pizza Hut's mass-produced products as substandard pizza, Dave says, "It's not pizza. It's pizza HUT."

Maybe I should say, "It's not a book. It's a HUT BOOK."

(photos from http://www.foodgps.com/ and Domino's)