by Cathi Stevenson I’ve created approximately 2,000 book covers since about 2000. Most were for print projects, so there was a back cover that required copy. Over the years, I’ve developed a file of information that I send to all of my clients as we’re nearing that part of the project. These are just guidelines, but for the typical 6 x 9 book this is what I have found works best, and what I share with my clients: BACK COVER TEXT: You have room for about 250 – 300 words on the back cover. Submit it in an unformatted (no boxes, no tabs, no indents, no italics, just plain text double spaced between the paragraphs) Microsoft Word file (.doc) or plain text file. WHY? People won’t struggle to read your text, so it needs to be set in a comfortable size, with enough space between each line (called leading) that it’s easy to read. You also need to leave a good-sized margin around the text, so people will have a place to put their fingers, and not have to constantly adjust position as they’re reading. I ask for plain text files because the text has to be imported into InDesign and sometimes text boxes, tabs and other formatting will cause problems. I can always save the file as plain text myself, but if I’m not using the same word processing program or version of it, then that can also cause problems. LISTS AND QUOTES: If your back cover text contains lists and quotes, you have less room. WHY? Both lists and quotes use only a portion of the lines they’re on. In the case of some lists, you’ll have only a few words on a line. In addition, lists often require extra space between each line. Quote credits often require a bit of extra space and again, only part of the line is being used. In short: they eat up space. Check out the images at the end of this article for a visual explanation of what I mean. IMAGE CREDITS: Make sure that you include any credits necessary to comply with the license of images you have purchased to use on the cover. The exact wording will be included in the End User License Agreement (often called a EULA for short), where you made the purchase. If you have an author photo to go on the book, you should also credit this. NOTE: Image credits can also go on the copyright page, or in the case of a hardcover on the inside flap of the dust jacket. IMAGES: Must be 300 dpi at full size. WHY? This is the minimum required for print, but dpi on its own means nothing, that’s why I added “at full size.” If you have an image that is 4 inches wide and 4 inches high at 150 dpi, simply changing it to be 300 dpi will mean you can only print it at 2 inches wide by 2 inches high. If you force the increase to 300 dpi and keep the size 4 x 4, then the quality of the image will deteriorate and it will not print well. LOGOS: For optimum printing quality these should be submitted in the native EPS (vector) file, with fonts converted to outlines. BAR CODES: Include your 13-digit ISBN and the price (if you want the price embedded into the bar code). I will make the bar code here to ensure it is formatted at 100% black, CMYK and a vector image. WHY? Most of that is technical jargon, but it is the only way to ensure the bar code will print properly and scan. PNG images, which many agencies provide, cannot be formatted in the proper color gamut (CMYK) so you’re taking your chances using them or gif images, or a “lossy” image format like jpg. A vector image is the best way to produce a bar code that will scan. BISAC HEADINGS: If you want your book to have a subject heading for shelving, please find your proper heading here.
by Cathi Stevenson It really is the little things that count. Things that many people might not consciously notice when they're there, but miss when they're not there. This is true even when laying out a book. Spacing between lines, words, the type of numbers you choose, the font, drop caps...these are all essential elements that need to be considered if you want a book that is both pleasing to look at and easy to read. Book layout really is an art. That might be hard to believe in this world of technology, where it's possible to do such work by merely choosing a few options in some software program. But, if you take just two minutes — literally, to watch this video, you will learn a few things that can take your book layout from boring and amateurish, to sleek and professional. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOruWL2FOCs
by Cathi Stevenson A book that has been professionally designed will appear more polished and appealing to potential buyers. These formatting tips are not limited to the front cover of a book. There are many ways to enhance the look and readability of back cover text and interior layout. 1. Don’t make your line width too long. Many people assume the solution to too much text is to either drop the point size or extend the trim size or margins. This is not the case. No matter how much space you have, no line should exceed about 70 characters. After 70 characters, the reader has to blink and readjust his or her focus, then determine where the next line is and travel back visually to the beginning of the new line. Long lines make this a tiresome, frustrating task. No one will struggle to read your text. 2. Make sure you’re using the proper glyphs. A common mistake is to use the symbol for feet or inches when single or double quotation marks are required, and vice versa. Quotation marks curl or slant, while measurement symbols are straight up and down. All good quality fonts will offer both. 3. Know the difference between an em dash, en dash and hyphen and when to use them. There’s never any reason to have a double hyphen (–) when you really need an em dash (—). On a PC, the em dash can be obtained by holding down the ALT key and pushing 0151 on the numbers pad, to the right. The en dash is ALT 0150. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the types of dashes and when to use them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash 4. Drop caps can add style. Some people like the stylish look of a drop cap at the beginning of the back cover text, or at the start of a new chapter. It’s important these be neat and laid out properly, though. The bottom of the drop cap should sit on the baseline of the line it sits on. If you prefer a stickup cap, then it should align perfectly with the first line of text. The stickup cap is usually easier to create. 5. Small caps are another element that are often used and abused in book design. Some people like the look of small caps, and they can be a nice decorative element when used at the beginning of a section or for some headings and titles. It’s important you actually have the real small caps font, though. Most design and word processing programs will offer this option, but that doesn’t mean the font is there; They’re just “faking it” by making any upper case letters slightly larger. This can cause problems when creating a PDF for the printer, and it rarely looks good. If you enlarge a letter to fake small caps, the larger letter will be thicker, wider and look heavier. 6. Make your margins nice and deep. Remember, there has to be room for peoples’ fingers to hold the book. No one wants to be constantly moving his or her hands to read text. Also, if your interior margins are too tight, readers will be forced to open the book wider than the binding might allow, causing pages to fall out. These things all reflect on you as a publisher. 7. Don’t skip a title page. A title page can take on a life of its own and add value to a book. It doesn’t have to be just the title, either and it doesn’t have to be only one page. It can be several pages and include illustrations or decorative elements, title, sub-title, author name, publisher’s imprint, quotations, copyright information and credits for editors and fonts and the forward or preface. Chapter 27 in Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking: Editing/Design/Production (3rd ed., 2003) covers this subject very nicely. 8. Using a business name. If your company has a name, have your book designer create a little logo for it, if you haven’t had one created professionally. This can be done just setting the company name in a nice font and doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If possible, avoid using your own name as part of the business title, because this will tip off reviewers and bookstore owners that the book is self-published. Many people have preconceived notions about self-published books that are not very positive. 9. Make sure your black text is 100% black for a black and white interior. Some word processing programs and free PDF creators do not produce 100% black text, and books end up printed in 90% black or lighter. This can easily be checked within any layout or design program such as Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator, as you work. If you’re not using the proper software there might be no way to check this. You can also preflight your file in Adobe Acrobat Professional to uncover this and other issues. 10. Working with the right colors. If you’re using Print on Demand technology (also called POD and digital printing), then it’s almost always a good idea to send the printer files formatted in the CMYK color gamut, even if the printer says it’s okay to send RGB. Switching colors “on the fly” from RGB to CMYK, even when a professional printer does it, often creates unexpected results, and not just with color; In some cases images can look pixilated or blurry after being switched from RGB to CMYK.
by Cathi Stevenson It has to be discussed…again. Visual vibration. So many independent publishers don’t seem to think it’s an issue and I’d bet my last chocolate-covered almond it’s resulting in lost sales. What is it? Visual vibration is caused when two bright colors are mixed together on a book cover or website or ad and they create an “afterimage” effect. It’s almost as if a dancing halo has been placed around the word or shape, making it nearly impossible to look at the image for any amount of time. It’s painful. It’s the last thing you want happening on your website or your book cover. You can avoid visual vibration by introducing a less vibrant, neutral color to the mix.
by Cathi Stevenson If you don't want your staff spending time answering the same questions over and over, make sure your messages are clear. That means signs, whether they're impromptu types of information taped to the front door, or important notices about meetings, need to be designed so they're noticed and people can read them. By age 40, most of us can read something 10 inches away. By age 50, that distance is usually closer to 16 inches and it increases as you get older. This condition, called presbyopia, is caused by the eye loosing its ability to focus and approximately 90 million Americans suffer from it. When you consider this and other eye conditions that affect vision, you can understand how essential it is for publishers to choose fonts with great care. This doesn’t apply just to the interior of the book, but to the title, back cover text, online ads, websites, posters and any printed matter that will be used in promoting your books. Here’s a little trick that will test the legibility of your font under less than ideal circumstances: just set a few lines and blur the text in Photoshop or similar software. Do letters such as a, o and d fill in? Do tall letters like i and t and l look alike? Are the letters so close together they’re just one big blur? Do narrow parts of the glyph (glyphs are the letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc.. that we use to write with) vanish all together? Some fonts that fit this criteria include: Futura, Futura Condensed Bold, Futura Book, (but not Futura Light, condensed or bold), Frutiger Light, Frutiger, Frutiger Bold, Gill Sans, Gill Sans Bold (but not Gill Sans Light) Otpima, Bodoni, Bodini Book. Century Schoolbook, (not Century Schoolbook Bold) Garamond, Garamond Semibold, (but not Garamond Bold), Palatino and Palatino Bold. Remember, no one is going to struggle to read your message.
by Cathi Stevenson “Thou shalt commit adultery. That “commandment” was printed in a Bible in 1631. The publishers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were heavily fined and lost their printing license as a result. Still referred to as the Wicked Bible, the few copies that are still in existence are highly sought collector’s items. In modern times we have only to look at the $2 million loss Rogers Communications Ltd. suffered due to a misplaced comma to appreciate an editor’s job. According to a Toronto Globe and Mail article, Rogers understood that it had a five-year agreement, renewable for successive five-year terms, to run cable lines across poles in the Maritimes. The agreement began in 2002. In 2005, Aliant Inc., that company that administers the poles (owned primarily by Fredericton-based utility NB Power), informed Rogers that the contract was being cancelled and the rates would be increasing to triple the current fee. Rogers argued that this breached the agreement. In response, Aliant cited the English version of the contract, which said the agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five-year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice.” Aliant won. Lack of editing is often cited as one the main reasons many publications will not review self-published books. On the Direct Contact PR site, Paul J. Krupin has collected a list of quotes from reviewers, who were asked if they review self-published books. While most weren’t completely against the idea, several did mention the editing issue. Colleen Truelsen, former Editor of Valley Community Newspapers, Inc., in Sacramento says, self-published books are fine, “…but too many of them needed a good editor to catch grammar and misspellings. A book with even a few glaring inappropriate words makes me hesitate to tell our readers about it.” Editing is also one of the reasons author Amanda Hocking accepted a traditional contract with St. Martin’s Press after becoming a millionaire self-publishing her own series of books. In a March, 2011 blog post, she says, “Here are the two considerations I made in my decision (to accept a contract with St. Martin’s): what’s best for my career, and what’s best for my readers. (Notice I didn’t say what was best for my wallet).” She then lists the number two reason as “readers’ complaints about the editing of my books.” Hocking goes on to explain she did hire editors, but in spite of their improving the books and working hard, she was obviously choosing the wrong editors, because readers still complained about errors. Surfing around the various writers’ and self-publishing forums on Linkedin.com, it appears many authors believe they can edit their own work, or that editors will try to change the integrity of their messages or the tone of their stories. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dick Margulis freelance editor and book designer. “A professional editor strives to preserve the author’s voice and to work with the author as a colleague, not to dictate fusty old grammatical rules that do nothing except get the author’s shorts in a bunch. But every writer needs another set of eyes on the text. It’s devilishly difficult to edit your own work and not miss things. I think the reason so many authors have bad experiences with editors is that the editors they think they can afford are not pros. Here’s a hint: a moonlighting or retired high school English teacher is usually not the best choice. Neither is your best friend’s father’s secretary, even if she’s an awfully good proofreader. Editing is a whole nuther ballgame from proofreading.” And keep in mind that even industry icons such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe had an editor: His name was Maxwell Perkins. He’s credited with being a significant influence in the success of The Great Gatsby.