Note: Publishing-wise, The One-Way Rain is a hybrid. It is self-published in the sense of being completely self-financed. However, it came into the world under the aegis of Wildheart Press, another writer’s publishing company, and the book and its author have benefited greatly from that publisher’s generous support. You can read more of my thoughts about publishing here. Below is a diary, in chronological order, of my experiences guiding the book into print.
Having made the decision to indie-publish, we are moving along briskly! We have a cover designer, a typographer and an editor. I’m exploring some photos for the cover. Wildheart Press will be our imprint. To quote Tank in “The Matrix,” “Mmggh! It’s a very exciting time!”
My wonderful editor gave me her thoughts and challenged me to make the novel even better. Meanwhile, the book designer is very busy developing his font. So I plan to do a final edit and deliver the ms. to him when he has more time in September.
I’ve started mapping out a schedule for some of the things a published book needs: a Library of Congress preassigned control number, an EAN Bookland bar code, copyright registration. What comes first? It’s like putting together a puzzle. Some funny findings.
Interesting discussions with the book designer, the upshot being that I will probably give him a completely unformatted manuscript in mid-October. Yes, when a professional typographer agrees to design your book, he doesn’t want all your formatting all over it. No smart quotes, no page numbers, no italics, no small caps—all he needs are hash marks showing where the formatting has to go. So after twenty years (I got my Mac Classic in 1992) of making sure my mss. looked as tidy as possible inside Microsoft Word, I am entering a beautiful new phase of unformatting.
ISBN acquired and bar code coming shortly, once I set the retail price of the book.
17 October: Fifteen fonts to examine, at the suggestion of the book designer. I went to each website and downloaded a PDF sample to print out (in the process coming across the quite serious site Typography for Lawyers, where you can see depositions, motions and legal correspondence set in such typefaces as Caslon, Sabon, and the author’s own font, Equity). I’ve also finally pulled together the unformatted ms.; here’s a sample page if you’d like to see.
On another front, I now have seven estimates from printers. When we have the final(ish) text, I’ll go back to the top three and try to get apples-to-apples quotes. Number of copies? That’s sticky. Too few, and you might sell out; too many, and you risk comparisons to Wild Animus.
29 October: Discussed typographical elements with my crack book designer. I will now refer to him as Eben, since that is his name. Over the phone, he explained that the #slogan element is the one that bears the most thinking about. The #acronym (usually, SAPID) is probably going to work in small caps, #italic is italic and the rest is pretty straightforward. But #slogans, which generally represent advertising language, could be set in several different ways, including but not limited to:
- All caps, which is how they are in the manuscript, but which Eben described as “thudding.”
- Bold or, more likely, demibold. Bold is seldom used in literary fiction layouts, but a demibold may be less intrusive.
- Italic, if we can get a font with two italics, perhaps one more upright than the other.
- In quotes or guillemets, or between em dashes (no).
- All caps shrunk to 90% or so.
It’s wonderful working with Eben.
After Eben sent me numerous samples playing with variables of format and margin, we have chosen a font: Whitman. Unfortunately, the unformatted ms. that I delivered in October (see below) somehow ate all my m-dashes. The result was that some of Eben’s samples were painful to look at because the m-dashes—each one of which signifies a deliberately chosen pause—were replaced by hyphens. Ghastly! The text file will have to be edited and re-sent to him so that my m-dashes remain inviolate.
The m-dash is represented in HTML, by the way, with the entity reference —.
On a rainy Friday, Eben and I experimented with layouts (he navigated through InDesign and I looked over his shoulder) and discussed a number of variables: running heads, page numbers, indentations, justification, margins, gutter, “thumb space,” and so on. After a few hours, we had a basic two-page spread that made us both happy. We’ll meet in January to fine-tune such elements as section titles and chapter openings, and then Eben will use the templates and styles he created in these sessions to lay out the full text. In the meantime, maybe cover design can move forward—I’ll e-mail my designer after the holiday. And I should start assembling a list of places to send review copies and thinking about that initial mailing.
Hold the phone. I said we were both happy with that basic layout from December, but it turned out I wasn’t. Eben advised me to tuck our two-page printout into one of my books and put it aside for a while—“surprise yourself with it.” I did, and the next time I came across the printout I realized the type size was much too small. So we met today to work through the variables incrementally once more. We inched the size up to 9 and printed a sample, then 9.5 and another sample, then 10, then 10.5, then 11 . . . whoa! Eleven’s too big. Looks like an elementary-school reader. Back down to 10.75. We also continued to make changes to the leading, running heads, page numbers, thumb space and gutters. We think we have it now! (I’m saying “we” but, as usual, it’s Eben doing all the work.)
Also today, I sent my cover designer almost everything he needs!
The first full rough layout of the book is here, and she looks great! Eben is doing a marvelous job. Still not time to request printing bids, since, as he pointed out to me, even a minor tweak could add two pages to the count. I sent him back four pages of notes (sorry Eben).
Another rewarding afternoon at Eben’s working on the final layout. I wanted some kind of typographical distinction for start of a chapter, so I asked him about drop caps. Eben felt drop caps would be “overegging the pudding a bit” in a book already so typographically thick with slogans and acronyms. He wasn’t hopeful about setting the first four words of a chapter in small caps, either, but he put his hand to it and came up with a great solution (I think he changed the x-height and adjusted the tracking and . . .). Sadly, we found that it was still overegging, and we had to let it go. So the chapter beginnings will be unadorned.
Meanwhile Steve the cover designer has been interrogating me about the tone of the book. Would I call it a dystopia? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? (I gave him dystopia but balked at the others.) He’s looking at display faces for the title and has sent me several lively examples. I’ll be getting those final printer quotes shortly. Apparently I set the publication date as May 1, 2013, when registering with Books in Print—I didn’t remember this, but a good friend looked up the title and found a superstore listing which pulled from BIP. So I’m hoping to have the books in hand by the end of May.
18 April: I met today with Mr. Tom Campbell, of King Printing, who graciously drove to Boston to join me at my favorite coffee shop. He showed me samples of books printed by King (also known as Adibooks) and shared his considerable wisdom about the book industry. The One-Way Rain will be printed in Lowell, Mass., on 50# natural paper with 10-point C1S cover stock. A hinge score on both sides of the cover will help protect the binding. I look forward to working with King Printing!
“By the way,” Mr. Campbell advised me as we were wrapping up, “you’re going to have a lot of anxiety about this book.” He said he’s going to write his own book someday and call it The Anxiety of Authors.
28 April: I had been thinking uneasily about block quotes. There are two in the book, and they didn’t seem to me to be distinguished enough from the surrounding text. I asked Eben if he could reduce the type size slightly for the quotes. “This might be totally crazy and you can say no, but how about all italics?” he said. Oh no, I thought, that’s totally crazy. But we tried it (I mean, of course, that Eben tried it while I was sitting beside him, printed it out and showed me), and it looked perfect! Next he’ll be making some final fixes and then assessing the “color” of the whole text in order to adjust places where it is too light or too dark.
The text: I finished proofing the final layout on a rainy Sunday morning. Even after going through the text carefully about a dozen times, I still found several mistakes. This or that had to be in small caps, that or this in italic small caps, an extra blank line was needed here or there—and then there were the horrifying errors that went back to my very earliest drafts: for instance, half the section titles were in all caps, and the other half weren’t. And this after finding four misspelled words in the first go-round. (I don’t use a spelling checker, partly because I don’t like Microsoft Word telling me what to do, and partly because of compatibility issues with my old Mini). And we’ll proof again when we have the galleys.
The cover: Steve has finished most of the design and is perfecting the photo collage for the front cover. This while working full-time as a graphic designer in addition to his valiant service as the board president for a neighborhood organization and the art director and layout maven for the Fenway News. As James Calbraith writes, “All good freelancers are busy—and very good freelancers are very busy.”
Another rainy month, busy with text and cover tweaking, trekking to open mikes, and part-time freaking-out. My meticulous friend Mandy generously proofread the entire book, and her eagle eye found two more typos (one a reversed quotation mark, one misspelling). Eben, also a champion of meticule, interrogated me on the finer points of spacing around an ellipsis, fixed an extra space he noticed while using the text for font testing, and called King Printing to confirm what kind of printer’s marks they need on the PDF, which he’ll be sending them this weekend. That’s right, I said the text is going off to the printer this weekend. Graphic designer Steve patiently waited for the Wildheart Press logo artwork, and patiently reassured me several times that yes, the cover will be finished very soon. I’ve been in a bit of a tizzy. Tom Campbell (see April 18) reminded me to take one thing at a time.
30 June: Okay, it’s not quite July, but the loose proof is here! It looks like this. Today a good friend who had never seen the book before gave it the “new eye” test: she inspected the front cover, back cover, spine, acknowledgments and first dozen pages for howlers. We will also do a thorough proof of the proof later this week. After that, King Printing will need about two weeks to print the book.
21 July: We started proofing in earnest the week of July 4. In a case of history repeating itself (see May), I found two more spelling mistakes. One made me laugh hysterically, not because it was funny but, I think, out of relief that I had spotted it; the other has been a problem my whole writing life long. So, yes, I’ll be running my next manuscript through a spelling checker. It turned out that, contrary to the way things used to be, there is only one charge for making essentially unlimited corrections (because you just send the printer a new pdf). Therefore my editor was free to work with me on improving the book even at this stage. Here’s the proof at the beginning of the week, and this is what it looked like at the end! I wrote up the changes over the weekend and shot them over to Eben, who was imminently leaving for Singapore to teach at Crafting Type. It was like the last five minutes of the most awesome “Dr. Who” episode ever!
Anyway, the second proof came back and I’m returning it with my approval to King Printing tomorrow. Then . . .
8 August: My publisher and I drove out, or rather I should say she drove us, to Lowell to pick up the books. Upon arrival we discovered a complication which meant we couldn’t take the books home, but maybe that was a blessing in disguise, as I’m not sure eighteen cartons would have fit comfortably in the official Wildheart Press station wagon. The books are now due to be delivered on Monday or Tuesday of next week. I held one in my hands and found I was very reluctant to give it back.
As you can see, the shopping cart is up and we are now an e-commerce site!
16 August: The end and the beginning. The books have been delivered and sales have begun. Thanks for being with me on this journey!