Monday, January 18, 2010

Announcement: Self Publishing? Or Using a Small Publisher? I Beg of You ...

For love of all that is holy ... or better yet, for love of the eye of your readers ... please don't just use whatever default Word has on when you have begun typing.

Print out your page and compare it to some of your favorite novels, whether old or new, that are from regular publishers. Note that the type is not suitable for someone who is over 80 years old. Also note that a drop cap does not add leading (the space between the lines) that is not obvious in the rest of the paragraph. Additionally, note that the last line of the chapter also has the same leading (not more) as the rest of the book.

Please spare us. It not only looks amateurish but leads one to suspect that the quantity of pages is of more value to the writer than the quality of the writing ... which will show its quality even when the type is a suitably small size to match a well typeset book.

I speak not only for myself, who is admittedly super-sensitive to this as I do graphic layout for a living, but for those who ask why they must hold a book at full arm's length so the type does not overwhelm them on the page. It takes just a little time to make a book as lovely to look at as the words are delightful to read (at least one hopes that the words are delightful to read).

That is all. You may return to your previous activities.


  1. Thank you! I share your feelings. I can hardly abide reading anything that looks ugly on the page. That definitely includes things I am writing myself. Whenever I create a document--whether I'm working on a poem or novel or a memo at work--I take great care to make it beautiful and professional-looking. Even if no eyes but mine will see it. Because I am not just a writer, I am also a reader who appreciates the beauty of the printed word.

  2. I have to agree. I have tried working in Word as that matches some people's systems but find that I am too impatient with it to make the type look correct. Therefore, I have to use InDesign which I know really well. I then can do a "dump" into Word for everyone who needs something that way. But I just can't concentrate on the meaning of the words unless they look beautiful on the page. :-)

  3. Julie, even though I know a little about typesetting, the particular criticisms you make here are surprisingly opaque to me. Could you possibly include some pictures?

    I gather most people use fonts that are too large, but I just can't picture in my head what you're on about with the leading. Why on earth would the last line of the chapter be different?

  4. I have several technical theories about how that would happen, depending on the typesetting, etc. But I won't bore you with those. Essentially, it is a circumstance that can arise that is overlooked by those who don't understand the software well.

    If I get a chance I'd scan a page or two ... or maybe I can find an example at Google books.

  5. Suggest some fonts you think are elegant, readable, and good for books...?

  6. Or you could visit your opthalmologist? You're overdue, you know. :)

    -- Mack

  7. In defense of Word, I like Arial 10pt. and find I can read it comfortably--with my reading glasses (the prescription strength changes from top to bottom). Or I take my single-strength driving glasses off.

    Presbyopia is SUCH a nuisance!

  8. Being a fairly new (2 years) independent publisher, I have to agree with you. Initially, we tried to work with our authors but had little consistent success in getting the page to look "lovely" as you put it. We eventually found our copy editor who was able to put it into a consistent and very nice readable format.

    I always feel that reading should be like eating- it's not just the taste but the appearance that makes a great meal.

  9. No, Mack, you don't get it. Their type is at least 12 point, sometimes 14 point. So horsey, so ugly! I likes it smaller, suh! :-D

    March, it is not Word that I am railing against actually, but a bad use of it. Just as Candace points out, it can be used very nicely if one knows what one is doing in the first place.

    Candace, LOVE that analogy! I will be using that one again!

    IC ... something that has a serif! Garamond is classic, as is Caslon. Other nice choices are Jenson, Times, Goudy. Newer but with classic elements is Minion which I like. I just finished layout on a book of poetry using Brioso which is a bit flashier than those listed above but has all the classic elements.

    It is really more the skill brought to the endeavor than the typeface, in the end. To carry on Candace's analogy, would you have a novice cook a banquet for company? Most probably you'd have the most experienced cook available do it. They will know the little tricks to bring out the very best in a dish. Likewise with layout.

  10. Better: Just pay the Generals at General Glyphics to produce your books. Works for me and mine.

  11. Mike, you are my hero! :-)

  12. Hear, hear!

    (And I'm with Mike. Those folks are real pros.) :)