Season 1 Episode 8: Michele DeFilippo on Book Design
Derek: Ladies and gentlemen welcome to another episode of Behind the Business Book. I’m your host Derek Lewis and today I have with me Michele DeFilippo who is the founder of 1106 Design, a book design and author marketing firm in Phoenix. She is the author of Publish Like the Pros, she’s the co-host of Mentoring Mondays, call-in show that answers authors’ questions.
You know what, actually let me put a pin in that and keep on going because I was about to get sidetracked. Michele, I want to publicly congratulate 1106, you’re recently named as the only full-service book design firm recommended by IngramSpark. IngramSpark, if you’re not familiar with your self-publishing and pro on-demand options out there, they’re really two giants. There’s Amazon’s CreateSpace and then Ingram is the largest distributor of books in the world, and Ingram’s print on demand arm is IngramSpark. Michele’s firm was recently named as their only full-service book design firm recommended by them, so congratulations on that Michele, that is an outstanding recognition the quality and value that you bring to your authors and to the industry.
Michele: Well thank you Derek, we are thrilled of course to be listed on their resources page and I still can’t quite believe it myself, I think I want to pinch myself and make sure I’m not dreaming but it has been a real delight to be sure, and thank you for having me today, I appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions and hopefully help your audience.
Derek: Honestly Michele, it’s not a surprise to me, so full disclosure, Michele’s company 1106 did the cover and the interior for my book, The Business Book Bible and I know this is me bragging on my own child but it is gorgeous, you all did an outstanding job. No, it’s not a surprise to me that you all were recognized.
As to your thanking me I am going to turn that around and thank you because I know that you’ve got a lot of authors, you’ve got all kinds of people that you’re working with and to take time out to come talk to me about geeking out on typesetting, well it’s a pleasure for me.
Michele: Well I’m pleased to do it Derek, thank you.
Derek: Going back to that pin that I was talking about, to finish the introduction and this is actually setting us up for the first part of this conversation, your roots in the publishing industry actually go all the way back to Manhattan when you were with Crown Publishing, still a very well respected publisher in the industry and you were a professional typesetter which is super cool for me. That’s really what we’re talking about today. I haven’t met anybody else Michele who has that craftsmanship, that background in the art and craft that you do, so would you mind just taking us on a little field trip going back to whatever it was like whenever you just first starting out and what typesetting was like back in the good old days?
Michele: Back in the day, oh well you’re going to make me date myself here. When I started in this business typesetting was done with melted lead on machines called Mergenthaler typesetters and literally the operator would press a key and a mold would fall into place and hot lead would be poured into that mold. Then when the page was all made up then it would be used to print a page of type which was then later pasted up and made into a book page. It’s hard to imagine now that anything ever got done using that method but it did, it really wasn’t much different than Gutenberg. I started working in the 1970s and that at the time was considered high technology, it was faster than any other way that had been done before.
That was the 1970s and by the 80s we were creating type with computers, there were great big dedicated typesetting machines by typesetters. That was the first generation of computerized type, of course now that’s changed quite a bit and Derek we’re going to have to stop here I’m sorry.
Michele: By the 1980s we were splitting type with computers, computerized typesetting equipment such as it was. The personal computer was coming on the scene but we were still using dedicated gigantic typesetting machines that weighed a couple of tons and they cost $50,000. The process wasn’t really all that different from the hot lead method where we would generate strips of paper which were then cut and pasted up into a book. By the 1990s then the personal computer changed all of that. Now we could see the page right on our screen, we could do what we wanted right on our screen and then they’ll come up with a book page or a series of book pages in a relatively small amount of time. Of course the technology keeps changing and getting better and better.
What has happened recently and there have always been standards of book design and typographic design that were followed all along through those technological changes, but what has happened now in the self-publishing arena is that people who should know better are giving authors advice about typesetting their own books using Microsoft Word. That, of course, is throwing the baby away with the bathwater. It’s not the way to go and the market is now saturated with books that are really very poorly done and of course that makes those of us who’ve been in the industry for any length of time very upset.
Derek: Let’s back up for a second Michele, so for anybody who doesn’t really understand what typesetting is, for a lot of people typography is just a font face. The idea that they’re being designed to actually how the words appear on the page was something new for me whenever I got into the publishing industry. Tell us a little bit about what typesetting entails. Later on we’ve got some visuals, we’ll get down into looking at it literally black and white, but just in general a little intro into the art.
Michele: Well what we see now is that of course everyone has Microsoft Word on their desk and Photoshop to create images or some variation of that software to put words and images together. What they wind up creating is something that is a product that looks something like a book but it doesn’t look like a book that’s been professionally designed because, of course, designers, book designers are trained and experienced to put those words and pictures together in a unique and creative way, following those standards of typography that I just began to mention. When a designer does a book we’re thinking on a very detailed level about how the words are spaced, how the letters are spaced, whether we’re using paragraph indents or not, whether we’re putting a line of space between the paragraphs. I tell people all the time there’s much more to designing a book than just picking a font and a font size and deciding that you want the margins to be half an inch. There’s many more issues involved in terms of what we call the color of the type.
The spacing of the type creates a visual impression that we call a color, even when the type is only in black. If you don’t have that spacing right one paragraph can look much tighter or looser than another paragraph and you just have a very amateurish looking page if you haven’t been trained and you’re not experienced in dealing with all of the issues that are involved in typesetting. I don’t know if I explained that properly, it’s hard to get across.
Derek: Yes, well that’s why uniquely today we have this visuals that we’re going to get into here in a minute so that you can … The word I’m looking for Michele is present exactly what it is that typesetters do. The takeaway being that there is an artistry to the literal presentation of the page, so not just the font but the spacing between the words, the spacing between the lines, the spacing on the edge. Then some of the things that you introduced me to, the rivers of light, the ladders, widows and orphans. Before we get down into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about A why typesetting, professional typesetting, typesetting done well, why it is so important to the reader and then why it is so important to the industry, so commercially, in other words how it impacts the bottom line.
Michele: Sure, I’ll be happy to do that and I guess what I would like to suggest is that everybody mentally now take yourself to your local bookstore and think about how you browse books when you walk from shelf to shelf and you pick up one book or another. It’s a sensory experience right? There’s something about that book that draws your eye. You might look at the cover for a moment, you might flip the book over and read the back cover and then you flip through the pages and you get an impression, a subliminal impression about whether or not that book contains credible advice for you. You don’t really think about this on a conscious level, but something tells you that this book is serious, that it’s going to help you, that it’s worth the money and then you choose one and you bring it to the register and then you hopefully go home and enjoy it.
You make that decision before you know anything at all about the content, so you could say that the design of your book is analogous to the outfit you would wear on a job interview, you want to make the best first impression. You want the person who’s interviewing you to immediately have the sense that you are a qualified person and that you’re the right person for the job before you get to say a word. That’s what your book design does for you, for the buyer.
Now from the reader, competent book design actually has been clinically shown to increase reading comprehension. If you’ve gone through all the time and trouble to research and write a book, you certainly want people to understand what you’ve written. If they are distracted by poor typography or poor design they may put the book down and they may not get your message at all, so it’s a really big risk not to hire an experienced book designer to give your book that package that is going to help people understand your words.
The third reason that book design is important is for yourself, you’re going to be promoting the book, you’re going to be telling everyone that you’ve written it and so you need to be proud of it. You need to know that it’s the very best it can be because that will come through in your tone of voice and in your smile and in every other aspect of your behavior when you’re telling people about your book.
Derek: Michele that brings to mind, I think and I’m reaching back because we’ve been collaborating for a few years now, but I’m reaching back and I think the whole reason that I reached out to you in the first place was I had worked with a couple of authors, ghost written a book, it was a great book. They were two great people, all kinds of experience, it’s a really great book, I was very proud of it, I’m still very proud of the content and what we did especially considering some of the challenges. We got finished ghost writing the book and they said okay, we’re going to go get it printed and we’ll send you a copy.
A few months went by and they sent me an email, hey we’ve got them printed, got the cover design, got it going and your copy is in the mail. Said all right, so the package arrived and I’m excited to see because I’m not the author, I’m the ghost writer so it’s not my baby but it’s kind of my godchild if you want to make the analogy. I’m excited to see what it looks like, it’s finally here. I rip open the package and crack open the cover and Michele, they had just taken the Microsoft Word file that I had sent and just cut it instead of the page being 8 1/2 by 11 letter size they just cut the margins to where it was a 6 by 9 page.
That was almost the extent of what they did on the inside, so it’s just like if you go to a seminar, a presentation and somebody prints out the slide notes or their report or their handout in Microsoft Word, you expect it to look like it’s printed out in Microsoft Word because that’s what everybody uses. Whenever you are buying a $25 or $30 book and you open it and it looks like all it is just Microsoft Word document with two covers of a book it was so disappointing, it’s embarrassing and in fact that was the moment whenever I realized that I had to help my authors take the next step and find competent interior designers and typesetters, cover designers so that they would actually end up with a great product versus something that I am embarrassed for them to have.
Michele You’re so right Derek and I don’t actually blame authors for doing it that way because if you go online now the first thing that you will find or a host of self-publishing companies and other so-called experts that tell you that you should format your own book and that you should design your own cover, and we’ll give you a template and you can do it for free. You don’t have to hire a book designer, that is the message. In fact you almost can’t find firms like mine anymore because the companies that do this and in my view victimize authors they spend, and I did the research here, they spend $25,000 a month to come up first in the search engine. It’s just mind boggling and their whole reason for being is to cast a wide net and pull in as many authors as possible who have not done any research. Before they find out that they’d been scammed the companies are out there servicing the next batch of authors that they reeled in.
It’s quite astonishing and very difficult for anyone like myself who’s been crafting good books for a long time. It hurts the authors and now in some instances I hear authors telling each other don’t self-publish it’s a scam, but it’s not if you do it correctly, if you follow the best practices of book design that have been in practice for hundreds of years. A major publisher would never tell the author go ahead and format your book in Microsoft Word and we’ll run with it, the advice is just downright silly. But if you type self-publishing into the search engines that’s the advice you’re going to find.
Derek: At one time I read something and maybe it was in a conversation you and I had. You said that there is a difference between indie publishing or maybe you used the word self-publishing, but there’s a difference between that and do it yourself. Just because you self-publish doesn’t mean that you’re doing everything yourself.
Michele: Yes, I don’t know if anyone listening is aware of Dan Poynter, he’s passed on now but he basically when Amazon first came on scene he recognized that authors would now be able to create a book and put it up online for sale without going through a traditional publisher or a traditional distributor. He saw the opportunity in that and his original vision came true. He called this, at the time, stealth publishing which it is right, the author is taking on the role of the publisher and doing all the things that the publisher would ordinarily do which is to hire experts to craft, to edit a book and design the interior and design the cover and market it and so forth.
That went along for about 10 years and quite successfully as a matter of fact, but then entered the self-publishing companies that I was just talking about. They pitched their services to more of a consumer audience, not a professional audience and they knew that the average consumer who has always wanted to write a book would not do all that work. They would want an easier solution and so then they started with this do it yourself message. Now I don’t like to use the word self-publishing anymore, I like to use indie publishing, independent publishing because self-publishing has been defined now as do it yourself publishing. Independent publishing is you are an independent business owner in charge of your publishing enterprise, and those are two entirely different ways to approach getting a book out there.
Neither way is wrong. If you just want to produce a book for your friends and family then self-publishing is fine. If you want to produce a book for clients and to talk about your career or your coaching, or you want to use a book to get new business for yourself you cannot follow the self-publishing method. You can’t go the do it yourself route, and if you do that’s where all the trouble starts.
Derek: Michele I didn’t realize that Dan Poynter had passed away, I’m sorry to hear that.
Michele: Yes about a year ago.
Derek: I didn’t realize that.
Michele: He was a giant.
Derek: Yes, the father of self-publishing. I’ve got three, maybe four of his books right here on my bookshelf. I learned a lot from him, he’s a brilliant man. You say in that talking about the commercial aspect of having a professionally designed book, a couple of weeks ago Michele I saw the article where Barnes and Noble is going to start allowing self-published or indie published books to be sold on their bookshelves alongside books that have been traditionally published. I bet you a silver dollar that they are not going to have the kind of self-published, and I don’t mean to say this derogatory, but from the industry perspective amateurish books being sold on their bookshelves.
Michele: Oh no, they’re not and in fact this recent announcement from Barnes and Noble, it’s a great headline, it sounded like brand new something, some brand new opportunity, but it really isn’t all that different than the small publisher program they’ve always had. You still have to qualify, you have to have sold 1,000 books on your own in the last year, and you’re absolutely right Derek that they are not going to put a book on their shelf that is not properly designed and edited and done the right way because they know from experience that that kind of a book is not going to move off the shelf. No bookstore can afford to have merchandise on the shelf that doesn’t move.
A bookstore cares only about what the cover and the interior look like, the design. Libraries have a completely different point of view, they care about the content and they care about the index quite a few times, a lot of times. Barnes and Noble is a retailer and like any other retailer they want to put products on their shelf that look good and that will attract buyers.
Derek: Not to put too fine a point on it, but the reason that there are these typographic conventions, the reason that the traditions of typesetting exist is primarily because after centuries of putting words on page the people who make money from books discovered the things that helped books sell the most or helped people read the most and get the most out of books, which in turn led to more. Those traditions, those reasons, they have a commercial aspect behind them.
Michele: Well that’s true, if you think about it now major publishers, if it was possible for a major publisher to put out a book and by allowing their secretary to format it they would not spend money on cover design and interior design and layout. They know that they have to because that’s what sells the book. In one sense it’s silly almost for people to think that they can enter the brutally competitive industry of book publishing with an inferior product because the customer’s not going to forgive that anymore than they forgive a shoddy product of any kind. It’s hard to imagine why this narrative of do it yourselves has taken hold as it has.
Derek: You know what, you used this analogy somewhere before Michele, I’m almost dead sure it was you. That if you see someone who is in a poorly made suit you don’t have to be a tailor to appreciate the fact that the suit looks awful.
Michele: I did say that.
Derek: Say again?
Michele: I did say that and same thing with a good suit right? When you walk into someone, say a lawyers office and everyone there is wearing $2,000 suits you know it immediately. I hope there’s not too many lawyers listening.
Derek: Well there might be one or two but we’ll forgive them, we’ll forgive them. Best lawyer joke every, why don’t sharks eat lawyers?
Michele: I don’t know, why?
Derek: Professional courtesy. Now that we’ve offended lawyers we’ve got to move onto doctors and then let’s see, who’d be after doctors, dentists I guess. Getting down into the nitty gritty Michele if you’re ready let’s dive into the slides that you’ve so graciously provided us with and they’re posted on the page alongside the show notes. If you’re listening and you have the opportunity to go download them so that you can follow along visually and Michele can walk us through what we’ve been talking about for quite a few minutes, what it literally looks like on paper.
Michele: Well sure, I’ll be happy to do that. What we want a book to do when people first encounter it is make them say wow, I like that, I’ve never seen that before. That is the function of book design more than anything else like I said before. We want them to say to themselves I need this book, this is the book I’m looking for and not move on to the next title on the shelf or the next book down the line on the Amazon page. There’s a lot of ways we do that and there’s a lot of elements that have to work together. It’s the layout and the design, it’s the typography, it’s the trim size and the binding style, it’s even the paper although so many books are purchased online now that people don’t get to see the paper when they make that purchase decision. But they do get to see it and feel it and touch it when the package arrives.
All of these are what designers think about when we think about how to make your book the very best it can be and tell your message in the very best way that we can. The most important aspect of book design is that your book has to look like what it is. Now people just from experience, from life experience they expect different books to look different ways. For example, a gift book with full color typography and a few words on the page and usually a square format. It tells people this is a coffee table book, this is an inspirational book.
Derek: Which is the book we’re looking at on slide six, the butterfly effect.
Michele: Yes, see nobody has to tell us that that’s an inspirational book or a high value gift that we might want to give to somebody. The design tells us that before we have a chance to think about it. If you go to the next slide, the next example is a test preparation guide. Now the layout choices and the typesetting choices we would make for that type of book are entirely different because the function is different. We want students to be able to access the information and to move from one paragraph to another easily and be able to retain the information that they’re trying to study, and so we come up with a layout that does that. In this case two colors blue and black, wide outside margin to give the student room to make notes if that’s what they want to do and a space between the paragraphs to let them navigate from one place to another.
The third example is Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol. Now that’s a novel and it doesn’t have to be designed in a boring way just because it’s a novel, but we would do something entirely different with novels than we would with textbooks or business books or gift books. These are the things that designers are experienced in doing for you.
Derek: You and I we’ve done a couple of blog posts together where we talked about book covers, we talked about how important it is to have a genre specific cover. A thriller is always going to be probably dark with some kind of eye catching typography and it looks suspenseful and action packed. A cookbook is always going to be bright and airy, it’s always going to have some kind of food on some kind of surface so it’s always going to be a pie dish on a counter or pieces of fruit arranged and on a table. A business book is going to be broad bands of colors, lots of fonts, no or minimal images on the cover, so even from six feet away you can look at a glance and pretty much tell this is the fiction section, this is the cookbook section, this is the religious section, this is the business section. You’re saying with the interior of books that it’s pretty much the same, maybe not with the genres but with the purpose of the book.
Michele: That’s right, what the designer has to do is control the reader experience and hopefully control that experience in a way that’s beneficial to the reader so that they get the most out of the book and there’s different ways to do that. Fonts for example, choosing the fonts for your book it’s not a matter of choosing the font you like, but choosing the font that is more readable for the type of text that you’re presenting to the reader and there’s a whole science of font choice for that too. When people layout their own books or attempt to design their own books they’ll tend to overdo it with the fonts and maybe use something that is corny because they just happen to like it. I guess you could say a designer tamps down that impulse and makes sure that the fonts are actually doing a job, because if the reader notices the fonts then that means they’re not concentrating on the message. If you notice the typography in a book it means typographer has failed.
Derek: What is that great quote that said great design is invisible?
Michele: I don’t know that one. I remember Steve Jobs had a good one and he said that design is not about decoration, it’s about communication.
Michele: Yes, and that’s really even more true in book design than any other kind of design. We have to communicate that message to our buyer so that they understand what we’re trying to get across.
Derek: I guess in saying that you already hit slide 11. You’re talking about a designer’s job, a designer underneath the publisher, publisher’s job is to manage the readers experience, typesetting is how we do that.
Michele: Yes that’s correct and then going down to slide 12 here, back to that study guide I was talking about before we have a line space between the paragraphs and that’s not an arbitrary choice, we put that line space in there so that we can allow the student to grasp a chunk of material at a time. If we were to run all that text together in the way we do for novels for example, then studying would be much more difficult, it would be much more difficult to find your place and go back to it when you need to read something again. That’s where the science of typography comes in. In slide 13 I’m showing a novel and in a novel we want just the opposite, we want people to stay engaged with the story, we don’t want to interrupt them with a line of space between each paragraph. That’s a mistake you’ll often see in do it yourself layouts because the author will say well I like a space between the paragraph, but that’s really going to interfere with the reader’s experience if you are publishing a novel.
Derek: I had never noticed that, yes it makes perfect sense now that you point it out but never crossed my mind before having the chunks of information like you do in slide 12 versus the flow of text that you want in slide 13 there.
Michele: The point is that we’re trained for this and there’s more to it than people think and there’s way more to it than the self-publishing companies are telling people. That, I guess in a nutshell, is my message.
Derek: Do you have time? Can we go on to some of this other, I hate to call it [inaudible 00:35:35] because it’s really important, but these kind of really nitty gritty things that well you said one time it puts the gray in typesetter’s hair, it’s the things that you lose your mind over.
Michele: Sure, I’d be happy to go through it. In slide 14 for example there’s an issue in typesetting called kerning and that words refers to the space between the letters in a word. If you see what I’ve got there, I’ve typeset the word yesterday in two different ways. The first example is how that word would come out from just typing it in Microsoft Word or even in a designers page layout program without any intervention from the typesetter. You can see the spacing between the letters is not quite even and the period after the word is kind of out there, hanging out there, disconnected from the word, the space between the Y and the E is a little too big. When a typesetter goes in there and corrects those issues and tucks all those letters nicely together and brings the period in at the end you can see that that hangs together like word more so than the example above.
That sounds like I’m insane right, but why is that important? It’s important because when we read we do not look at the letters one at a time, we look at words one at a time and we take in that whole word as a unit. If we make the reader’s brain work hard with poorly spaced type it’s going to tire their eyes and the text is going to seem hard to read and it’s going to distract them. They could decide that they don’t like your book.
Derek: You’re just giving us the example of one word, but you multiply that by a typical book 50 or 60 or 70,000 words, you do this 70,000 times where your brain has to work that much harder, your eyes have to take up that much extra space. Then there’s also the commercial aspect of it, so if your words are closer together means that you take up less pages, means you have less pages in your book, means that your book is cheaper to print.
Michele: That’s correct and I show that on slide 15. Now you could see the top example, the word spacing and justified text is another way you can tell the difference between poor typesetting and good typesetting. The top example is a paragraph from a book that was laid out by an author using a Microsoft Word template. Now he happened to choose Ariel as the type font which I would never do, it’s the wrong font for almost any kind of book. You can see the word spacing varies quite a bit, there are some lines that are very tight and some lines that are very loose. Apparently because this author did not turn on hyphenation and that’s another thing we hear often is I don’t like hyphens. I know you don’t like hyphens but you’re really getting in the way of your reader’s comprehension if you don’t use them.
When the machine is asked to justify text on the left and on the right and you tell the machine not to use hyphens, the only way it can do that is to add big gaps between the words. It doesn’t add those big gaps all the time, so what you wind up with type is that mixture of tight and loose lines which is very distracting. In the bottom example on that same slide 15 I recreated the same sized type, the same font, the same and you can see the spacing is much more even and less distracting because there are hyphens, and additionally the paragraph is now seven lines instead of eight. That doesn’t sound like a big difference but with the average book page containing 30 lines of type or so, that small difference can reduce your page count and your printing costs by around 12%. It’s important, it’s important to the reader and it’s important to you as a business person because you want to maximize the dollars that you spend on this project so that you can make more money.
Derek: You’re right.
Michele: The next slide, slide 16 is an example of what we call rivers of white. It’s another issue that typesetters will routinely fix when we see it happen. Now this is fake text because just to demonstrate the problem, but sometimes when you set a block of text the word spaces will align in a very unfortunate way. A good typesetter will see this and will adjust the spacing to get rid of that odd pattern that is what we call a river of white in the text.
Derek: That’s almost like I’ve got a graphic design friend who loves negative space, so it’s the shapes, they’re not really shapes but they’re shapes that are suggested by everything else that’s around him. Here it’s like having, this would be, what is this a back slash that you see and you see it even though it’s not really there but just coincidentally because the spacing fell in just that way.
Michele: You see this in newspapers a lot because the column width is so narrow. Going on to slide 17 another thing that makes a book like a book is called the book lock. What this means is that the text begins and ends at the same point on every page. That looks easy to do but here’s where we run into even more book design rules when the text doesn’t fall the way it should. In book design we have to avoid two things called widows and orphans. Now that doesn’t mean we’re heartless people, it just means that we don’t want to distract the reader with things that are going to make them stop.
If you go to slide 18 in the top example a widow is the first line of the paragraph at the bottom of the page. At the bottom example an orphan is the last line of a paragraph at the top of a page. The way typesetters remember these definitions is by saying a widow is left behind and an orphan goes on alone, and this happens in book layout all the time, all the time.
Derek: That’s awful Michele. Widow goes on alone, an orphan gets left behind. I will not be forgetting that.
Michele: Again, that sounds like a picky little thing to be concerned about but when you’re reading if you encounter the first line of the paragraph at the bottom of a page now you have to stop and you have to think about what’s going to happen next and the same with the last line of a paragraph on the top of the page. These are things we try to ignore and because we’re constrained to the book lock we then have to go back and work other paragraphs on other pages in a subtle way to add or delete a line and make sure that all three of these things fall into alignment. This is why typesetters get gray hair.
I’m hearing an echo here, I don’t know if you are but it’s really hard to talk around this echo.
Derek: Yes, I was hearing it. I thought it was actually a little canary or something on your end because it was talking. You’re not on a speaker or something by chance are you Michele?
Michele: No, I’m using a headset on a land line, I don’t know where it’s coming from but it seems to be gone now.
Derek: Knock on wood. We can cut this fun part out too.
Michele: [inaudible 00:44:45] to the recording because I hear it really bad.
Derek: Tell you what, in case it’s on my end I’m going to hang up and try calling back the other way. Also my dogs are going a little crazy so I’m having to spritz them.
All right, let’s see what this does.
Michele: We want to pick up with 19, what do you want to do?
Derek: Yes you can just go ahead and say, so looking at slide 19 dah dah dah dah. All right, let’s go.
Michele: Looking at slide 19 is my last example of bad typography and this issue is called ladder, and a ladder is when you have too many hyphens in a row and that’s something that distracts the reader quite a bit. This is one of many book design rules that typesetters deal with on a regular basis. Some of the other rules around hyphens or that you shouldn’t have a hyphen after two letters, you should never hyphenate a proper noun, you should never have four hyphens in a row and so these are all things that taken together make a book page look like a book and not like something that we did in Microsoft Word. That’s another issue that typesetters deal with all the time.
Derek: Like you say, all of these things from an outsider’s perspective may look a little nit picky or may look almost unimportant, but whenever you take in to account all of these little conventions times 100, 150, 200, 300 pages you start talking about real differences in whether the reader picks up the book and reads another chapter or finally puts it down just because for some reason they don’t enjoy reading the book.
Michele: In my experience talking to authors, what the do it yourself authors usually do is they look only at their own book as they’re creating it and of course it’s fine to do that but it’s not the whole picture. I tell people okay, if you want to try to do it yourself go ahead, but then take your creation to your local Barnes and Noble and I want you to compare what you did to a professionally designed book from a major publisher on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. I have no doubt whatsoever that you would see a difference and so will your buyers.
Derek: I think that sooner or later the industry has to come back into balance. I think over the last 15 years or so with the walls to publishing that have come tumbling down, the advent of technology to being able to hire independent professionals like you versus having to go to a publisher to find that talent, all of those things have shaken up the industry quite a bit. I’ve got to believe that it won’t be but a few more years before things kind of find an equilibrium and people realize that I wanted to do this book and I’ve only sold 10 copies, nine of those were to my family members, so maybe I should go talk to a professional and find out what professionals do to sell professional grade books.
Michele: Well I certainly hope you’re right Derek. Interestingly enough, some of the big publishers are creating self-publishing company arms to mislead authors, so I don’t know where it’s going to shake out. They see the money and they’re going after it and actually doubling down on the misleading messages that authors are given. I don’t know, I’d like to think that buyers will always appreciate quality and they will always vote with their dollars and that’s going to take care of the problem.
Derek: I think so, well in the very least I hope so. Well Michele we’re running up against the clock here, so I want to give you an opportunity, would you mind doing two things? One, sharing a couple of different books that we could go read for reference or something that it maybe introduces people to typesetting or book design in general, some great books you recommend. Two, giving people a little bit of additional information if they want to get a hold of you. I will start off that book list by saying Publish Like the Pros which you graciously give away on your website for free, at least the e-version, the ebook.
Michele: Yes I do, I wrote Publish Like the Pros, A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing and you can download that at www.1106design.com and hopefully it’s got some good tips in there for if you want to learn how real publishers produce a book and why it makes a difference for your book in the end. In the slides here that Derek is going to make available to you I have a recommended reading list with a dozen books or so, eight or 10 books on typesetting. One of them is The Digital Type Design Guide and it’s called A Page Designer’s Guide to Working With Type and that will give you a good view of all the issues involved that are involved in book design and working with type in general.
Even if you’re not going to do a book yourself, knowing about typography is useful because it’ll help you make better documents, whatever kind of documents you’re making. Another one, which is a really great remedy for insomnia is called The Complete Manual of Typography, A Guide to Setting Perfect Type. I have to keep laughing right? Then there’s another one called Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works by Eric Spiekermann and that’s really a lighthearted funny look but with a serious message of how to make your words most accessible to your readers which is important no matter what you’re doing with those words.
Derek: Well you’ve made it easy for us giving us the whole list, thank you.
Michele: You’re welcome and I hope I was able to provide a couple of useful tips today to your audience and I thank everybody for listening.
Derek: Michele, so in addition to your website you also do Mentoring Monday. Now tell everybody if they want to follow you on Mentoring Mondays how to get in touch with you.
Michele: Oh sure, that’s every Monday morning except for federal holidays I get on the phone, we do a conference call with Judith Briles who is known as the book shepherd and she is another expert in book publishing, very knowledgeable person. She’s the author of 30 books herself, some of them traditionally published and she now spends her time coaching authors at the very highest level. At noon eastern time every Monday morning you can dial in to 218-632-9854 and the access code is 1239874444 and Judith and I will answer your questions about anything related to publishing.
Derek: It’s not everyday you’ve got two experts like that that make themselves available for any Q&A that comes up, that’s generous of you all Michele.
Michele: We need to counter the bad messages that I just went into and so that’s one of the ways we can do it.
Derek: Well Michele thank you again so much for sharing your expertise and your … I’m not going to count the year, you already made the joke about dating yourself. Your many years of expertise in typesetting from back whenever you all were pouring molds in lead to doing it on computer now, so I really appreciate your time.
Michele: Thank you Derek, I appreciate the opportunity and I’ll be happy to answer any questions that your listeners have anytime.
Derek: Great, thanks again.
Michele: Thank you.