What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

sprucing up the books

For the past several days, novelist Jason Pinter has been posting responses by publishing people to the question “What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?” There’s a wide range of recommendations, from people in many parts of the industry. Some snippets that I found worth noting (in most cases, these are excepts from longer comments):

I’d get the major publishers together on a standard e-book format, one that’s DRM-free and not tied to a device (like the kindle). Most important, we need to get e-book prices down. Charging the same price (or more!) than a hardcover for a digital file is absolutely ludicrous—we’re hamstringing this technology at a crucial phase in its development.
David Moldawer, editor, Portfolio/Penguin Books [part 2]

 

If you’re not passionate about books, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to fight for something better, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to dust yourself off the ground, get out of this business. If you’re not helping others and you’re being selfish about preserving your meager place on the ladder, get out of this business. If on the other hand you’re living in the present and paying attention to the future, and you have the chops and the fortitude to persuade the stubborn holdouts . . . , then you’re absolutely vital to the future of publishing. You’re needed. And you must go in and change things for the better.
Ed Champion, editor of Reluctant Habits and creator of ‘The Bat Segundo Show’ [part 2]

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How to pick better fonts

golden section tattoo

How do you pick your fonts? It’s easy! Just look at type samples and find one that catches your eye. Throw that one out.

All this month, Tom Christensen of the always interesting Right Reading has been guest-blogging over at ForeWord magazine. For his final post, he offers “a simplified speed course in making books that readers will want to pick up”: “Book Design Primer.”

It’s very basic, as advertised, but he mentions a way of using the golden section that I’d never considered, so you, too, may learn something.

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Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

pond scum

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I should feel jazzed that a person I used to work with, who at that time did not know InDesign from Address Book, is still using my files as templates for new books today in his busy freelance design business. Being a spiteful, negative, unforgiving person, however, I instead find it just kind of disgusting. Because even though this person is apparently now making a nontrivial chunk of his income by designing and typesetting books (and perhaps double-billing for it, too), he clearly still doesn’t know typography from a hole in the ground.
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Build a copyeditor from scratch!

stack of manuscript pages

My stats page tells me that that nice Brian Winters has namechecked me again over at Metafilter. This time, it’s to Baethan, who wants to work in publishing. Her question was,

What sort of courses, experiences, certifications, degrees, etc. should I pursue to tailor me for a career in editorial publishing?

When I return to college in the spring, I’ll be a sophomore. I want to use the next three years to make me into a dream applicant for a job in editorial publishing- proofreading or copy editing. Random House’s example of an entry-level job, “Editorial Assistant“, sounds like what I plan to apply for.

I’d like to work in fiction, preferably fantasy, but I’m not too picky. I also have an interest in art history and some knowledge of music. I really like learning and I know from a high school chemistry class that working my way through technical papers is a lot of fun, so I probably wouldn’t mind a nonfiction editorial job. I don’t think I’d like to work for a magazine. I want to stay the heck away from newspaper jobs. Oh, freelancing is also something I’d rather not do for a living (though I suppose it would be good while I’m in college). I love cubicles.

What sort of resume would make me attractive to a publishing company? I’ll be attending one of Connecticut’s state schools (not UConn, probably) so any ideas on majors and classes would be welcome. (SCSU has Journalism and English as majors, so I’m thinking a combination of the two would suit.) I’ve also been looking for relevant distance learning courses, but haven’t had any luck. Money is not abundant, so I don’t want to end up going to grad school.

Finally, what can I learn at home that will be valuable in an editing job? I know my vocabulary could use improving. My knowledge of grammar is lacking- I never learned grammar, I just got a feel for what’s correct and incorrect through reading. Any good websites or books for this?

In short, I’m looking for all your knowledge regarding copy editing. I believe I’ve read all the pertinent MeFi questions, but please point me to any you feel I should pay particular attention to. (Er, to which I should pay particular attention?) Thanks!

There’s some good advice at MeFi already, including the most obvious—study the Chicago Manual and Strunk & White, get an internship, volunteer—but I’m wondering if y’all have additional suggestions.
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Job application tips

help wanted

I’m in the process of hiring an assistant, someone who can toil away at the work thing while I’m at school making crafts, and I’ve finally dug down to the bottom of the pile of résumés that began pouring in thirty minutes after I posted the job. (And if you haven’t heard from me yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t—I’m still sorting and procrastinating, as will soon become more obvious.) And do you want to know what’s the most striking thing about most of these hopefuls? They are completely wasting their time. And mine, of course, but mostly their own. Because they’re not only not going to get a job with me, they’re not going to get a job with anyone unless that person is as slovenly and illiterate as these applicants.

Howlers spotted among the hundred-odd submissions include

  • Misspelling or camel-capitalizing my company’s name
    • Notebook
    • Next book
    • Nextbbook
    • NextBook
  • Misspelling the name of a past or present employer
    • FexEx
    • Merril Lynch
    • Pareksy Ctr. [This is at my own college, so I know it’s Paresky]
    • BabyAlpalca.org
    • Rollingstone Magazine
  • Misspelling a degree or job title
    • bachelors | masters
    • B.F.A | G.P.A | F.I.T | C.U.N.Y
    • assitant [I feel that this should be a word, but if it were, it would denote someone who is an undesirable employee]
    • photo- retoucher
    • Communication’s Coordinator
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of a piece of software the applicant supposedly knows inside out
    • PhotoShop
    • Quark Express
    • the In Design program
    • Word Press
    • In-Design CS3
    • Abode Photoshop / Abode Illustrator / Abode InDesign [this is presumably marketed as a hamlet]
    • Indesign
    • word, excel [but the same person managed to type PowerPoint]
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of the site where the applicant found the listing
    • Media Bistro
    • media bistro
    • MediaBistro.com

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Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question

disgusted cat

Even though their CD-ROM and its tech support suck, I still love the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A:

Q. I’m editing a textbook that references a play. Should it be “Act 3,” “act three,” or “act 3”? A solution to this mystery would be greatly appreciated. I’ve looked at CMOS a hundred times for help with this issue.

A. Wow—a hundred times? If you can suggest how we can make section 8.194 more clear, we’ll try to do better in the next edition: “Words denoting parts of long poems or acts and scenes of plays are usually lowercased, neither italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks . . . act 3, scene 2.”

 

Q. At the annual meeting of our local PBK chapter, dispute on the pronunciation of “archival” arose: whether the stress falls on the first or the second syllable. Give us your wisdom. I will pass it on in the column I write weekly in a local paper about any subject that pops into my head.

A. As a style guide for writers, CMOS must resist the temptation to weigh in on an issue of pronunciation. We are editors, absorbed in our manuscripts. We can go for days without even speaking. I suggest you consult the linguists who write dictionaries for this purpose. (I’m sorry this won’t give you anything to put in your column, but thanks for your help with mine.)

 

Q. Is it “cell phone” or “cel phone”? I am working on a crash deadline, and would appreciate a quick response. Thank you so much!

A. Any writer who has deadlines should also have a dictionary. I always swear I’m not going to look up words for people, but it’s like being a mom and picking up socks—something just makes me do it. It’s “cell phone.”

Please buy a dictionary—and pick up your socks.

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Books on the why/how of book interior design?

Woman consulting a book

Commenter “elle” is trying to find a book that’s “kind of like a manual on how to design interiors.”

Like why you use a space break, why you indent certain amounts, why chapters start new right and things that break down the skeleton of a book. It’s something that is never really taught and you kind of do these things without a reason why, its simply because “you just do.” Do you know why a part opener always starts new right backed blank? I don’t. I just know it does.

Why do we have double breaks? Why does the text start flush left afterwards?

Anyone? Anyone? The usual books I recommend are The Elements of Typographic Style and The Complete Manual of Typography, but neither of these goes into the reasons behind design conventions, as far as I can recall.

Suggestions?

Photo: Girl inspector confers with a worker as she makes a a careful check of center wings for C-47 transport planes, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer. From the Library of Congress’s Flickr project. No known copyright restrictions.