One hour and eleven minutes of me trying not to swear

The awesome Laura Dawson invited me to do a webinar on the basics of book design, as part of a series for Bowker’s Our kindly hosts/co-presenters at Data Conversion Laboratory have posted a video of the session, so now you can follow along with bated breath as I try to remember not to say “fuck” for more than an hour.1 Can she do it? Watch the video to find out!

Because the video is video and my slides are about fiddly details, I’ve made my segment of the presentation into a PDF, so you can see what I’m talking about: “Making Beautiful Books” webinar slides (2 MB)
Continue reading “One hour and eleven minutes of me trying not to swear”

  1. Yes, my portion of the presentation ran about fifteen minutes too long, because I hadn’t timed it beforehand and couldn’t see my system clock while screen-sharing the slides from PowerPoint. Sorry, Allan. []

Manually editing ruby on Chinese characters in InDesign

WARNING: The following is exceedingly geeky, but I’m posting it here so that six months from now, when I’ve utterly forgotten how I did this, I can look it up. And who knows? Maybe someone else will want to know how to do this, too. Or will want to tell me I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Although the Chinese-owned publishing company where I now am managing editor mostly produces English-only books, occasionally I do have to deal with Chinese characters in InDesign. This week, I started working on a series of dual-language poetry books that were previously published in China, and I want to rework these into a single parallel-text edition for U.S. readers, particularly students. Fortunately, the Chinese edition was set in InDesign—this is not always the case—so I’m able to rework the files we received from the original publisher.
Continue reading “Manually editing ruby on Chinese characters in InDesign”

Castoff Calculator

Wang 700 Advanced Programmable Calculator

Yesterday at work I was generating price breakdowns for a bunch of POD printing situations, doing it the old-fashioned way by dedicating a separate chunk of a spreadsheet to each variation, when it occurred to me that maybe it would be easier to set up a dynamic calculator for these scenarios in Python, which I’ve been studying on and off (mostly off) for a while now.

Then it occurred to me that I might not even have to leave the comfort of my spreadsheet, since most such applications include functions for calculating and doing other useful things. I rarely use anything more complex than =sum(), but I know the other stuff exists. Mostly I needed to be able to set up conditional behavior, so as long as there was an if/then function . . .
Continue reading “Castoff Calculator”

Cracking the coding code

Woman in 1940s garb standing in front of a huge machine with lots of rotors

Got an e-mail from a fellow book designer this morning asking, “Do you have a blog post about marking up a MS for the designer/typesetter?” Um, I couldn’t remember; had to search my own blog to find out. I found I’d written two posts in which such issues come into play—

  • May I take your order? (September 30, 2006)—in which I show the sample pages I prepared to instruct a typesetter on a moderately complicated book design
  • How stylish are you? (January 19, 2008)—in which I listed and explained the most common style names I use when marking up or laying out a bookish document

But both of these posts are written from the designer’s desk, whereas my friend was, he later explained, looking for information that might help a fledgling editor (in this case, an editorial intern) understand how to mark up a manuscript. To which I said, “Um, hello, the Chicago Manual?” I know there’s some discussion of markup right there in the front, but I realized I hadn’t consulted that section in the 15th edition in years, and I hadn’t yet checked it in the 16th edition at all. So I looked! And found that there is now a sizable chunk of appendix devoted to markup, with an eye toward producing multiple output formats—print, HTML, e-books, and more. That appendix is heavy going, though, and more theoretical than practical. How might a designer or production editor explain, in, say, under twenty minutes, how a clever intern should mark up a manuscript?

Continue reading “Cracking the coding code”

“you will need to pick an attractive font”


An amazing opportunity! If only I were a cover designer . . .

Book Cover Designer Needed For Regular Work (Anywhere)

Date: 2010-09-13, 9:43AM EDT
Reply to:

We are looking for a book cover designer for regular work. Have 10 book covers that will need to get done immediately.

Note that we will provide the background to use for each cover, you will need to pick an attractive font (some will be provided) as well as colors to match the background, position the titles appropriately and make sure the PDF file meets our formatting requirements.

Thus, no original design other than text and minor boxes here and there will be required.

Will have regular work. Pay is $15 per cover. Will have dozens of them every week. Payment through Paypal.

The following are required:

  1. Ability to work fast and meet deadlines.
  2. Illustrator/Photoshop Skills
  3. Good eye for fonts/colors and the ability/passion for making beautiful covers
  4. Excellent communication skills and availability by Skype email.

If interested please email with:

  2. Resume.
  3. At least two relevant design samples
  4. A paragraph on why you think you’d be a good match for us.

Thank you for your time!

  • Location: Anywhere
  • Compensation: $15 per Cover (Paypal)
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

PostingID: 1951195804

(Spotted in new york craigslist > manhattan > jobs > art/media/design jobs by No. 2 Pencil.)

Photo: darts by sethstoll / Seth Stoll; some rights reserved.


Eirk Newth / India Amos
Left: Eirik Newth. Right: Me.
Easy mistake; could happen to anyone, we’re so alike. Except that, y’know, he’s a genius.

Here (with some corrections), in case anybody else interpreted my posts from this weekend in similar ways, is a way-too-long comment I just posted in response to Doyce Testerman’s Publishing, Charlotte, and John. You should start there, or it won’t make much sense. The part of Doyce’s post where poor Eirik gets dragged into things and where my grumbling gets taken somewhat out of context is at the very end:

In the postscript to this piece, Eirik Newth explains why Big Publishing consistently cites costs to create ebooks that fall miles outside my experience and expectation.

Short version: they’re doing it wrong.

Long version:

Publishers are still producing paper books the “X-Acto–and–wax” way and then outsourcing their e-book production to other companies, which probably automate the conversion process, and then they’re not practicing any kind of QA on what comes back, because nobody gives a shit, because the people who make the decisions don’t read e-books.

No wonder they think making an ebook is an expensive, time-consuming process.

Yes, you read that right. Publishers aren’t producing workable electronic files when they produce a paper book — their product essentially has to be OCR’d by a third party company to get an ebook out of it. They start with a hardcopy and make someone else turn it into an electronic version, which they’ll never read.

Oops. So I sez to him I sez, No, actually, you didn’t read that right:
Continue reading “Clarifications”


talk to your kids about indexing

Via e-mail, Lars R. asks, “Would you consider doing a write-up on your blog on the production of indices and how indexing relates to the design process as a whole?”

Some topics I’m interested in include

– The usefulness of InDesign’s indexing feature (as opposed to third party programmes if they exist, or simply manually typing in numbers)
– The practicalities of the designer being involved with the nitty gritty versus any sort of indexing specialist working independently)
– At which stage in the production process indexing begins and ends
– Differences between independent/inhouse publishers and large commercial affairs
– Does the designer generally have any input to level of detail, extent etc, or is it exclusively a case of matter having priority over form? How does the index influence castoff?

Continue reading “Indexigning”