What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Book Design: Leave It to the Pros

Writers, take note. Treat your word processors like a typewriter with memory. Don't design your manuscripts -- that is, no boxes, no tables, not a bunch of different fonts and colors, not different font sizes, and so on. Not only will all that formatting be for naught when your precious prose gets dumped into some page design program, but, nothing personal, hopefully your strength is in writing and authoring. Just because you have page design tools at your fingertips doesn't make you a book designer, any more than having a piano in your house makes you Mozart.

Here's a comment I received today from a book designer I've worked with. She's speaking here mostly of cover designs, but many of the same feelings apply to a book's insides as well:

I love it when I have a client who says "Wow, this is great!" I seem to go in spurts, I will get huge amounts of positive feedback for a period, and then I'll have several clients who aren't satisfied with my brilliance (IMHO) and insist on tweaking incessantly or seeing more choices. I designed some covers a few months back for a client that I thought were fresh, original, and compelling. Nope, didn't fly. Then, after much struggling with getting something that made everyone happy (author, marketing dept., publisher, distributor, etc) I gave them a cover that was attractive, but to me looked like 100 others already out there. That's the one they chose. The lesson to me was that I can't give my clients design sensibility, I have to design for the design sense they have. Ugh.

I worked years ago for perhaps the most ill-qualified individual in my working career. She'd hired me to edit a scholarly economics journal. A friend of my wife's was a great illustrator, and I convinced my boss to feature his work for two articles per issue: one on the cover, and one that would appear only on the inside. The boss's idea was that the illustrations needed to replicate reality . . . that if we were showing a ship that was to represent imports and exports, then the cargo on the ship had to be shown in direct relation to the actual percentages of US imports and exports. So, if 50 percent of the imports were automobiles and 25 percent were electronics, then the car had to be twice the size of the container clearly marked electronics. This kind of thinking drives creative people crazy . . . well, it drives just about anyone crazy.

Lesson: leave the design stuff to the people who know what they are doing. If you want a book to fulfill your vision for it 100 percent, self-publish it and maintain complete control over the product. If you want to hire pros, give them the latitude they need to do their jobs. That's not to say you shouldn't have input, but realize where your own strengths are and stick with them.

1 comment:

moi said...

Amen. I was once in the graphic design/printing industry. Everyone with a PC and Publisher was suddenly Picasso – made us all nuts. Of course, everyone with a word processor is now a writer. Ain't democracy grand . . .