November 18, 2010

Ask an Editor November 2010

Our questions so far this month mostly have to do with publishing. The first question is a general one that seems to be emerging from some of our discussions. While I’m going to take a stab at answering all four, I’d be glad of some extra expertise from anyone who’d like to jump in. Barbara Sjoholm

  1. Where’s the best place to start learning more about self-publishing? Is there any standard book, or should I take a class, or just try to educate myself online?        
 A good place to start might be to go to Dan Poynter’s website for some free information and an overview. I’ve also used his two Self-Publishing Manuals, which are directed to writers, as a research tool. The main manual has been around for many years and has gone through numerous revisions to keep up with changing times. It’s basic but thorough. He starts with reasons to self-publish and how to design and produce a book (warning: his own book isn’t particularly nicely designed), and then moves into selling and marketing a book. Volume 2 is a newer addition and covers a great deal of territory regarding print-on-demand, e-books and other technologies for producing and marketing a book.

In addition to reading these books, I’d recommend going to all the websites of businesses that work with self-publishers and downloading or asking for information about their services. My own plan is to put together the material I’ve been collecting about different formats and technologies in a binder and/or  on my computer and to keep updating it. Every couple of weeks I try to explore something new—right now I’m curious about Smashwords, which just publishes e-books.

I also think classes, especially on e-books and print-on-demand would be a great idea. I’m not sure about some of what I see advertised on the Web, but I see that Mediabistro, which offers a multitude of online classes for freelance writers and editors, does have a few offerings on design, publishing, and marketing, including a class on InDesign. In the Northwest the organization Book Publishers Northwest lists classes on their local blog. This group is a great resource for all kinds of independent and self-publishing information.

  1. I am working with a memoir writer who just wants to publish a small number of books for her family. She wants to include a lot of photos. She says she might use Is Lulu the best for this kind of project? I’ve heard mixed reviews of their design/formatting capabilities. I don’t know what to advise the author. –BH
 If it were up to me, I might steer the author away from Lulu for a project involving photographs, and instead advise the author to look into another online book creation concern called Blurb. They are based in San Francisco and specialize in photo books and artfully designed books by authors and artists. They offer free bookmaking software called BookSmart®. On their website they offer tutorials and appear to have good customer support. From the photos on the site, at least, the books look well-designed. I’d be interested, by the way, to hear editors’ experiences of working with authors who have used Lulu’s design formats.

  1. How would you suggest scheduling developmental editing projects? One at a time, with faster turnaround, or several overlapping with longer turnarounds?
This is one of those questions with no simple answer, particularly when you’re working with fiction and creative nonfiction authors who generally don’t have deadlines for developmental editing. My own experience has been that I can only read as fast as I can read and it’s easier for me to work serially. Especially when I’m first encountering a manuscript, I like to be able to focus on just that novel or memoir and think about it when I’m not reading it. But there also are many times when I’m reading drafts of chapters or sections or responding to questions from an author, and I’m working those responses in as needed. Thus, I seem to find projects overlapping at different stages.

  1. What should I do if an author I’ve worked with asks for recommendations for designers and proofreaders. I know people for proofreading, but I don’t know any designer’s work really well. Even so, I probably know better how to find one than the author does, so I’m conflicted about whether to offer advice or not. --KF

This brings up the question for me of how you would find a [book] designer. I’m thinking that Book Publishers Northwest, mentioned above, might have good leads in this area. Does the Northwest Editors Guild compile a list? Are you conflicted because the designer might turn out not to be a good fit? That's always a tricky thing.

1 comment:

  1. Because you mentioned Lulu, I'll just say that I just had a problematic experience with them. I proofread pages for an author who had had those pages designed per Lulu's template (or so everyone thought). The pages that Lulu printed were wildly different in size from the PDF that was uploaded, and frankly, not pleasant to read. Because the author hadn't paid extra for direct contact with a Lulu representative, she now has no way to contact anyone to ask for an explanation or a fix for future books that might be printed. (Oh, and Lulu priced the 6"x9" paperback book at $41, which was also a surprise to the author.)

    If an author is committed to using Lulu, s/he should definitely commit to the extra charge necessary to be able to talk to someone there. But I won't be recommending Lulu to anyone.