The wonders of final documents

Eoin Purcell

One key stage for an author (and for their editor too) is the manuscript submission stage or delivery as we call it here. This is when the final document is given to the publisher.

The manuscript itself could be a simple text book, a more complicated book involving images and text or a highly illustrated book with little text. One thing that really helps authors and editors is if they are operating from the same sheet. I thought it might help to jot down a few suggestions. As ever it pays to hold in mind that all publishing houses differ and their delivery guidelines may vary so do ask your editor for their house specific guidelines.

I apologise if some parts of this little post are a tad dull (it’s often the dull stuff that is the most important).

I cannot stress enough the importance of ONE file (with a small exception)

If for no other reason than the strong likelihood that an error in combining the text could lead to an error in the running order of text at the proofing stage, writers should always deliver the text as a single file. There is nothing more frustrating for an editor than to be presented with a disc that has 40 or 100 individual files that need to be combined before the text is available for editing. It is so easy for something to go wrong with multiple files it is almost funny:

    1) In copying and pasting a sentence might be missed.
    2) In pasting a chapter might accidentally be pasted over, or pasted in the wrong order.
    3) The formatting might change dramatically or be lost in the final document so that quotes loose their prominence or any number of issues may arise.
    4) These are all compounded if the author has neglected to provide a contents or at the very least an overview of the document!

I mentioned an exception and that is if there is a separate caption list for the text. These are sometimes better set out in a separate document numbered to be exactly the same as the relevant image (more on images numbering below).

Remember: A word Document is NOT a book

One of the ever present temptations of an author is to try and make their word document look like it would in a book. This is not a good idea at all. Firstly the spacing will just annoy most editors who will have to rework the spacing and formatting before even starting a line or copy-edit! Extra work and unnecessary if the author just follows a few simple rules:

    1) Avoid auto formatting that word just decides on (Quite possibly the single worst feature of word. I mean how lazy do they think we are?).
    2) Avoid tabs. if you have lots of info and wish to place it in a word document learn how to make a table. It saves times, looks neater and will be a gift for your editor.
    3) Avoid extra line spaces. Do not double space lines (if the book requires it this can be done very easily at design stage) and do not return or add a page break so that a page looks like it does in a book (again properly done at the design stage this will take about 10 seconds).
    4) Make your heading style consistent i.e.: Make all chapter titles one format and sub headings another.

Just always hold in mind that while word is a wonderful program (and unless you are actually using it to page your own book which is a whole other story) your text will be lifted from word and transferred to one of the professional layout and design packages that publishers use. Therefore your efforts to make a text “look like a book”, will result only in work for everyone.

Images and illustrations

Resolution and size:
If you are submitting images in digital format make sure you have the correct resolution as required by your publisher. This may mean scanning an image at a higher resolution than the default setting on your scanner and ensuring too that when scanning the default size settings have been increased to meet and size requirements that your publisher has. These tasks are often fairly easily done and can make life very easy for both you and the editor when the time comes to it.

All too often people overlook number structure for images. I strongly favour either a three digit or a four digit system such as 000-999 or 0000-9999. This may seem a little crazy but if you use this system the images will always appear in numerical order on your computer or disc and will therefore be easy to locate and change/edit/replace. If you use a two digit system 00-99 the numbers bunch up in strange ways and annoy you and the editor.

Common Sense

Overall a little common sense is the best route forward. Call your publisher and ask their advice. Think of the ramifications of your choice decisions and act the way your thoughts suggest!

Enjoying a good Thursday