Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 11/10/06

Oh what a wonderful world. I have been getting really annoyed at the links and links and more links that The Big Bad Book Blog have been serving up (I am conscious of the hypocrisy/irony here) and then today they served up a wonderful piece going in depth into the mysteries of buying/getting front table exposure in superstore Borders.

I found some interesting news today on a newly discovered blog called New Media Trends. The post covers the fascinating changes in the Danish Newspaper industry. Well worth reading and really offers a perspective on what the world of rapid innovation looks like.

Jeff Jarvis posts some nice thoughts on the whole Google/YouTube thing.

Two others that really deserve a look: The Rejecter is a literary agent’s assistant’s blog and Working Towards the Betterment of Publishing is by a government contractor and amateur novelist.

And last but not least: Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Think before you sign & do it!

Eoin Purcell


I talked in my last post about how to deliver a final text in Word. I thought today that I might also post some thoughts on manuscripts and contracts and how they relate.

All too often authors are so concerned with getting their book contract agreed that they pay a little less attention to the detail of the contract. They also tend not to think in terms of the editor and the publishers pressures. Now that is all fair enough in one sense. But in another this thoughtlessness can be exceptionally damaging to the working relationship because it creates big problems for the publisher.

Three main problems can arise that cause problems in my experience to date:

    1) Late Delivery
    2) Extent issues (manuscript longer or shorter than agreed)
    3) Content issues (again substantially different from the agreed content)

And these are problems for you because?

Most publishers operate a rigid timetable. Six – nine months before a book is published the sales force will be briefed and they will attempt to pre-sell titles to large chains, independents and other outlets. That means things like price, page extent, cover design, image numbers and colour have to be locked down and ready for the sales department at an early stage.The contract forms the basis for these details.

From terrible experience I can assure you that missing these deadlines is exceptionally counter productive to the process, engendering only derision, discomfort and distrust on all sides. It may not seem very flexible (and it is not) but those are (at least for now) the rules of the trade game and if you want to play that game you play the rules.

As you can see then for the publisher to have all those details locked in delivery of the manuscript on time and to contract is literally vital. Some publishers will take manuscripts a year before publication others longer and for those who operate a little closer to the edge they may take manuscript delivery much closer to the date of release. That makes it especially disastrous if you deliver late. The schedule goes awry, work that should be done one month drifts into another and obstructs work that should have been done then. All in all late delivery endangers the timetable and thus the proper release of your book, never a good idea.

No one will have a problem with an early delivery. Though the author may wonder why matters have not happened earlier as he/she got the text in on time or early, the reason is of course the same reason why a late delivery is such a dramatic problem, publishing timetables.

Almost like the early delivery issues, a manuscript considerably shorter than envisaged is not the worst of issues. Unless the cover has been printed before delivery in which case large issues might arise and the cover may have to be scrapped and reprinted. A great way to cost your publisher money and lose their favour!

Text that exceeds the contracted length is a problem for so many reasons:

    a) It may require printed covers to be scrapped and reprinted.
    b) It increases costs of paper and thus forces the publisher to accept a lower/non-existent profit or raise the price.
    c) If these issues arise after the book has been pre-sold the publisher is faced with pissing off retailers or cutting the book to length or taking a hit.

All in all you will have a very angry publisher on your hands simply because you failed to deliver the text at the right length. Bravo!

I am sure you have spotted the trend here, late delivery, not to contract delivery or substantially different to contract delivery makes for a very annoyed publisher, a messed up schedule and a book that needs very little to tip it into the also ran category. But all of this is avoidable.

Avoiding Disaster

Don’t sign up without fully considering the deadlines, delivery details and the conditions. It’s kinda simple but so often overlooked it hurts! Only agree to deadlines you can keep. Write the length agreed. Write the style and form agreed unless you agree before delivery to change tack. I could write more on reading the contract but that too is for another post.

See, nothing too challenging there.

What is more if, despite doing everything right, you see an issue arise, contact the publisher ASAP and say so. They will welcome the early warning that might prevent expenditure and timetable difficulties and they will certainly prefer to know before they have started submitting the book to retail buyers.

Getting ready for the weekend!


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


Print Ain’t Broke

Eoin Purcell

Jessica Coen moves to Vanity Fair

Some really intriguing news I have been meaning to post about is the news from The Huffington Post and Micropersuasion that Jessica Coen one of the keys to Nick Denton’s Gawker blog will jump over to Vanity Fair. She will become their deputy online editor. Read her own parting words here.

Seems to me that there has not been much made of this move even though I would say it’s a pretty big deal in one sense. It shows the power print still has.

But she will be the deputy ONLINE editor!!

How you are asking is that displaying the power of print. Well she is online editor for one of the most incredible print brands around. And part of the stable of Conde Nast titles that still carry enormous weight.

It just reminds us all that print is not going away. New online brands/blogs will struggle to beat off the competition of the big print brands as they move online in a real and effective way. Firstly talent will want to work there as with Jessica, secondly the inbuilt recognition will allow them to rapidly build readership online.

I am not saying that this is a death knell for blogs and new media companies, far from it, merely that they all need to remind themselves that the bar for survival is high and that the old media companies will have no mercy and deep pockets when and if they finally make the online plunge with gusto.

Stating the Obvious