Word on a Whim

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Who judges a book by its cover?

A short time spent researching the subject suggests that people do judge books by their covers – but the majority of these were selling their book cover design services.

Having access to a PC with Photoshop CS3 installed, I decided to try saving a few bob by making my own book cover.  I had never used Photoshop and mistakenly thought that when I opened the package it would be obvious what I was supposed to do with it.  It wasn’t.  Not to me, anyway. Fortunately, people have taken the trouble to put helpful tutorials on the internet, and after chipping away at my project over the last few weeks, I have a book cover that looks okayish on the screen.  But it has taken me far longer than I expected and has eaten into my precious writing time.  And I couldn’t reproduce it – I have no idea really how I got it to this stage.

There are in fact two covers, one for the Kindle version, which is just the front cover, and one for the paperback, which from left to right, has the back cover with the ‘blurb’, followed by the spine, followed by the front cover.

I decided to print a copy of the paperback version, and now I have a dilemma.  The small print on the back cover, which looks fine when viewed on the screen, is quite blurry on the paper.  I googled and found that other people had the same issue, and took advice on using the sharpening tools and so on, but it still looks rubbish on paper.

Could it simply be that our little inkjet printer isn’t up to the job, or is this how the cover will look when the books are delivered from the printers? Perhaps I could email my image to a printing firm and get them to print a copy on a decent printer. If this is as good as it gets my book will have a very ‘home made’ look. I would expect anyone to judge the book negatively by this cover.  I do hope I haven’t wasted my time.


Proof reading my own work

It is not ideal.  I am very quick to spot other people’s typos, but I look at a paragraph of my own words and only see what I intended to write.  It does help that I finished the book a while ago, so there is a sense of re-visiting it.  The closer I am to it, the less likely I am to spot the mistakes.

I am not only checking for mistakes but also for consistencies.  Sometimes I have written ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ with a full-stop after it and sometimes without, and there are places where the word processor has inverted the speech marks the wrong way; normally in dialogue, where the speaker’s words are interrupted, represented by a dash – or else when their words trail off … and this is more noticeable with Times New Roman than with Arial, owing to TNR being more curvy.  (Hmm.  Okay, don’t worry, I’m done with fonts!)

There are also times when I am eluded by the common name that everyone else uses for something.  I had one of my characters turning off the main road and into a ‘business complex’, which didn’t sound right.  I asked my partner, “What do you call those places with a huge car park surrounded by shops like Argos, Next, Boots and PC World and there is always a McDonald’s?”

‘Retail Park,’ he instantly replied.

Of course!  ‘Business complex’, I ask you!

Black silk underwear

Sorry, I tricked you.  This is a post about fonts ;>)

I spent some time trying to decide which would be the best font and font size for my novel.

Research on the internet into people’s preferences (for fonts!) revealed conflicting opinions.

One view was that nothing smacks so strongly of self-publishing as the Times New Roman font; yet every novel I have opened appears to be in Times New Roman – or some font with serifs.  Another opinion was that Arial should only be used for IT text books.

I learned that the idea of serifs is to make a page of text easier to read by guiding the eye across the page, whereas a font without serifs is more readable for text on computer screens. Arial was the font I had chosen to work with on my laptop, and I felt it had a more fresh and modern feel than Times New Roman, but I was swayed by the explanation of the serifs.

To get a quote from a printer you have to state the number of pages in the book, and the more pages the higher the price.  Different fonts require more or less pages, so to keep down printing costs I need to format the text into as few pages as possible but without compromising readability. So that the quote would be more accurate, I emailed a printing firm, asking if there was any particular font that worked best for digital printing, and although they did not state a preference I was told that most of their customers use Times New Roman in size 11 point.  I printed off a few A5 pages in different fonts and sizes, and this did seem the most readable, so that’s what I am going to use.

ISBN numbers

It seems you can’t buy just one ISBN number.  You can buy ten for £118.68 or a hundred for £256.32.  That’s either £11.87 each or £2.56 each.  They are not available in multiples of twenty or fifty.  Decisions ….

I will need two for ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ because I intend to publish it as a paperback and as an e-book, and you need a different ISBN number for each format.  Then if I decide to resurrect and modernise some of my past novels (replacing phone kiosks with mobiles, getting rid of cars they no longer make and cameras that use films that need to be developed) I will use up all the ten and will need another ten for the novels I write in the future.  That will make the cost of twenty £237.36 when I could have a hundred for an extra £18.96.  I think that should be plenty!  But £256.32 does seem a lot to spend on, well, ISBN numbers.

Why I am going to self-publish

Because no-one else is likely to do it for me!

‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ is not the first novel I have written, but my past efforts have been rejected.  Maybe it is simply because I write crap but unless I get published and someone else reads my work, I will never know.  This time there seems to be little opportunity for rejection, with not many publishers accepting ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ (i.e. they want to be approached via a literary agent) whilst most agents are not taking on new authors ‘at present’, or are very specific in terms of genre or location.

I did contact one Small Press (or Indie) publisher about my latest novel.  They had an online Publication Enquiry Form, which impressed me as it does seem outdated to have to send printed work through the post, with return postage if you want it back.  One question on the form perplexed me; they wanted to know, if my book was accepted for publication, how many copies of it would I wish to purchase (at a discounted rate) to sell at literary festivals and such?   Did I stand more chance of being accepted if I stated a higher number of copies?  It was also apparent that I would be expected to generate my own publicity for book sales – and they were keen to know what I was doing already to publicise my work.  Urm … nothing at all … I prefer to spend my spare time working on my current writing project.

After I had emailed the Publication Enquiry Form, and during the three months before I received a reply, I researched self-publishing and now I understand that question about the number of copies: it is cheaper, per copy, to print a large number of copies in a print-run than a small number.  As for generating my own publicity, that is the general expectation of publishers and literary agents these days.  I began to think I would be better off self-publishing.  That way (as an obsessively reliable type) I would not be letting-down anyone other than myself if the book did not sell and would not feel guilty for not attending events that were aimed at promoting sales.  However, I needn’t have worried … they were not tempted by the sample pages I was invited to submit!

And so I decided not to contact any further publishers or literary agents about this novel.  I intend to publish for Amazon Kindle, but still enjoy the feel of a ‘real’ book and would like to have a few copies in print.

But where can I store my paperbacks without the pages becoming damp and yellow?  We already keep sacks of dog food in the bedroom for want of space!  A short ‘Litho’ print-run would be expensive, so I am going for ‘Digital’ printing that seems to offer a shorter print-run at a lower price.  I get the impression I may have to compromise on print-quality; that digitally-printed books have a different look and feel from lithographic publications; but I haven’t yet seen them side by side to compare.

I will try to share my self-publishing experience here, in the hope it may be of use to anyone else who decides to take this route; although I worry I will struggle to write entertainingly about ISBN numbers, fonts and book covers …

Why “Word on a Whim”?

I’m so glad you asked!

“Word on a Wing” is one of my favourite David Bowie songs but that domain was already reserved, although unused and up for sale.  I didn’t buy it, feeling it would be a cheek to use a well-known song title, but the name I did choose is similar enough to be something of a tribute to Bowie, who to me is the most artistic, multi-talented interesting and beautiful person ever to grace this planet and no doubt all the other planets he has visited.

I remember as a kid watching Top of the Pops and being mesmerised by the Major Tom character he enacted for the Space Oddity video.  I have adored him ever since, in different ways and for different reasons. I admire him for never taking himself too seriously and for taking risks with styles, costumes and lyrics. I didn’t especially like the stuff he did with Tin Machine but saw a photo of him wearing a tee-shirt bearing the logo, “Fuck You, I’m with Tin Machine” and it made me happy!  Prior to this, I had worried that he might die at any time from an overdose or something – particularly around the time of the Thin White Duke.

Having been a Bowie fan for hundreds of years, my view of his early work has changed in perspective. As a youngster, I looked up to him with huge admiration for a talented elder; but looking back now at his early songs – I find some of them so poignant. To think a young man in his twenties could create such deep and affecting songs as “We Are the Dead”.  Such harrowing desolation in his tone; the trepidation of the couple’s impending demise – and what powerful lyrics.  “Pressing our love through the night; knowing it’s right … knowing it’s right …”  Mmmm … so good.

David Bowie – We Are The Dead – YouTube             (thanks beeb1992 for uploading)


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