Sunday, January 30, 2011

Part 3 – Before You Go To Press

Spelling and Grammar Matter
Thanks to the internet more people than ever are writing on a daily basis – they are blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, IMing, emailing, texting, etc. etc. However, all this writing has lead to a decline in basic grammar and spelling. This may be fine for everyday communications but that does not make it fine for books. Spell check will find words which are spelled incorrectly but it will not differentiate between there/their/they're, point out words that are used incorrectly, correct punctuation, etc. There are also grammatical conventions for constructing things such as dialog that should be followed if you want your published work to look professional.

Authors who are not open to having their manuscripts proofed, edited, and critiqued should really consider whether they are serious about publishing. Professionals in the publishing business tell me that if an author resists editing and making changes they cannot work with them and will terminate the contract. While it is perfectly reasonable to resist significant content changes to a book (one of my agents wanted me to rewrite The Old Mermaid's Tale for the Young Adult market -- I refused), writers have to comply with standard grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. if they want to be taken seriously.

Please remember this: when you publish a badly written, badly proofed, 
badly edited book, you don't just make yourself look bad, 
you make all self-published authors look bad.
Readers are becoming increasingly sensitive to self-publishing and have no reticence
to give very bad reviews to badly constructed books.
As a self-publisher commit to the highest standards possible.

Preparing Files: Print Publishing vs. ePublishing
Remember: printed material is made of ink, electronic material is made of light.
When you are preparing files, either to send to press yourself or to give to a designer you have hired, it is important to know the difference in specifications for printed books and electronic books. This is particularly important for image files (covers, photos, illustrations, etc.). Print publishing files need to be in CMYK format and hi resolution, ePublishing files are in RGB and low resolution.

CMYK/HiRes: CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. Those are the standard inks in 4-color process printing. Most 4-color printers will require at least 300 dpi images. dpi means Dots Per Inch – this refers to the number of dots (or pixels for RGB) that compose an image or a letter.

RGB/LoRes: RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. Those are the rays of light that compose images in electronic media (eReaders, web sites, DVDs, etc.) Most images for electronic publishing can be 72dpi.

It is important to remember that you can always make hi-resolution files lo-res but once a file is lo-res increasing the resolution will make it blurry. When I am preparing photos and images for a book I follow these steps:
  • Save the original image in as close to its original state as possible in a file called: filename-prime.psd
  • Scale the image to the size needed for the book, convert it to CMYK, and set the resolution at 300dpi, then save it in a file called: filename-cmyk.tif
  • Scale the image to the size needed for the electronic version, convert it to RGB, and set the resolution at 72dpi, then save it in a file called: filename-rgb.jpg
That way you have the original in case you have to go back and make adjustments, plus the print version and the e-version.

When a reader picks up a book and begins to read, s/he is committing to however many hours it takes to spend with the words on the page or on the screen. That means the type used for those words has to make the experience as pleasurable as possible. There are many types of typefaces but the two most important ones are serif and sans-serif. Serifs are those little pointy little things at the ends of the lines that make-up letters. A serif typeface – like Times Roman, Goudy Old Style, Garamond, Palatino, etc. – has serifs. A sans-serif (“sans” is French for “without”) does not have them – Arial/Helvetica, Verdana, Avant Garde, Futura, are all sans-serif.
For centuries text books, books, newspapers, and magazines have used serif type for large areas of copy and sans-serif for headlines and to emphasize certain areas. People have grown accustomed to reading text in serif type and generally find it easier to read. The digital age has made sans-serif type more popular for reading on-screen and many e-readers allow you to choose which typeface you prefer to read, which is a wonderful innovation in my opinion. However, for the text of printed books it is still wise to choose a standard serif typeface.

PLEASE resist the urge to choose unusual typefaces for large areas of copy! It is fine to use funky, elaborate, artsy, or exotic typefaces for titles, sub-heads, sidebars, etc. but not for large areas of text. I recently was sent a book by a self-published author whose alternating chapters were typeset in a standard serif-type and a Medieval-style black-face type. Those chapters were tedious to read and I skimmed over a lot. Use your fancy typefaces sparingly, please.

NEXT TIME: Some thoughts on good writing and good editing, then on to getting your newly-published book out into the world.


  1. Kathleen...thanks for sharing your knowledge. I have forwarded on your blog to a young and incredible writer who is so appreciative!

  2. Thank you. I am cross-posting everything to the How To Publish tab on my blog and will add to it as time goes on.

    I had no idea so many people were interested in this subject!!!

  3. Extremely intersting and informative series. Love it -- Mary K.


If you enjoyed this post, please comment and leave contact information if you would like a response. Commenting rewards the authors/artists and pretty much makes our day!