Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter 14: In which I talk about editing

The cover for the book is resized! Getting closer to the second edition. For some reference, here's the original cover:

Gorgeous. What's better is that all that extra space on the sides will be gone. Much love to Dan McCloskey for doing the cover and the redo. He's a good guy, and an amazing artist.

As I've said before, the ugly truth of small press publishing is that there's a lot you have to do yourself. This has advantages. I got to write the material with no changes from Six Gallery. I got to hire Rachel Dorrett for illustrations. I got to recruit Dan for the cover. I got to lay out the book entirely the way I wanted to.

There are disadvantages. Like now. For the second edition, I sent corrections to my publisher. He added these into the .pdf which he creates before sending it to Createspace. As has happened before, the conversation from Microsoft Word to the program creates...inconsistencies. Namely, indentation problems. Some paragraphs are middle justified when they should be left justified. Paragraphs that should be separate are smooshed together. Indentations and fonts are inconsistent. I have seen the font change size not just within a paragraph, but within a sentence. This is a result of the program trying to fit the words into a certain amount of space, and can only be fixed by adding pages to the book. Purely a formatting issue.

Many parts of editing the second edition have been fun. For instance, finding out that a certain character's clothing style was popular in the turn of the 20th century, but not in the Reconstruction era when he lived, and changing his wardrobe. Or finding the correct slogan for a certain Cincinnati rock station. Or noting that a story takes place in the southern United States, so birds would fly away in the spring and not the winter. I am in love with details, so those discoveries are fun for me. Going paragraph by paragraph to check for indenting mistakes is not fun. But its what must be done.

To further illustrate what makes small press interesting, I'll retell a story that was on the Facebook page for The Jack Daniels Sessions. I went to my publisher's apartment in Pittsburgh to do layout. It was a one-room apartment in the Shadyside neighborhood, and, looking at it, I was thinking "So this is where the magic comes from." A single room. As he requested, I sent the manuscript in Microsoft Word format. Once I got to his place, he put on Michael Jackson's "Bad" and I got to work. I sat at his computer for three hours, went through the manuscript and marked down every place there was a space break. I put the page number, the sentence before and the sentence after the break. The beer drinking made this task more palatable. Afterward, he showed the program he used to make the books and, indeed, every paragraph got smooshed together soon as he converted it. Without my notes, there's no way he could separate the lines correctly.

So to all you would-be authors: someday that might be you sitting at the computer, like, "Page 55. 'He no longer smoked a cigarette.' Break. Next segment in italics. 'Ingrid crouched in a dumpster that reeked of sour milk...'" Well, maybe not those exact words. But something similar.

All this to say that the end result is more than worth it. Yesterday I went to the "SF (Science Fiction) in SF (San Francisco)" reading and I got to talk briefly with Amelia Beamer, author of The Loving Dead. Absolutely lovely person. Good book, too. She mentioned how difficult it is to do talks and panels when you're a debut author. How you still feel like you should be on the other side, asking questions. It was cool to hear this from an author with books in major chains. I've certainly felt this when I've been the "baby writer" on panels about fantasy and writing. Yet there is something that happens when I edit, when I think forward. I start thinking about radio shows and comics and novels and everything else I want to do. And I recognize that I am on a path I can never step down from. And I will sure as hell indent that paragraph.

The countdown to the second edition has begun.

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