Archive for March, 2010

Project Juggling

Add comment March 21st, 2010

I believe I’ve said and written it before: I like working on two books at once. They each provide breaks from the other, thus keeping me fresh and the work seeming new—or newer than it would otherwise seem.

Having worked this way a few times in the past, I know it is rare for two books to keep the same pace; but this only adds to that sense of variety that prevents me from falling into a rut. Right now, however, I have three books in production, albeit one of the three just barely. All three are interior page design and layout jobs.

The first is a novel. Short of a textbook, it is one of the most elaborate books that I have ever worked on. It is filled with many different kinds of narrative: basic text, as well as letters, articles, and certain unique pieces of copy.

The second book is a memoir. Written by a retired physicist from India who has lived and worked in U.S. a number of years, it is also meant as a serious aid to preserving the Sanskrit language. This book is less about many different kinds of design elements, the way the first book is, and more with the proper use of diacritics and the typesetting of transliterated characters.

And the third book is a lot more like many of the books I have worked on over the years. It is a new edition of a book that was set in a fairly straightforward manner the first time around. The idea is to produce more attractive pages, while maintaining the usability as the student guide that it is.

Predictably, each has a different kind of schedule. The novel and all its materials are in-house. I have taken up the basic design, laying out the first part of this lengthy work. I await the client’s feedbackbefore plunging into the whole layout. With the Indian memoir, I have gotten only as far as acclimating myself to he transliterated characters and diacritic. As of this writing, I received the finalized first chapter to begin setting type. As for the third book, I await approval of the design and all materials.

And so it will be a matter of working on what I have in-house at any time. Right now, the novel is most ready for production. But as each client sends me more material, I will work on portions of each. The one organizational rule I will maintain is to try to always have a significant page of pages in the hands of each client, so that we are all in some state of doing. And that is how I will complete three books in roughly the same time.

6 Things a Freelancer Needs to Be

Add comment March 14th, 2010

A while back I read something called The Cohen-Miller Report: The 6 Core Attributes That Make a Team “Click”.  The thinking impressed me, how it distilled the traits necessary to prepare a creative team for success. The way Emily Cohen expressed it,

While there are many important aspects that influence a great team … six core attributes … are particularly important when you have right and left brain personalities working together:

  • cheerleader
  • industry activist
  • tech guru
  • emotional quarterback
  • enforcer
  • political navigator

This model is interesting when each trait is looked at as a personality type in a well-rounded group, but does it have a place when thinking about a one-man band, so to speak, a one-person book design practice such as I run?

No surprise, else why would I write this, but I answer the above question with a resounding, “Yes!”

My inner cheerleader, if you will, lights the spark for each project and task I take on, whether it is beginning work on a book—where it is particularly easy for me to light the proverbial fire, as I simply never et tired of the feeling of starting new and actually get excite like it is the first time, over and over again—or jump-starting my engine for another round of promotion and finding work.

The industry activist in me is also a natural facet of my personality, as I enjoy reading about book design and typography, and hearing how my fellow practitioners go about plying the book design trade. As a one-man band, I find it generally impossible to make time to attend industry events, although there are one or two that I always keep an eye out for to see if my schedule can somehow allow me to participate. As it is, I make an effort to make time to get hold of book, articles, blogs, and forums on the subject of making books.

Tech guru is less a title for me than “technology junkie.” I rarely see a new version or possible upgrade to my tools, hardware and software, that I don’t automatically want. It happens that I work on Apple’s Macintosh platform and a trip to the Apple Store, at any time, is like a trip to the toy store before Christmas. The same can be said for looking at the mail-order catalogs for Macintosh-compatible peripherals and software. But in addition to the fun of it, there is no doubting the necessity of staying abreast of the latest trends and developments for doing what I do at top quality and most efficiently.

My emotional quarterback keeps me focused on each job I am contracted for. When a client presents unexpected demands or a job challenges that I did not foresee, this is the part of my personality puzzle that keeps my eye on whatever task I need to perform. It is no small wonder to have the Internet to allow me to sit in place in my studio and research, contact the client or fellow book designers, and collect the world of information that makes it possible to meet such demands and challenges.

Enforcer may sound a little sinister, but there needs to be a bottom line trigger that always remembers for all the love of creativity, I am something of a mercenary. Have gun will travel, and all that. Sometimes choices just need to be made. Occasionally they are tough, even harsh, or simply ones I wish I didn’t have to make. Yesterday I turned down an interesting-looking project with a prestigious client. Without this “enforcer trait” I just might have taken on one project too many at this time and jeopardized my ability to do any of them well.

The political navigator exists exclusively in my universe for dealing with clients, prospective and actual. I need to be able to listen to them, sometimes ferreting out their meaning and what they want to accomplish. I also need to speak to them in a way that demonstrates I understand their needs, can express this in a way that lets them know I do, and not express in an “expert’s way” that puts them off.

See, sometimes there is an “I” in T-E-A-M.

I Remember Plato

Add comment March 10th, 2010

I remember  … my first book, actually, seventeen years ago. I started with straight layout jobs; I didn’t begin to design books for years after that beginning. That first layout job was a math textbook. A good fit, as it happened, since I had earned a living as a proofreader—both in-house and freelance—for about fifteen years before that.
A math textbook, before I knew about MathType or XTensions for creating equations, meant a lot of cutting and pasting radical symbols, indicating square roots, combining many characters, and a world of back-kerning.

The autobiography/memoir I am currently working on reminded me of that first math book. Written by a retired physicist, an older gentleman who began life in India, is also the author’s attempt to preserve his native language. What this means—thank heavens not learning Sanskrit—is using one or more typefaces that transliterate the Sanskrit into English.

And so specialized fonts are in order. But there is the additional factor, really a kind of monkeywrench to overcome, of my working on the Macintosh platform—you may have heard me mention this before—and the author and editor working on PCs. This effectively throws us into further translation mode. Even though all three of us have purchased the appropriate fonts, the textfiles I have received to this point, and the printouts I had received until just yesterday, all had accented characters missing or replaced by tiny outlined squares.

I will need a complete copy of the manuscript and, interestingly, this job will force me to do something I’ve scrupulously avoided to this point: reading a book through as I work on designing and laying it out. It is now imperative I follow through, line by line and even character by character, typing in every missing character. Without the hard copy it will be a lot like Plato’s example of the distorted picture of reality one gets from observing the world only via shadows projected onto a cave wall.

How I wish these typefaces would just apply upon my importing the textfiles that have been created and worked on with the PC version of the fonts. Hopefully, just that will happen—if not magically, than by something we figure out—before I get too much deeper into this project.


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