Archive for October, 2010

What I Like to Do

Add comment October 30th, 2010

Having given some thought to the kinds of books I might not want to involve myself with, perhaps the time has come to consider the books I would like to help bring to press. Broadly, of course, aside from the sorts of books I prefer to avoid, any book that is a paying job I want. (Did I once mention that I sometimes refer to myself as a mercenary?) But, really, there must be books that I would be pleased or even excited to find myself working on.)

Strange as it may sound to some, after the initial kick of seeing my first books in print—and, actually, it never occurred to me to request copies of those first books I worked on—I had no favorite material or subject matter until I did my first work with heavy math and equations. The extra care necessary to typeset presentable math, the proper use of white space, and knowing where to break equations made that kind of work a lot more challenging and fun than books of straight text.

After math, though, children’s books are the most enjoyable work. I learned quickly enough when doing the page design and layout of my first illustrated children’s storybook that there was a different set of provisos to keep in mind. For one thing, while the story dictates the basic idea of each illustration, it is the illustrations that lead the story. That is, how much, and what, text goes on each page is pretty well decided by the illustration on the page. So while, on the one hand, I don’t exert quite as much control over the look of pages as with other kinds of books, on the other, there’s a stiffer format that’s really not of my own making to follow.

Right now, the next kind of book I’d like to do is a cookbook. Not the least of my reasons is that I enjoy cooking. But I also think that my work with tabular material and equations provides a natural sort of segue into this genre.

Of course, not every one of my clients consents to my getting a credit line for the work I do on their books. So there are still times when personal satisfaction and a paycheck are all I can expect for my efforts.

The Kick to Children”s Books

Add comment October 30th, 2010

After a month-long hiatus, during which I focused on marketing and promotion, I also took time to resurrect more of my previous blog’s chestnuts that had been lost during the infamous corrupting of my site, blog, and Twitter account by unknown, nefarious individuals. Here is the first of another of those “chestnuts,” one that I was particularly interested in getting out there again, as it discusses children’s books, at a time when I had just finished work on my first children’s storybook.

The page design and layout of an illustrated children’s book is as interesting as freelance book design and page composition projects get. Completely beside the strong emotion you feel from showing such a finished book to, say, your grandchildren, there is the unexpected complexity to the job, and how that complexity makes your creative juices flow.

An illustrated storybook for children begins with—no big surprise in this—the words the author uses to tell the story. That would be the lead that an artist follows when creating the illustrations: he or she must first and foremost follow the words and the storyline.

The page designer starts by giving thought to choosing a typeface with some visual interest. It needs to be a typeface with more than just a Times Roman kind of utility, a typeface with not too many flourishes, and one that will hold a child’s eye. Then, when laying out the book’s pages, the page designer must allow the art to advance the story—tell it, really—flowing the text so that the words keep pace with the illustrations. The text must neither jump ahead of what the pictures say, nor fall behind them. Either one would throw off the story’s pacing and let go of the reader’s attention.

The whole thing, odd as it may sound, is really quite musical, kind of a dance. The words need to flow rhythmically from page to page, on the beat established by the illustrations.


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