It’s happened to all of us. Files lost in some cyber-nightmare. Computers. We rely on them for our composition, but must always remember the words of the Prophet Mohammed: “Tie Your Camel.” You know what I’m talking about here. “Oh, I’ll get to it soon,” are famous last words. Regular back up is a necessity while working on anything using computers, which, like all things in this world, are subject to entropy and degradation. Back up is just a normal part of your work flow.
A close client has just lost 4 months of valuable work, nada, gone, kaput. Just like that. And not because she didn’t back up. She did, or the person who does her tech support did it for her. The issue was with file names: two files with the same name in different areas. He backed up the older one, not the most recent. Then the most recent was trashed. Regular back up would have lessened the gap between those versions of the project. File naming the different versions also helps. All this is totally visible in hindsight.
Word to the wise: back up your work!
And by the way, I also keep all the older original versions in case I need to go back at any time. Even when a project is “completed” I keep them for a time, just to be sure. Anal? Probably. But it has come in handy more than once.
One of the last steps to take in putting your book together is the creation of the index, when all pages have been finalized. Just put together a little index, right? Not so fast…..
When your book is completed, or so you think, the index can appear to be an afterthought. But it is actually a valuable time-consuming work in itself which is an important component of your final book. There are amazingly skilled indexers who specialize in this task alone.
InDesign, for example, has a great indexing tool, but the intelligent portion of the work has to be done by hand, as each reference must be selected initially at least once in the text. It’s also a good practice to check and proof the additional referenced pages that InDesign automatically adds, as there is no need for duplicates of a single page reference.
I recommend that if you are self-publishing your book, prepare your index items yourself, as part of your manuscript. When doing so, you can not only save money on the task, but you can indicate some of the nicknames or shortened versions of the topics you’re including. A computer indexing layout program can’t know these subtle references and will only search for and select exact words. A flexible mind can create a tight and very useful index, better than any program can. A layout program can be used to define the index within the document itself, in preparation for publication, but is no substitute for your own intelligent mind.
I’m working with a client to help organize a vast quantity of her previous materials, which include writings, presentations and workshops. There is no shortage of content to work with, and our challenge is to find the centre.
Together, we are defining the centre of the work which she has been doing over the years, which (despite its various aspects) is all grounded in her approach and expertise. Then there is another centre, which is perhaps a deeper and more meaningful one, which is the directive or result of this work to date, and how that work relates to her audience and her clients. What is the centre for them? How does her work define that as well? By finding both her centre within her materials, and the centre in her audience, we can define the two in the place where they match. Bingo! We have the centre of the whole work, and can proceed from there. All the materials then radiate from this centre.
This way of concept definition is a wonderful process in which discoveries made can help to redefine the work of decades. As a process for the client it is both empowering and satisfying, giving a clear direction for future efforts.
I just felt that it would be good to sum up where we are to date, before launching into the next phase. So here’s a quick overview of what’s been going on since Alpha Glyph began active operations in January of 2006. I’ve helped many clients with various stages of their book and publications projects, and have produced some work myself that had been waiting for my attention.
Coaching I’ve found that the book coaching service we offer has been very helpful to people who are in the process of defining their project or if they need the accountability that a book coach can provide. It’s been wonderful to be able to participate in the early stages of a writing project through book coaching.
Website and Blog I created the website for the company very early on, and have adapted it over the year with a few changes. The blog came on-stream partway through the year, and has given me the opportunity to reveal more about what we do, for anyone who is interested in finding out more about this endeavour.
Some client questions, which have come up over the year:
- Is self-publishing for you?
- Is this the right time for you to put out your work?
- Is print the right medium, or do you want a website, a blog, a video blog, a podcast?
- Do you need to go back and look more closely at your work before bringing it out?
- And so many more questions have appeared from various clients, and clients-to-be, each specific to their needs.
The first full book I worked on was a comprehensive educational publication for early childhood teachers. From substantive editing at the manuscript stage to the final layout, cover design and publication, I worked closely with the author, despite our physical distance from one another. The book was challenging as it was comprised of five very different sections which needed a unifying theme in order to be seen as part of one whole. As well, it was illustrated with photographs and line drawings, and also included musical notation. The whole project was a success and the author was very happy with the resulting book.
A brochure for a financial planner hit the skids, however. It didn’t see the light of day, as the client wanted a look and feel that was quite different from the approach that I had taken. Instead of “BUY “NOW”!! (flash flash red yellow flash flash) and Win the Race!” (photos of racehorses), I had taken a more subdued and reliable-seeming direction, saying with colour and form “your investment is safe with us.” Ultimately he took the project back and did it himself, adding his own personal flair and pizazz.
First E-Book The next book I worked on was simple book design and layout for an e-book. It gave my InDesign skills a workout and also enabled me to try the download system.
Archive Site and Blog The comprehensive Shamcher archives are an ongoing Alpha Glyph project. Last year I produced two websites for these archives – one static site and one blog site, which is being kept up on a regular basis. I’ve prepared articles as PDF downloadable documents available from the site, to accompany the other materials that are posted on the regular archive. Categories and tags are important here, and the process also involves document scanning, editing and posting.
Poetry Book In the last year I edited and laid out a book of poetry which includes full colour images inserted into the publication. With this book I worked closely with the author, and found it was important to do so as each word could have an alternate spelling. With poets every space can be as important as the words themselves, while some word could be invented for its sound quality when read aloud, or for the image of the type on the page.
Facsimile Book I produced an archival facsimile book of images taken from a 1970′s early zine-format book. Here the original was scanned and reduced to become a commemorative book for a small community. A fun project, and a good example of publishing for a small audience using print on demand.
I Self-Publish I also published two books of my own, from material that had been circulated earlier in various forms. One had been self-published, but not as a perfect-bound book in a standard size. This was laid out with some copy-editing and republished. The other had been published episodically in a periodical but never as a single volume, so I laid it out and published it as well.
Additional writing projects have always been a part of the Alpha Glyph work this past year.
- Business Plans I helped to coordinate the material and finesse the business plans for three very different businesses in the past year.
- Project Proposals As well, I produced two complex project proposals, compete with rationale, full outline of content, timeline, milestones, personnel and itemized budgets; one for a broadcast video series, the other for an interactive media production.
- Copyright Search I also did comprehensive copyright search and permissions for a client.
Manuscript Assessment I’ve done manuscript assessment for various books and one book series in the past year, and have met with many individuals regarding their book or card projects, either in person, by phone or through email.
Blogging has been a very busy activity for the company, which has seen over 800 articles posted in the blogs we’ve created over the past year, many including links, illustrations, photography and video.
Video blogging has been a fun part of our services and so far we have produced 44 short episodes that have been posted to clients’ websites or blogs, and on YouTube. These range in length from 1 minute to 7.5 minutes.
Other Materials For one book which is still in the first draft stage, I have also been engaged in creating fundraising and ancilliary materials to be used to gather interest in the project as a whole.
Professional Contacts I’ve participated in the monthly Blogger’s Meetup Group and various networking groups for entrepreneurs, as well as the Northern Voice Blogging Conference, all as part of professional development and for potential client contacts.
In process as I write this are three books in the layout/final copyedit stage, almost ready for the printer. There is one book in the manuscript stage (still in early days) and two nascent long-distance projects in the works.
Promotion of the company Being so busy with actual projects, we have had to leave some of our plans for promotion for the company on the back burner. We keep this blog going as one of our main forms of contact.
In fact, we are expanding the company’s blogging capability, through alphablogs (which I mentioned in my last posting). In this post, I haven’t mentioned all the blog experiences or the refinement of the blogging processes that we’ve been developing, but watch this space!
When a client comes to me with a project, I treat it with complete confidentiality. Even if we haven’t signed a non-disclosure agreement, you can rest assured that I won’t be talking about your great new idea to the next person I see, nor will I post anything about it on this blog without your permission.
So often we have good ideas that we feel are unique, only to find someone else is also incubating the same thought, or one so similar it is hard to believe there wasn’t some kind of “security breach”. I have had several cases of two potential clients showing me plans for projects that were remarkably similar, and both within the same week! This kind of synchronicity always amazes me, but still I keep the two projects separate in my mind, and do not disclose them to one another, let alone to the outside world.
In many cases, though, we can have synergy in similarity, as long as there isn’t direct competition for the same audience dollars. And outside the strict commercial realm, creative community can nurture ideas and grow them to fruition. Even if someone seems to be saying the same thing as you, remember that your take on it adds immeasurable personal value.
Our focus on personal publishing at Alpha Glyph is all about this very aspect of expression in these times, recognizing that personalized sorting and understanding does give greater meaning to any information. Sharing that personalized sorting is also what all the social networking buzz is all about. But once we settle down into understanding our role as human beings in this information age of rapid exchanges and 500 “friends”, we can see the value of the memoir, the meaning in the life story, the effect of creating lasting printed versions of our histories, our dreams and our work’s legacy.
What does all this have to do with confidentiality? We each have something unique to ourselves, something we do not want taken in an identity theft, nor in a copyright infringement. We each need the opportunity to produce our self-expression freely and without the fear that it will be taken and badly copied by someone who wants to illegally take credit for our ideas or our personal expression. Especially in the development stage, it is important to keep concepts confidential.
When you self-publish, you are often expected to do it all yourself, and that can mean some fairly elaborate multi-tasking. If you’re intending to publish your work independently, you might want to redefine “independent” to include some skilled help, so you aren’t out of your depth in certain areas beyond your expertise. Typically, you’ll need someone to help you define your concept clearly, and to help with the main substantive editing to shape your book. But that’s only the beginning of the process that occurs once your manuscript is completed. You’ll need to design your book and lay it out, copy edit and proof it, as well as create a cover, get an ISBN, and bar code, deal with printers and then market your creation. The costs for these and other aspects of the process vary considerably between service providers, so do your homework and go with the people you feel are most sympatico to your endeavour. You’ll be working with them for some time as your book reaches completion, so you need to not only feel trust in their professionalism but also develop a harmonious working relationship.
Or … if you feel up to it, you can multi-task the whole thing, and have that incredible satisfaction of doing it yourself!
Editing and preparing a poetry book is a wonderful process. It requires tact and delicacy as well as close collaboration with the poet. It just isn’t possible to spellcheck and copyedit such phrases as “quocking mongst a twittered groin” unless the writer is completely involved! This project had another layer of complexity as well, as isabella required that all writing is done in lower case, and she describes why in her introduction. Like all poets, isabella works with layout and line length and the look of the poem on the page, so again close collaboration was key to the success of this book. It took several iterations back and forth until we found the exact layout that worked for the poems, for the poet and for the publisher. I prefer to work closely with the writer so this process of review at every stage was very satisfying for us both.
This poetry project had the additional aspect of using images to illustrate each chapter section, requiring a more complex print process involving colour insert pages, which necessitated a more complicated layout and delivery to the printer. Happily, all this can still be done with print on demand, a technology that really does enable the printing of much more poetry than ever before.
Of course for years poets have been using the letterpress to produce their chapbooks and slim volumes in small runs. But poets without access to a letterpress can find this process quite expensive if they go to a print shop. Not only that, but the digital ease with which the print on demand process works means that the volume can be easily reprinted at any time, and at a relatively low cost per item.
One feature that differentiates this tea table book from other poetry publications is that the poet explains in prose the background to each poem, giving the reader another way in to the poem’s meaning and purpose. Balancing the prose and the poems, while still featuring the poem was a visual challenge that we both collaborated on.
One of the best aspects of being a book coach is seeing the final work as a book, not as an idea or as a manuscript. I sat down with the draft version of this poetry book and was amazed and impressed with the depth of feeling and the clarity of image that isabella had brought to the pages. The process was almost over (just a few minor tweaks to go) and the book was in its form at last. Poems from 1980 – 2006 were set out for all to read and relish. When the final version of the book was made public, the intense process had already vanished from our minds, leaving only the poetry – the voice of the poet.
For more on this book, and on isabella’s work, go to teatablebook.com.
Meet Carol Sill
Have you always wanted to write that book, but haven’t felt ready? Then you must connect with Carol Sill, founder of AlphaGlyph Publications Ltd.
A writer, educator and publisher, Sill helps writers and non-writers to get concept development, editorial, layout and printing help for their books. She has an extensive experience in production and distribution of media, including print, interactive and video, and applies this multimedia approach to the medium of print. As well, she also writes and manages many blogs for clients, including videoblogs.
Here Sill talks with us about her business, passions and purpose.
A Passion for Self-Expression
“Throughout my life I’ve always encouraged others to express themselves. From self-publishing early zines to encouraging women to use video to tell their stories, I developed a personal passion for all types of self-expression through media. I see the new media today and Web 2.0 (with Web 3.0 not far behind) as the perfect opportunity for anyone with a message to get it out there. And I’m very excited by the possibilities of the new Print on Demand technology to enable so many people to fulfill their dream of publishing a book.”
Her Big AHA! Moment
“When I was in the SFU Publishing Intensive Program I had a big AHA realization that all the technology and work that goes into book publishing could be seen as parallel to the film and video production process. The whole thing clicked in for me, updated my concepts of what publishing is and can be. I saw a way of bringing the sensibilities of all media back to print, to create lasting work in the most stable of storage media: the book.”
Bringing Out the Projects
“In starting Alpha Glyph, I was fortunate in that I had arrived in a place in my life and career where I could choose to work on projects that were important to me. I made the spiritually conscious decision to focus on bringing out the work and interests of my clients in much the same way as a midwife would bring her expertise to the birthing process. (This might give you some back-story to my tag-line: “21st Century books – from concept to delivery.”) Being in a position that allows me to enable clients’ work rather than select work for publication based on market influences has really freed me to follow this passion to bring out the compelling stories that need to be told, or the work of a lifetime finally gathered together for publication. ”
What Motivates Her
“I’m from the boomer generation, the people who wanted to change the world. I realized early on that the message via media is one way that minds are changed, and when we see the empowerment that comes from making your own statement, then the media is not just a communication vehicle, but a means of conversation and contact – with people, with ideas, with the potential for change. If even one person goes through the whole process, writes that book and gets it out there, then we have done our job.”
Secrets to Growing this Business
“Personal contact and going a good job are the ways this business flourishes: developing an excellent reputation. It is a one-to-one process which is unique to each client, and requires finesse, intelligence and a fundamental understanding of where the author wants to go with the book, in balance with what the book needs to reach its audience. There is no one secret to this process, but through our consistently solid and reliable presence the business grows.”
“It’s all about understanding, and each new client brings a new challenge. Flexibility, seeing from the client’s point of view is essential when applying my expertise to the work. Making self-published books that have the same production values as trade publications may mean challenging the preconceived ideas that an author may have. For example, it may not be such a good idea for the client who wants to reach a wider audience to put that cat photo on the cover. Each step along the way is a close negotiation.”
Words of Advice – On Making a Difference
“One of the best things you can do for yourself is to put together a legacy for those who come after you. The process of summing up your life can be incredibly liberating and can lead you to new directions you hadn’t imagined were possible. It can be in images, in words, or even in mementos.
“When your experience is consolidated into print, you can offer this to others in a way that can be lasting and influential.
“There is a great sense of satisfaction that will come to you from finally getting that book out into the world. Instead of keeping it suspended as a dream or a wish, you can make it a reality, and I’m here to help you do it.”
I’ve been so happy to see again and again on the various lists of personal goals that writing a book is right up there, usually in the top 5 or 10. This means that there are lots of authors and would-be authors out there. Everyone I speak with either has an idea for a book, has been writing a book, or knows someone who has a book in the works.
But these books are in the mind, perhaps only partially written, if that. And many of them will remain there, never completed. For even with the ease of print on demand and the presence of skilled editors, there are still so many obstacles that come between the would-be author and the achievement of that first goal of getting that manuscript finished. Most of these are internal challenges.
We have all heard stories of the publishing companies that take the author to a hotel and just force him to finish a manuscript for them. (I thought I’d find an image of the interior of a luxury hotel room, circa 1970, to illustrate this idea but I couldn’t find a match, so you will simply have to imagine it.)
Of course, you could go on retreat yourself, and there are many beautiful inns and B&Bs dedicated to writers. Here’s something that looks most unusual, the House of Writer’s Creativity Hotel Complex.
But if you decide to stay closer to home, consider our book coaching services. A book coach can definitely help by partnering with you and offering regular accountability, good advice and the stick-to-itness that you will need to get over the long haul. Writing is lonely work, and a relationship with someone who can help you carry through the process can make the difference between getting the manuscript done and leaving it as an imaginary project.