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.
The launching of a self-published book without the infrastructure of a publishing company and the publicity machine behind it can be daunting for an independent author. I recently attended a very successful book launch event that used all the necessary components to reach the intended audience. First of all, this event was a celebration of the author’s commitment to the book and its message. How did this play out?
An email invitation was created and sent out to all the author’s contacts. It’s a good idea to establish an active contact list well in advance of your launch. This colour email invitation was a very small file-size, so it didn’t clog anyone’s mailbox.
The event itself was a celebration, party and sale. Book tables were set up in a few areas, with volunteers to help attendees buy the books. The author was more than happy to sign the books with personal greetings and thanks. Wine was generously offered to all guests, and the catered finger food on the table was an appealing display of cheeses, fruits, kabobs and the like. On the food table was a large standing display card of the cover of the book, featuring a photo of the author. At every turn there were reminders that this was not just a normal house party, but a book launch event.
This event was held in a large home that had been generously offered to the author for the launch. Being in the home gave an intimacy that would not have been present in a public place, but the home was large enough to ensure the quality of the event wasn’t compromised by crowding.
On 2 video screens in different rooms, a video of the author answering interview questions about the book was playing non-stop. Guests could drop in and out of this aspect of the presentation. After a toast to the author, there was also a formal live presentation, during which the author gave a short talk, and thanked publicly all those who had helped in the development of the book. This was followed by live music – two songs that had special meaning in relation to both the book and the author’s life.
After the formal presentation, guests mingled as at a party, more wine was poured and some new guests arrived as other guests departed. The entire event was recorded for use on the website, both as video and in still images.
With client books in various stages of evolution, plus the new blog part of this business, I’ve been quite busy for the past month. There is a renewed interest in blogging of course, which is growing exponentially, but this doesn’t eliminate the book as a method of keeping, transmitting and retaining information, thought, and meta-concepts.
When a person learns to speak another language in a rudimentary way, she may be able to communicate the basics, but the subtleties and metaphysics in the language can take a very long time to evolve.
I feel new media still has a long way to go in this regard, before it can embody the rich and deep interior landscape that has been the realm of literature for the past many-hundreds of years. The place of the book is still ensured, even if the book is in an electronic version. What comes to mind here is McLuhan’s studies in the effects of light “on” a screen as in movies, and light “through” a screen as in television.
We have all felt the fascination and seduction of a strong jewel-like visual image on the computer screen, followed by a let-down when that image is printed and looks flat, and rather emptied of the illumination. “Light through” brings it to life, “light on” – not so much. With text it is a different story. The “light through” makes us feel as if we were viewing, rather than reading, and other aspects of the brain and our sensorium are activated. The process is more rapid, scanning and viewing. “Light on” – the printed word – we are back in the realm of reading. Both methods are complementary, and we prepare differently for each.
Although the books we prepare are put together on the screen, written in Word, or some such program, then laid out in InDesign, their destination is not the screen, but the page. They are created as books, not as screen-experiences, not even as documents of screen-experiences. The process is one of projecting the mind to imagine the words on the page and to imagine the page in print, working from that point of view.
I was really interested in the Amazon print on demand arrangement for books that are all ready to go, and only need to be printed. This is different from their BookSurge service that does the kind of work we offer here at Alpha Glyph. At first I was very keen for it, because it combines the Amazon sales engine with your self-published books. This automatic listing is a real help, and they will also drop in an ISBN number for you, or you can use your own. I have liked using Lulu, and have been very happy with them, but there is still the issue of listing with Amazon, which this service solves. Or so I thought until I discovered the fatal hitch: US only. Drat. They don’t arrange the financials outside of the country. And this has nothing to do with amazon.ca, only .com. So I’m back to where I was before – recommending Printorium in Victoria or Lulu, or the venerable Blitzprint in Alberta (Venerable in print-on-demand years, which are kind of like dog-years.)
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.
Here’s a great new site from the prolific Rosie! Check out her new listing of free and near-free Vancouver events here at her new VanCal site. Updates, reviews, upcoming event listings, its all there!
Here’s what she says about VanCal:
We have a young family and full time jobs, student loans and a mortgage. Access to the arts isn’t just the purview of the upper middle class, it’s available to everyone. You just need to know where to look.
VanCal is a calendar for everyone who wants to get out and enjoy arts and culture in Vancouver but can’t afford the Chan Centre. The information is collected from the free publications and wherever I hear about it – the important thing is to get out there and support Vancouver’s vibrant arts community.
(Surprise: Link here to see a random post from my blog.)
We’ve launched a new blog service, Alphablogs, as a division of Alpha Glyph Publications. One of our first efforts was to do a workshop on creative blogging for marketing and promotion, through the Alliance for Arts and Culture here in Vancouver, with follow-up sessions a week later to answer any specific questions that participants have about their blogs.
I’m especially happy to welcome Isabella Mori as a colleague in the Alphablog endeavour. We came to know one another better when I was helping her self-publish her book of poetry. Isabella is a long-time blogger with some great blog SEO experience. Her blog, Change Therapy, was established for her work as a therapist here in Vancouver, but her interest in things bloggy and technical allows her to apply her expertise to the business needs of others as well.
I just shared a BNI network lunch with Isabella, where I presented some of the main benefits to businesses to have a blog, and outlined how we could help indie entrepreneurs get their blogs going on a strong footing.
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!
Kim came over this afternoon and we have been discussing the fine points of blogging and how to make the most of this medium. So I’m just doing a short posting for fun to show the pleasures of using wordpress!