Weekend work

posted in: Books, Knitting, Publishing | 5

Weekdays tend to be broken up with interruptions. On weekends, there’s always the illusion—and sometimes the actuality—that I will get a solid chunk of work done.

I returned from Sitka so late Tuesday night it was almost Wednesday morning. I spent Wednesday mostly going through and responding to e-mail, postal mail, and voice mail. On Thursday and Friday, among other things, I completed the final few drawings that I’m doing for Ethnic Knitting Discovery (this is turning out to be a three-illustrator book, because of complexities and timing issues).

Here’s my drawing table. It may look odd, but it works better than (and takes less space and is easier to move and disassemble) than the dedicated drawing table I used to have.

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While I was gone, my daughter scanned and adjusted the drawings I’d already done, and as soon as I got the last bits inked she worked them up (scanned and cleaned) and transferred the electronic files to me.

Then it’s weekend time, with one minor task (filling a new order for a carton of Arctic Lace . . . reminder to self: order new print run) and two major ones on my desk. The big jobs: proofing the laid-out pages of High IQ Kids, which arrived from the publisher by second-day air on Friday (deadline 7/11, which is quite pleasantly leisurely; the book will be out in September) and completing the page layout for Ethnic Knitting Discovery at least to the level where I can get galleys printed (deadline 3/31/07, and running to catch up).

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That’s High IQ Kids at the top of the photo and the first full printed-out-and-trimmed set of pages for Ethnic Knitting Discovery across the lower part.

(Aside: The funny-looking object in the middle is a nifty find. Another thing I did this weekend was spend a bunch of time on the phone with tech support for the computer I use for layout. I have two computers at my desk. One handles e-mail and web (the old one) and I use the other for the heavy lifting: layout and image processing and finances. The newer computer began to be so noisy I couldn’t make a phone call from my desk, so I finally called. First step was to open the case and clean the fans. Turns out there are three. Turns out compressed air is no longer simple: the office supply stores offered a gas-in-a-can that either had a "bitterant" added so it would not be abused as an inhalant or was lemon-scented. If the stuff could be used as an inhalant, I didn’t much want it in my office. I also didn’t want the place to reek of lemon, even though I like citrus. One of the folks who works at one of the office supply places pointed out the gizmo above, which cost the same amount as the compressed not-air. It consists of a mini-CO2 cartridge and a case that punctures the top of the cartridge and directs the blast of CO2 where you want it. Does the job. End result of tech support call: they’ll send me a replacement for one of the fans. Diagnostic maneuvers were fun for those of us who can sometimes be easily amused. Although they took a while.)

Publishing goes through a lot of paper no matter what choices anyone makes. I work a lot on-screen in order to save paper. There’s no way to work and communicate in the contemporary world without environmental impact—the internet might offer the prospect of using less paper, but requires a massive technological infrastructure that consumes energy, too. There are lots of ways to think about energy use; I think the important thing is that we do consider it. And that we do the best work we can, so the results are worth the investment of time and resources.

Nomad Press participates in Green Press Initiative (GPI) and since 2005 has printed all new books on GPI-qualifying paper. This means that the paper contains certain minimum levels and types of recycled content or has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The decision to do this means that we can’t use all printers (only those that can supply this type of paper) and that our printing costs are slightly higher than they would be otherwise (in most cases, qualifying paper is more expensive than the current standard paper). It’s also one of the reasons (although there are several) that we don’t print books with a lot of color illustrations: it’s mostly not possible to print four-color books affordably in North America and the overseas printers who do print full-color economically are not yet in the loop for qualifying papers.

So far, we’ve used qualifying recycled-content papers, from 100% to 30% postconsumer recycled (post-consumer waste, or PCW), depending on what a given printer has
available and our budget; most is 100% to 50% PCW. The qualifying papers are also "processed chlorine free" (PCF). The only place I know of that you can currently find out which books are printed on GPI-qualifying paper is Powell’s Books. Today there are four books in the Crafts section: three are Nomad Press titles. This fall, we’ll have four.

Although PCW/PCF paper is a given, I am hoping to be able to print Ethnic Knitting Discovery with two colors of ink: the final decision will depend on print bids which I won’t have for . . . eek . . . six weeks . . . that’s very soon . . . but I’m doing the layout as if two-color printing will be affordable. The second color would help clarify the content and it would be pretty!

Anyway, Ethnic Knitting Discovery is far enough along now that I can’t work entirely on-screen and need to start making printouts. And in some cases, like now, taking the paper trimmer to the pages so I can start getting a better idea of how they’ll look when they’re printed for real.

Ethnic Knitting Discovery has been planned as a 160-page book. I set that page count after doing the preliminary layout, so I know it’s a reasonable number to fit the material. (Many publishers set a page count and then make the material fit; working the other way around is one of the ways in which I’m swimming against the current publishing flow.) Right now, the layout file contains 170 pages, which means that by the time we really go to press I need to condense by 10 pages. I have at least 10 blanks scattered throughout the book, but they’re not in convenient places because even more important than page count (for me) is the logical arrangement of information for the reader’s convenience.

I don’t have to hit the magic 160 mark for the galleys. Galleys are printed digitally and don’t have to respect offset printing’s signature counts (160 pages consists of five 32-page signatures). Digital books can have any page count they want (divisible by 2). However, the closer I can get to 160 now, the more the galleys will resemble the finished book and the less work I’ll have to do between galleys and real books (a gap that narrows daily).

Although I have some inconveniently located blanks, I also have pages like the one in the middle above, which currently contains twice as much information as it can accommodate. The yellow-circled bits say things like "check color of arrows" (in case I do get to print it in two colors) and "watch for oversets." The latter means that I’ve changed the type specifications for some elements. "Overset" means that the type no longer fits in the layout box, which needs to be resized or the entire text won’t show up on the page. Fiddly but absolutely essential stuff.

So I begin again from page 1, working to make the flow of information graceful and economical . . . and complete and correct. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve begun again from page 1 on this book; that’s typical for the process.

During the weekend I made good progress. When I turned off the computer last night, I was on page 23. I hadn’t "lost" any of the extra pages yet, but the results are feeling good.

Making a book requires visioning and re-visioning the material repeatedly, while keeping track of more details than a brain can wrap itself around all at once. It’s good to get to the point where I print pages because I don’t have to carry the whole book in my head. I can spread it out and look at it.

If I end this pass through the book without being able to reach the magic 160 count, my fallback position is to add another signature. I’ll resist that because it uses more paper, increases per-copy printing and shipping costs, and cuts into the already narrow margins of publishing (most of a book’s cover price does not come back to the author and/or publisher; there are a whole lot of middle people between source and reader). But if adding a signature or half-signature is what it takes to make the book right, that’s what I’ll do. I’ve done it before.

In another 137 pages I’ll have a pretty good idea whether I’ll be using Plan A (scheduled count) or Plan B (increase page count). I’m hoping for Plan A. . . . It would be neater in many ways. . . . And it might provide just enough edge to let me afford that two-color printing. . . .

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5 Responses

  1. Deb, it’s so nice to hear that someone else works the same way I do.:-)

  2. I really enjoy reading about the publishing (and pretty much everything else you write about too). I am currently working on a book and so it’s very fascinating to read about how you work on a book. For example, I hadn’t thought about using “green” paper, but now I will find out more about it. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  3. Good luck with the revisioning of ETHNIC KNITTING DISCOVERY, and congrats on the awards and continuing sales of ARCTIC LACE! I’m interested in the Green Press Institute – I’ll have to check that out.

    Since I know you have nothing to do (hah!), I tagged you for the Eight Random Facts meme. It’s a fun game for when you have a few spare moments, and could well bring you some new readers. If you want to play, visit my blog for the rules and my Eight Random Facts. ;~)

  4. Well, tagged, eh? I haven’t done any of these yet, and nope, I don’t have a spare brain cell. But *if* I get the schematics tweaked and that ONE last pattern straightened out (the one that’s been haunting me since last fall), I’ll go take a look at Susan’s blog for the rules and see if a single brain cell fires. . . .

    I look forward to hearing more about your book when it’s time, Janel!

    And Janet, it’s good to have congenial fellow travelers in this knitting/publishing thing. You do such fine work.

  5. I’m tagged, too, and was going to tag you but….. LOL. So I’ll simply say that your blog has turned into quite the fabulous bit of reading. Nice job…. why haven’t I visited sooner?

    Dani

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