Idle thoughts on completing a revision

Yesterday afternoon, I sent a PDF back to Amy Reeve at Information Today, Inc.–namely, The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: Helping Patrons and Communities Use Free and Low-cost Publishing Tools to Tell Their Stories. ISBN 978-1-57387-430-4. (Since it’s listed in the latest ITI catalog, I’m comfortable using the full title.)

It’s a PDF because this book is an example of what it’s about–using low-cost software most patrons already have (Microsoft Word or, if not that, LibreOffice/OpenOffice) and low-cost service providers (primarily Lulu, but also CreateSpace) to produce micropublications: Books, such as family histories, geneaologies, oral histories, microniche items, etc., that will have a market of from one to 50 copies. While the book will be published traditionally, the PDF used to publish it will come entirely from Word 2010 on my computer (albeit with title page design supplied by ITI).

This PDF is the third version, following Amy’s superb copyediting. I’m not sure I accepted 100% of her editorial suggestions, but it was close to that. As a writer who’s published more than a dozen books traditionally (with editors, copyeditors and the whole process) and more than half a dozen via Lulu (with only my own flawed editing), and who’s also published a couple hundred columns in print magazines where editors are involved, I really and truly appreciate high-quality editing and copyediting. The second version followed John B. Bryans’ editorial suggestions, which resulted in considerable improvements. I’m certain Amy Reeve’s work has also improved the book. (Let me not forget M. Heide Dengler, who worked with me to refine the Word template I created for the book–a Word template that will be publicly available as part of the methodology described in the book.)

There are still more steps. There may be a proofreading step. There’s certainly an indexing step (done by professionals at ITI, for which I’m especially grateful, as I’m not a competent indexer). In a few weeks, the results of those steps will come to me and be combined with the existing (or further revised) document to create the final PDF.

Meanwhile, and really, I’m not just procrastinating a bit longer on starting to actually write my next book, truly I’m not…

A few idle thoughts

  • For every ten textual changes in a book–no matter how small those changes are (down to and including changing an em dash to a comma and space)–there will be at least one new bad break (line-breaking hyphen that doesn’t follow agreed layout rules), orphan word or other layout problem
  • There is no substitute for high-quality editing and copyediting. You can do a good job on your own, but an independent mind will bring more to the table.
  • Adobe Acrobat just may be a tool of the devil. While the book discusses using Word’s own PDF output with PDF/A selected (which assures that all typefaces will be embedded, thus meeting Lulu’s upload rules), I was using Acrobat as a “printer”–with explicit inclusion of all typefaces–because I thought it would yield a smaller file, as it has in previous cases. For some reason, I’m still not sure why, I could never convince Acrobat to embed Lucida Bright and Lucida Sans (used as examples of possible typefaces)…and, when I reverted to Word’s PDF/A output, there was no significant difference in file size. Not to mention the fact that Word’s output process is a whole lot faster than Acrobat’s “printing” process.
  • This stuff is fun. It’s also work, but it’s an oddly satisfying form of work. And, once you’ve done page-by-page checking and handling of orphan words and other layout issues, you become very aware of how many big-publisher books apparently haven’t had that level of attention (three-quarters of a sample of 40 recent Big Six books I checked at the library, for example). Independent and smaller book publishers (definitely including ITI and ALA Editions) really do try harder, and it shows.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the book as it nears real production. (One private copy, without index and final title page and with a very odd cover, is being produced as I write this–I wanted to make absolutely sure I was walking the talk. And, hey, Lulu’s still offering a “create a new book, get one copy free” deal, so the private copy’s only costing me the $3.99 postage charge.)

Now, on to libraries in social networks…

4 Responses to “Idle thoughts on completing a revision”

  1. Stephen Michael Kellat says:

    Budget permitting, I plan to buy a copy of this.

  2. Jeff Rivera says:

    Thank you for the valuable post.

  3. I fully agree with Adobe Acrobat being the tool of the devil but thought I might chime in with my brief experiences. I find that the Word (or ppt, for that matter) plugin that comes with Acrobat Pro does a much better, faster, smaller pdf than printing to pdf. Also, for the purposes of your book, I wonder if you thought of trying some of the free/open source software to create pdfs… maybe you did and found that they didn’t work? I have pdf creator at home and it is adequate for home use.

  4. walt says:

    Christina: The plugin in Acrobat 9 won’t work with Word 2010; Adobe wants to make $ure they get every po$$ible dollar out of you. However, the “save as PDF” within Office 2010 itself, which no longer requires a separate purchase from Adobe, works just fine.

    And, as it turns out, when I actually tested the PDF with Lulu, Acrobat 9 would not embed one typeface used in an example, no matter what I tried…but with the PDF/A option checked, the Save As function worked perfectly. In the case of this book, the sizes were essentially identical.

    I do suggest people try free or inexpensive alternatives, but in fact with current Word/Office, there’s really no need. (I’d tried one or two, and they didn’t embed everything and/or had other problems…but that was before Word2010 and its built-in PDF capabilities. LibreOffice also produces PDF/A directly.)