by Sam BarryJanuary 2013
Practical advice on writing & publishing for aspiring authors
JUDGING A BOOK
Dear Author Enabler,
It seems that many times the layout, typeface and artwork of new books are very similar to one another. As a retired graphic designer, it surprises me that a professional assumes that a successful cover for one book would work just as well for another. I’ve also noticed that many self-published eBooks have the same type of covers copied over and over. Why does this professional “laziness” (IMHO) occur? Do new authors have any input on the cover art of their book? How do new/young cover designers break into the business?
Winter Springs, Florida
There are trends and fads in the design of book covers. Publishers imitate the covers of successful books, hoping that some of the magic will rub off. And there is another, more practical reason for repetition: With only a few moments to capture consumers’ eyes, the cover needs to communicate instantly “this is a thriller” or “this is a cookbook.” This need for a clear message often results in imitation. Given these constraints, I am struck by the number of beautiful covers I see. There are a lot of creative people engaged in designing books today.
In general the author isn’t in a position to insist on a particular cover design, or for that matter, title. Art directors make the best decisions on creating attractive, effective covers.
I suggest that new artists offer their services on a freelance basis to self-published authors; this can lead to revenue in the present and the chance of future work with established publishers. And of course there is the traditional route: reaching out to art directors at publishing houses and asking them to take a look at your portfolio.
TRIAL & ERROR
Dear Author Enabler,
Having worked for over 30 years in a job that involved a lot of proofreading, I am increasingly frustrated by the number of errors I find in the many books I read. The impression is that no one bothers with proofreading; they just run the text through a spell-checker and think that takes care of the problem. I am a very fast and accurate proofreader—do you know of any way I could offer my services to authors who seem uninterested in doing it for themselves?
There certainly is a need for proofreaders. Books, especially self-published books, are increasingly riddled with errors and inconsistencies. As a writer, I don’t know what I would do without capable people like Lynn Green, my editor at BookPage, or the editors of my books, Michelle Witte and Brendan O’Neill. To find clients in need of your proofreading skills, I would suggest advertising in journals that writers read—such as BookPage, Writers Digest, Poets & Writers—and getting the word out to publishing people via bookstores, libraries, social networks, creative writing departments and writers’ conferences.
Correction: Several professional proofreaders were disappointed by an answer in my November column, in which I advised that it was acceptable to have “someone close to you proofread your work.” Ceil Goldman of Ormond Beach, Florida, writes, “Your thoughts on ‘proofreading’ make it seem more like an editing function. The term in the last few decades has been conflated with editing and copyediting, but a proofreader does not give critiques, honest or not; their job is to compare the current draft with the previous production draft and mark errors.”
Cliché alert: In response to our reference to the hair-tucking explosion in fiction, many vigilant readers reported similar complaints. “I’ve noticed that most of the striking characters in novels have an ‘aquiline nose,’” writes Mary Warren of Worth, Illinois. Jean Lamoureux of Villa Park, Illinois, observes, “Too many books have a character with green eyes. Seriously, how many green-eyed people does anyone know?” [At least one—your Author Enabler has green eyes.]
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