Welcome back to the next installment of Design Adventures! This time, we’re taking a look at the original proof of A Promise Broken and why it’s not yet available in print. This time, there will be pictures! Excitement! Anyway. When last I discussed by adventures in design (see what I did there?), I was playing around with collections beyond my skill level to get the hang of what I was doing again. Once I had that… I switched over to A Promise Broken. A novel can be fiddly and annoying — I lost a couple of hours restoring all the italics because I’m absolutely brilliant like that. If you’re using InDesign, that actually has the ability to import Word files with the formatting intact, so make use of that! — but it was comparatively straight-forward. Huzzah!
So, Lynn, you’re probably asking me. What went wrong? Well, first of all, I didn’t have an imprint logo at the time and I wanted the book to look (and feel) professional. I had to get that first, but actually the biggest thing that’s held me up has been the cover. You see, I’m not that experienced in graphic design, all things considered, and I was struggling to figure out what to do with the darned thing. I’ll be talking about covers in more detail in separate posts later. For now, know that it’s not the interior layout that’s holding me up so much as the cover. The interior, at this point, is pretty much done.
So let’s go look at some pictures of the first proof for A Promise Broken! More importantly, let’s look at the ways in which things are, um, broken and talk about the perils of interior layout design. Remember how I said this series could alternately be called “What NOT To Do In Design”? This is why. Because I’m about to discuss what not to do. Or at least what to avoid doing if you possibly can. Anyway! Pictures.
Please note! There are several fairly large pictures, so if you’re on dial-up or otherwise have limited bandwidth available, tread with caution.
Round 1 of What Did Lynn Mess Up With A Promise Broken The First Time Around?
Here, let’s start this section off with a picture!
Looks pretty sweet, right? It looks like an actual book! OMG! That is the most exciting thing! I was not prepared for the feels of holding a proof copy of my own book in my hands. It’s a really odd feeling because… Well, I know I’m an author. I had been for some time. But having published ebooks did not prepare me for how it felt to be holding my own story in my hands like the books I’d grown up reading. It was amazing! And, honestly, that picture does look pretty darned sweet, right? If you take into account that it’s the first time I’ve turned a layout I’ve created into print!
But look closely. Notice how some of the lines have really big spacing between the words compared to the rest. That issue with the spacing between the characters (the kerning) is down to the justify settings that keeps the inside margin from looking ragged. Usually, the text in a book is set to create a single straight line on either side of the page, unless as you can see at the end of some paragraphs, the text doesn’t reach that far. It tends to turn out pretty well, but if you’re not careful it can end up providing a disruptive read because the difference between the size of blank space between words is too large for comfort. Also possible, and not visible in this picture, is what happens when the kerning is too little. (We’ll be seeing that very clearly when I get to Sea Foam and Silence. Yay?)
You can address the kerning (should even if you want a shiny, fantastic read), but you’ll have to be very careful because fixing something at the start of your text may break something later on. It may also fix them, of course, but as a general rule it’s a good idea to at least scan over your text for obvious issues if you make enough changes to alter the flow on the page significantly.
You can also see the widow/orphan control in action! That last line on the page belongs to a paragraph that’s almost entirely found on page 23. If the paragraph with the spacing issues had been shorter, I might have been able to pull the words of the last line onto the previous one. Then, the sixth paragraph would have had 2 lines on page 22 and the rest on page 23. It would have looked much better than it does in this photo.
For contrast: here’s a picture from the second proof:
The first proof’s chapter headings look the same, if you’re curious, but as you can see this time the chapter starts on page 23 rather than 22. That’s largely because I decided that I absolutely loathed the way names with hyphens appeared at the end of a line. (You can actually see it in action in the previous picture! They’re very similar headings to the ebook ones, though not 100% the same. (Different formats, different methods, so I’m not too bothered when the only difference is that the line spacing is not exactly the same.)
Anyway! You can see that the problem with the kerning and blank space is much reduced. You can also deduce that there’s no widow/orphan issues here. There’s actually a line or four of this last paragraph found on page 24. But, alas, I neglected to take a picture.
Here’s another picture! This time it’s of the pretty little shell dividers used in the ebook. Here’s what they looked like in the first proof:
Again, doesn’t look too shabby, does it? Sadly, I couldn’t get a picture of two dividers on the same page because they’d have illustrated why I’m about to tell you that they were actually awful. I couldn’t get them lined up properly at first, so they were uneven. There aren’t many scene breaks in A Promise Broken, so I’d imagine that it’s possible people wouldn’t notice they weren’t all aligned the same way, but I noticed and it bothered me a lot! I was actually contemplating getting rid of the scene break images entirely if I couldn’t make them work! (At least for the time being, so I could get the book published.)
(As a side-note: see that little orange arrow to the side? That’s one of my proofing arrows. Rather than writing in the books, I scatter paper-friendly see-through marker stickers throughout the text to remind me where to look. They’re adorable and, no, sadly I don’t know where you can get your own. I’ve only found them once in a single store that’s now out of business. Anyway!)
Thankfully, I have absolutely fantastic friends and Anna — still of the awesome design — helped me figure out how to fix those. (I suspect I forgot the image section of the InDesign course because Anna’s solution was incredibly simple. It’s a really small thing, but I’d almost missed it. While it might not bother people who, like me, didn’t notice or scarcely noticed, it’s bound to bother people who do notice. I know that, personally, it’s the small things that get me in a well-created item. It’s like the creator did so much to create such a good product and tried so hard and then… Why didn’t they take that one little extra step? It’s hardly more than they’ve already done. What’s five more minutes of fiddling to create perfection when you’ve already spent a day on it? Etc. So the small things? They bother me a lot when all I’ve got to worry about are those small things.
Anyway! Here’s a really good example of why hiring someone to create the layout for you is a good idea: they notice things like this and will know how to address or fix them. They’ve studied that, after all.
Other questions about scene break dividers include what to do if your scene ends at the bottom of a page. Do you leave out the divider? Do you let it appear at the top of the next page? How do you signal to the reader that they’re reading a new scene? What if only a single line appears on the previous page? Etc, etc. (Any and all of these questions can be answered by studying other books to look at how they tackle these issues. I’ve always liked looking at how book layouts work, but wow I didn’t realise how fantastic I thought it was until I decided to design them myself. It’s also terrifying. What if people don’t like it or think it reads comfortably? What if I accidentally ignore or mess up The Rules for these things?
Because there are rules and, like with most creative rules, they’re best broken on purpose when you know what you’re doing and why. We all love it when something looks great by accident, but we actually want it to look great by design. That way we can reproduce what we’re doing. (And, if we’re in an environment where we’re discussing our choices, are better able to explain our actions.)
Let’s take a look at the same divider in the second proof.
Yep. You get a much bigger look at the book as a whole. Sorry it’s a bit blurry. You can see it’s much closer to the text now. You can also see more (potential) issues caused by the justification of the text. Whoo! It’s all in the little things, people! Anyway! Let’s just move on. I have one more thing that I want to show you of these two attempts. I want to show you hyphens in more detail. See below!
Remember earlier when I mentioned hyphens? This is what they look like. Hyphens are interesting things. You can choose to allow them at the end of a line or not as you please. Personally, I’m not a fan. I’m even less of a fan when the story I’m writing uses them in names to separate honorifics from the actual name. It’s not necessary, but it’s the done thing when writing in English, so I wanted to stick with the conventions I’d been taught. But having them at the end of the line, which I associated very firmly with “We broke this word into two sections”, irked me. It didn’t look good, especially since the only end-of-line hyphens I was using were manually added ones like in the names and very few of them actually appeared at the end of a line.
In short, while I was reading through the first proof, the hyphens at the end of the line drove me batty. This may be different for you! But for me, I had to fiddle with the text to get rid of the end-of-line hyphens. Which means that I was once again looking at a situation where the page flow changes.
Other things you may notice on this page are super-squished words in a line and the text being really close to the spine. The latter isn’t uncomfortable to read, to me, but your mileage may vary. I’m kind of used to mass market paperback of 400+ pages in tiny print, so I’m used to ridiculously small margins. This, as far as I know, is an area where nothing will beat experience because you won’t actually get a feel for how your inside margin works until you’re holding the book in your hands. The PDF can’t tell you how the page reads when bent.
And… that’s it for this proof! This is the first book that I ever ordered a proof for. I’m not entirely happy with it, but for a first (well, fourth) attempt, I think it looked pretty slick and didn’t have too many glaring issues. Oh, there were a loooooot of issue with widow/orphan control too because I either did nothing about it or went entirely overboard. It depends a little on the chapter.
And then I got distracted by what I hoped would be the much quicker version of Courage Is the Price and we’ll talk about that one next time! See you then!