May 31, 2007

The Process: Part VI—InDesign Layout, First Pass Check

Designers should have the first pass of the book layout in pretty decent shape by the time the production editor receives it from them. This means all pages should be accounted for (and allocated appropriately), title pages and table of contents formatted, and all chapter openers and running text flowed throughout. The first pass will be a rough (sometimes more, sometimes almost perfect--depends on how thorough and detail-oriented the designer is) version of the final book.

When the designer is satisfied with the file (or until they run out of time), they will send it back to me for my review. I give it a once-over, checking on a few key items before I proceed:

(1) Length: Does the book run long or short? If so, does it look like it will be an easy fix (such as moving headers down by a quarter inch or reducing the amount of index pages)? If not, I troubleshoot the possibilities and figure out what is viable without destroying the layout and keeping the book readable.

(2) Styles: Did all of my tagging flow into InDesign correctly and do all styles ? Are there random paragraphs that became all bold because of a missing closing tag? Did text that was supposed to appear in a sidebar mistakenly end up in the body? By this stage I usually know the book very well and can immediately find anything out of place.

(3) Page makeup: All title pages, the TOC, foreword, introduction chapter openers, index, etc. should begin on a recto (right page of a spread). I also check for sparse and blank pages (a blank recto is a sin), and fix what I can.

(4) Formatting codes: We have specific, searchable "codes" for a variety of common elements such as em- and en-dashes, ellipses, fractions, degrees, etc. Because none of these items translate to InDesign from Word, we ask the designer to do a "find/replace" and put in the correct formatting.

Now if anything on this list (or something related) is a serious problem, I will make a note of what needs to be fixed before I can send the pages off to the author and proofreader. (The proofreaders are usually fine working on a pretty messy set of proofs, but authors can be easily freaked out when they see a big ugly jumble of words that is supposed to be their masterpiece.) The production manager (sometimes this person acts as the art director and/or printing manager as well) looks over the file to make sure all page measurements and characteristics are appropriate for printing (for example—if the text margins are too close to the edge of the page, they must be fixed and the entire book will reflow; if the designer has used color builds that won't print, these must be corrected, etc.). Once he/she lets me know if there are major issues, we go back to the designer for any pressing modifications. It is usually expected that the designer will have the corrected file returned within a day or two.

If things are looking pretty good (or once the designer has completed the revisions), I do a very brief page-by-page glance and fix glaring errors (typos, hyphen break at the bottom of a page onto the next, widows/orphans, incorrect spacing), leaving the minor stuff for later. I print three copies of the proof pages—one for me, one for the author, and one for the proofreader (whom I will have contracted for the project a month or more previous in the same way I would a copy editor). Depending on the book (specifically design-heavy layouts) and my availability, many times I will do a simultaneous light proofread at this early stage since I know all of the style requirements in addition to the text. Otherwise I wait until I have incorporated the all of the corrections requested by the author and proofreader.

Speaking of which, what happens during the author and proofreader review is soon to follow...

May 29, 2007

The Process: Part V—Manuscript Cleanup and Tagging

So now that you have reviewed the copy editor’s suggestions, answered any queries, revised the text, added an introduction, the acknowledgments, a dedication…once you are really sure that the manuscript reflects the final book you want it to become, you will return the document file to me to prep for the designer.

Usually the electronic manuscript is looking a mess by this stage. There can be anywhere from two to a dozen different tracked colors appearing in the document depending on how many people have made their mark in the file. (Word tracks individual computers and assigns a new color for changes made on each one; if you modify the file on your home computer as well as your work computer, you will have two unique colors.) Luckily, you as the author don’t have to worry about sorting through and fixing this. That’s where I come in.

When I receive your revised document, I go from start to finish and browse each page looking for embedded queries you may have answered. For example, the copy editor may have inserted [[AU: Where can readers buy this product?]] in the midst of a paragraph, and I would expect you as the author to either answer the question directly within the brackets, or more appropriately, have inserted the answer into the running text as part of the final manuscript. When I figure out which one you have done (if you incorporated it into the text, I just delete the query altogether; if you have merely answered it in the brackets, I will try to place it myself), I modify or approve the text accordingly and move along. An aside: I can also "Reject Changes" as I go along if I feel something is inappropriate or incorrect, or if you the author prefer a certain style over something the copy editor has selected.

Similarly, if the acquisitions editor or the copy editor or I have asked you to expand on a particular point, I will do a light copyedit of the new section of text you have inserted to make it consistent with the rest of the book. My responsibility is to get the manuscript cleaned up as much as possible so the proofreader (and you again) can focus on the important details (correct tense, hyphenation, word choice) rather than common mistakes (typos, missing commas) throughout.

After I have gone through the entire document (this can take a few hours or a whole day; it comes down to how messy it was to begin with, how long the book is, and how much you have modified), finalizing all the text, verifying all queries have been attended to, and deleting any comments or notes back and forth that are not meant to be in the book, I select “Accept All Changes in Document.” This brings me back to a totally clean black and white text file that has every single mark anyone made using Track Changes now incorporated. At this point the file is ready for tagging (also known as coding).

This part of the process is very similar to Web and software programming languages. If you have ever looked at HTML code, you will see that it and InDesign tags are nearly identical in some ways. Basically, just as HTML is telling your computer how to display a Web page, InDesign tags tell the program how to feed in the text and display the correct font, spacing, etc.

I’m sure this won’t appeal to many of the creative writers out there, but for the more analytical/logical types, here is an example of how coding in a manuscript would appear:

{ParaStyle:chapter}The Title of My Chapter
{ParaStyle:txtni}This is the first paragraph of my chapter. First paragraphs are rarely indented according to common style. That is why the name of this tag stands for {CharStyle:bold}text, not indented{CharStyle:}.
{ParaStyle:txt}This is the second paragraph of my chapter. This paragraph is indented, so it is just called {CharStyle:bold}text{CharStyle:}. I could also have named it “indtxt” or something similar. As a production editor, I get to make these choices.
You will also notice that there is no closing mark for paragraph styles. They continue until they find the next paragraph style, meaning that even though this paragraph has not been tagged, because the closest tag is for “txt”, that will apply to this one too.
And finally, you will see I have used a character style tag above. Character styles need a closing tag because they only apply to a small portion of the text (and thus change the style of those collective characters—i.e. letters, numbers, spaces, etc.).

**Of note: The tags actually utilize < these angle brackets (not {}), but because they are used in HTML, it won't show up in the blog!**

You may notice that there are no extra returns between lines, and no tabs or alignment or boldface, etc. The reason for this is that the file is imported into InDesign as text only, meaning no character formatting or special attributes will carry over into the design. I strip everything out before sending it to the designer (if you were to open the text file after that final step, you would see a long jumble of words in courier font that is quite unreadable). This is why I have to tag the manuscript: the designer can just bring the file into InDesign with its presets and the coding tells the text what to do. (And the designer has "programmed" InDesign to display the text according to the approved interior design.)

Anyhow, it really is a crucial step in the production process. Many years ago my publishing company would send all manuscript files to a freelancer who coded the documents (at that time for Quark, as that was the only publishing program available—the tags for that are quite different). These days, with a swell of younger, tech-savvy employees, the company can save money by having the production editors take over that role. There are a couple of other tagging methods/styles, but many designers prefer the InDesign tags because they are easy to trace and usually help them finish the layout that much faster. Although it can be time consuming (for straight text I might be looking at two hours tops, for design intensive books, I could spend two days finishing up) and tedious (guidebooks are by far the worst, especially if they have icons and sidebars), I actually find tagging to be a soothing and mindless task that can be very rewarding and gives the production editor the control rather than entrusting everything to the designer (remember, they don't read the books, so it may not always intuitive for them why something is handled a certain way).

So, when all of these final steps have been completed, the text file is sent to the designer, who should be ready and waiting. I usually send a note with the file about any special considerations and the due date (the standard is two to four weeks). The designer is in direct contact with me as they prepare the first pass of the book proofs. The next time I see the manuscript, it will look like a book on loose-leaf paper.

Coming up: receiving the first pass of the interior layout from the designer

May 6, 2007

The Process: Part IV—Interior Design and Layout

While you work away on the copyedited manuscript I have returned to you, I am simultaneously moving forward with the projected interior look of your book. A specific designer (chosen by the production manager in much the same way I have chosen the copy editor: based on design strengths, the particular book's needs, subject matter, etc.) will have been lined up for the project. Often the acquisitions editor will have some input as to how the book should feel to the reader. Does it need icons to separate sections? Should the typeface be soft and traditional? Or should it be striking and confrontational? Script or boldface? Usually there are general recommendations made that the designer can incorporate into their samples.

I prepare an interior design memo that accounts for all possible elements in the book that the designer needs to consider: number of headings and levels, running text, bullets/lists, sidebars, charts, icons/illustrations, footnotes, and of course the page count, number of words, page size, and other specifics. (A note for another post: there is a very calculated way that word/page counts are determined, and it is rare that they change much after a manuscript has been accepted. Sometimes we have to employ a little sleight of hand to turn out the book as originally figured.)

Once the designer is equipped with this information (I also submit a hefty chunk of text for him/her to work with, making sure to incorporate all unique elements discussed in the memo in that sample), they have between one and three weeks to provide us with two to five rough interior sample layouts. These are usually about ten to twenty pages long and should look just like the final book so we can get a good idea whether or not it will work.

Obviously this process wouldn't be terribly challenging or all that time consuming for a novel (nor is it for a nonfiction narrative, usually) because all you have is running text and maybe the chapter name/number to worry about. For some nonfiction works, however, it can be a stressful and fine art to get a design right in the first round (which is extremely rare). This is especially true of cookbooks, guidebooks, and instruction books. Everything has to be just right if you want the target audience to purchase it.

The designer's samples are passed around the office for several key opinions: the publisher (always has the final say), the sales/marketing manager (very important input, but not as crucial as the cover), the acquisitions editor (one of just a few people who has actually read the book and understands it fully), the production manager/art director (the in-house design specialist and technical guru), and the managing editor/production editor (again, one of few who has read the book and sees both the editorial and production sides). Many times it comes down to a vote for the favorite (sometimes incorporating an appealing piece from one of the overall less liked samples), and detailed notes about any modifications needed are made. This comprehensive feedback is sent to the designer for a second round.

Hopefully the designer will have made all requested alterations to the layout and look, and when they return the second design sample everything is perfect. Usually it isn't so easy, but most of the time the second attempt is very close to what becomes the final design. Several back-and-forths are sent and eventually a design is approved.

By the time you return your revised manuscript file to me, we should have the interior layout ready to go. Occasionally the author is included in this process (or at least given a complimentary look at what we have decided on), but unless you have some very strong feelings about a particular page style/font being used, we move forward with what we have.

It is really exciting to get to this part in the process because it means we are very close to seeing your manuscript in book form. It is one of the highlights of being a project editor (the greatest being holding the finished, printed book in my hand).

And next: Cleaning up and tagging the manuscript