Friday, November 06, 2015

Formatting a Book

NPL Cover 2 Hi

I’m happy to announce that NEW POP LIT #1 (which might be called Issue One Revamped) is back from the printer. It looks good. More than good. It looks great.

I have found throughout the course of the text a few infuriating trivial mistakes which somehow I missed. Trivial for sure in the larger context of what we’re doing, because the book is a very good product, containing terrific writing. BUT, the failure of achieving 100%—which a book needs to be—plunges me back into the maddening experience of formatting the thing.

Putting together a book online, especially a collection of diverse contributions, is not like designing zines, of which I’ve done many. The way I produced zines, offline, every step was analog. Meaning, when I finished a page, it was finished. Unchanging.

A digital file by contrast is always changing. Make a change in one part of the file, and suddenly a score of changes have taken place throughout. Like the butterfly effect—a butterfly flapping its wings can have effects on the other end of the universe. In this case, the other end of the file. An added word or spaced line can mean two extra pages.

I worked on the book at night, after getting home from a grinding evening “day job.” I soon found I was doing a mind meld with the file. The file became part of my brain. The gaps in the file became echoed by gaps in my tired brain.

I was putting a dozen or more files together, each one formatted differently, along with inserted artwork. Each time I made a change in the file as a whole, it caused a proliferation of changes within each separate file. Even when I thought I’d brought them tediously up to speed. For instance, when I was 90% done, I decided the margins needed to be justified. A good move, but it threw off everything. Was the file also  “register true”? Oops! Another change to be made, causing other changes. Don’t ask me about titles, headers, and footers. I’m still absorbing my learning in those areas.

When you don’t take these steps in the proper order—I was operating by trial and error—then after each step you should proofread every single part of the file. Stories, poems, art, contents page, title page: everything. This becomes mentally exhausting. You begin skipping and scanning. The contents are of high quality. At times, the submissions are amazing. But that doesn’t mean you can reread them word by word night after night with ease! (The re-readings made me realize how amazing the pieces are. I have total appreciation for the talents of the writers and artists we were able to find.)

I took the obstacles and challenges as a kind of punishment given me from the mind of the universe for the extreme hubris of my past life. Maybe as a warning not to be arrogant and self-satisfied this time around. I’m thankful that I have another “this time” in which to push my ideas, and maybe, this time, to get them right.

The upside in the experience is that eventually you reach a point when you’re able to be a little creative. It’s why I’ve decided to keep going. I truly believe I can create books, in look, style, and writing, that will be a step beyond anything produced by the mainstream. If I can visualize it, I can create it—the creation dependent of course on the ability to find talents like those we’re showcasing in this our first title—from cover artist Alyssa Klash (our cover a fully realized achievement) to “Pop Picasso” insert artist Dan Nielsen, to unbelievable writers like Jessie Lynn McMains, Thomas Mundt, Brittany Terwilliger, Alex Bernstein, Robin Dunn, with exclamation marks; to interview subject author/publisher Delphine Pontvieux; and to the very special Kathleen Crane, without whose support and encouragement this project would be floundering.

Now comes the task of promoting and selling the produced thing, which should be easy!