Layout and Design

Blog No. 157

In days of yore, and author was responsible for one (or at the most a few) things. The number one thing on that list is writing. They may find time to do readings or interviews. If they are successful enough, they may hold signings, be judges in contests, or teach classes, but above all of that, there was the writing and little more. Once they were finished with a manuscript, they sent it off to their publisher who would take care of the rest. (That’s a major simplification, but you get my drift). Even now there are a lucky few authors who have enough clout that their publishers handle most things, but the most successful of those tend to be active members of their own publicity.

Most authors have to handle the majority of their publicity, gaining some ground with audiences so they can have a shot at a publisher. They pay for their own editors (the smart ones at least) to make sure what they sent to agents is up to snuff. Those who go it alone have a whole host of other responsibilities. Everything is their job, from sales, distribution, cover design, and so many more. Christian and I have had to handle it all (with lots of advice and support thankfully). Most of it seems to be straight forward, but the one that has been the biggest time sink (and has kept me up the latest at night) has been layout and design. How authors with no experience handle that task is beyond me. I assume they must rely on the small publishers, printers, or strangers; nervously handing over their vision to someone either callous and burnt out, inexperienced, or (my least favourite) individuals with their own vision.

Luckily for us, I have some experience (though very limited). Even luckier, I have a professional program built for the job. Back in my journalism days, we were taught quark. At the time, I found the whole thing tedious. It was a class in school and I was not a good student at the time, so it was no wonder. I had some interest in the subject (making CDs for friends in high school, complete covers and all). I learned a lot of the basics and we were all given a copy to take with us into the future. I didn’t stay in the field, but I always had that copy of quark. I would upgrade it, fiddle with it for school, create a few projects on my own, and usually not touch it for years at a time. Then we decided to do the Zine.

Working on the first couple Zines took a lot of time, but most things came back to me without too much trouble. I chose to use a lot of workarounds rather than spend more time searching to see if there was a proper way to do something. It meant more fiddling, but once I had a template, it was easy enough to just drop things in and send it to a printer. When we decide to put the collection out ourselves, the layout and design was out biggest hurdle. Summoning my courage (and a lot of mixed information off the internet) I got to work. Many, many hours have gone into the layout. For the past few weeks it replaced writing completely. The shortcuts I took for the Zine didn’t cut it and much research (and trial and error) was needed. Now I am nearly finished. We are waiting on a few pieces of information and some slight tweaking may have to be done (resulting in a few more hours of adjusting everything to the changes).

I’m pretty happy with what we’ve come up with and I’m relieved I was able to make it all happen. I’m getting pretty sick of it and I’ll be jumping for joy when it’s all done, but I did it. Between the Zines and this book layout, I’m feeling accomplished and (if I manage to get a few more layouts under my belt) am confident that I’ll be able to add layout and design to my resume. (As long as I can get the writer part there first).

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