It’s a long way from the first stroke of a key on a computer to a finished book, be it electronic or solid.
As Teaching Eliza gets closer and closer to publication, I am learning all sorts of new things about the world of books. I’ve been learning about the different types of eBooks, about what kind of eBook reader accepts what sorts of files, and about which retailers’ hardware supports which sort of software. I’ve been learning about how to format a long and undifferentiated Word document into the sort of file that will make a nice eBook, one with chapters and suitable breaks, that is pleasant on the eye to read.
I’ve been learning about cover art, about what is and is not going to work on a screen, large or small. I’ve learned about what sorts of cover images I want, and which I would rather avoid. I’ve learned about colour and design, and I’ve learned that I need to rely on a professional to do the job well.
My amazing cover artist Mae at coverfreshdesigns.com deserves a round of applause for this gorgeous cover.
I’ve also learned about the practical end of things, about different avenues of distribution to get the book into everyone’s favourite stores.
And I’ve been learning about the many details involved in preparing a book for print. My grandfather was a printer, and I wish he were here to guide me through some of the minutiae which are so esoteric and yet somehow, so compelling. Some terms I know. Page size, margin width, those make sense to me. Other terms are less familiar, such as gutter and bleed, which has nothing to do with paper cuts. And then there are the formatting details that will enable that same long and undifferentiated Word document that made the eBook become a solid book. (Not a real book – it’s the content that makes that. But something solid, tangible.)
The details are different, and the formatting is different, and as frustrating as it can be when it doesn’t quite work out, there is also a sort of meditative zen in the pursuit of print perfection. I was almost satisfied with my layout last week, but something did not quite sit well. Which was how I found myself researching and installing new fonts at seven o’clock in the morning to see how they worked. Large type face or small? Which looks better? Which is more pleasant to the eye? Which works with the content and feel of the book?
There are, of course, no definitive answers to these questions, but I believe I have answered them to my satisfaction. And so you can imagine my thrill when my first proof copy arrived today from the printer. I have been so happy to hold it in my hands that I have hardly dared to look inside to check that all the words are there, that I haven’t forgotten chapter 13 or something. That will happen soon enough. For now, I am basking in the completion of the journey. From pixel to print.
Here is my book: