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Old 11-16-2009, 12:30 PM   #1
khalleron
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Book design questions and help

So, many of you know that I'm writing a novel. I intend to offer it as ebook for free to anyone who'll read it, but since most of my friends don't have ebook readers, I'm also planning to do a POD on CreateSpace for those who'd rather have a paper copy.

I'm learning some typesetting stuff as I go along, but I'd really like some opinions from those who know more than I do about that. I'll attach the first two and half chapters I have done in PDF for anyone who'd like to give me pointers.

Cover art - I really don't know where to begin. I'm a complete newbie (actually, what comes before newbie?) with any kind of photo or graphic design software. I mean, I know absolutely nothing and am not at all visually artistic in any way. I know what I like when I see it, but have no idea how to do it. I really like some of Moejoe's stuff that I've seen on other threads - I like his approach (I hate character designs, too. In my writing, I only give the minimal necessary physical descriptions, letting the reader imagine my characters themselves. I think character photos destroy that process), so something simple and iconic would be right up my alley, but I really will need help on this, please.

It's a historical novel, set in 1850s Kentucky and 1880s California, if that helps at all.

I do wonder if the Title Page might have too many swirly things on it.
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Old 11-16-2009, 12:53 PM   #2
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This is the last one I did for a member here (I'm a firm believer in evocative covers, rather than descriptive. I lean toward symbolism and metaphor (as I do in my writing). So I'd like to take a crack at producing a cover for Portrait of the Past, if you don't mind
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Old 11-16-2009, 12:54 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
This is the last one I did for a member here (I'm a firm believer in evocative covers, rather than descriptive. I lean toward symbolism and metaphor (as I do in my writing). So I'd like to take a crack at producing a cover for Portrait of the Past, if you don't mind
Oh please oh please oh please oh please.

You're my dream come true!
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Old 11-16-2009, 07:33 PM   #4
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Okay here's the first idea I came up with:
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Old 11-16-2009, 07:53 PM   #5
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Oh my gosh, my heart is in my throat.

I love it. You have a gift, that's for sure.

Love the iconic look, love the tagline.

Not enamored of bright yellow, would trying some other colors be too much trouble? Maybe a pale green, or taking it down a few shades to more of an ochre?

Otherwise, it's wonderful.
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Old 11-16-2009, 08:21 PM   #6
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Okay, 2nd version
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Old 11-16-2009, 08:38 PM   #7
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How do you do this so fast? And how do you sum up so well a book that isn't even written yet. I bow down before you.

I just hope the book lives up to the great cover.

I'll be going with the middle one - the tone of the colors more matches the tone of the book.

Thank you so much. I don't know how to thank you.

EDIT: Or maybe the third one - I like that one, too. Will have to mull it over.

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Old 11-16-2009, 08:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by khalleron View Post
How do you do this so fast? And how do you sum up so well a book that isn't even written yet. I bow down before you.

I just hope the book lives up to the great cover.

I'll be going with the middle one - the tone of the colors more matches the tone of the book.

Thank you so much. I don't know how to thank you.
Just keep writing, and if you're in a position to help someone else out with their writing along the line (or whatever), help them out, that's thank-you enough

And as an added bonus, the scripted-writing that makes up part of the cameo silhouhette and background is an actual letter written by a slave kept on a Kentucky farm - so it's in-keeping with the whole story
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Old 11-17-2009, 12:49 AM   #9
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The one in your first post doesn't seem as garish now that I'm home on my laptop - guess my work computer needs to be adjusted somewhat.

Still like no. 3, the antique gray-ish one the best, though.
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Old 11-17-2009, 02:46 AM   #10
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I like the original cover the best of all, looks really fab and very inviting.

Moejoe has a real gift for not only producing some fab designs but also suiting them to the material.
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Old 11-17-2009, 07:34 AM   #11
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Disclaimer: I don't have any formal design or typesetting training.

Having said that, here's my comments on your PDF:

I hate the drop shadow on the border. I'm not fond of the border either - it's a bit plain given the rest of the page.
The fancy capitals need to be bigger, as they have such a complex design. The font for the rest of the text on the title page should match the capitals design better – at the very least another serif font.
I'd be inclined to put "of the" on one line, and perhaps even slightly smaller than the rest. I'd also put your name onto one line.
If I could find a symmetric ornament that matched for the middle, I'd flip the bottom ornament to mirror the top ornament.


I'd place the dedication a little further down its page.


The first paragraph of each chapter should have no indent. Also the fancy capital needs to be a lot bigger - it's so complex that the design will just be a smudge at the size you have it. You could either have it just as a large initial letter, or even as a drop cap over (at least) two lines. Three would probably be better given how complex it it.

Obviously this is only an initial flow into your template, but you'll need to do a lot of work on this to make it look good.

Page 1, third paragraph: avoid the "ers." alone on the last line. You could do this by tweaking the tracking of the paragraph a little. It looks like a little negative tracking will pull "wish" on the third line back onto the second line, and that shoudl do it.

Page 1, third paragraph. You seem to have a hyphen when you should have an en-dash. You seem to have used an en-dash correctly in the second paragraph. Ditto in the fourth paragraph. And throughout the sample, it seems.

Page 1, fourth paragraph: The "Some." on its own is ugly, but you might have to live with it.

Page 2: Your ellipses need to be done with non-breaking spaces between the full stops. That way you'll avoid the nasty breaks in the second and fifth paragraphs.

Page 2/3: ugly orphan "with my hair down." on the page break. But facing pages, so not to worry about if it can't be easily fixed.

Page 3, 8th para: "ing." ugh.

Page 3/4: You can't leave "you." alone on the next page, especially as it's over a page turn.


Chapter pages: Given the centred chapter number and title, it might look better to make the page number of this pages centred on the text block as well.

I also thing the page number style does match the rest of the page very well. Perhaps changing the old-style numbers for the page number would look better?

Given that you've used “curly” quotes for speech, you really ought to use a proper apostrophe ’ rather than the straight ascii apostrophe '.

Quote:
Originally Posted by khalleron View Post
So, many of you know that I'm writing a novel. I intend to offer it as ebook for free to anyone who'll read it, but since most of my friends don't have ebook readers, I'm also planning to do a POD on CreateSpace for those who'd rather have a paper copy.

I'm learning some typesetting stuff as I go along, but I'd really like some opinions from those who know more than I do about that. I'll attach the first two and half chapters I have done in PDF for anyone who'd like to give me pointers.

I do wonder if the Title Page might have too many swirly things on it.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:45 AM   #12
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Disclaimer: I don't have any formal design or typesetting training.


I also thing the page number style does match the rest of the page very well. Perhaps changing the old-style numbers for the page number would look better?
Do you mean 'doesn't match the rest of the page very well'? It's the same font as the rest of the page. But I'll play around with it.

Thanks for all the suggestions! I've made most of the changes you've suggested. I'm using OpenOffice - I'd like to put a nicer border around the title page, but OO doesn't seem to have that functionality. If someone could help me with that, I'd be grateful.

I'd also love to drop the initial cap down, but I can't seem to get the text to wrap around it. Any suggestions there would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the help - it's readily apparent, I'm sure, that I'm a complete newbie at this. I really appreciate you all taking the time and effort to help me.

Here's a revised PDF, incorporating your suggestions.
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Old 11-17-2009, 11:03 AM   #13
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I'm probably just being very picky about the page number. (BTW, I didn't intend that it should be centred on all pages, but that looks OK.)

The chapter starts look a lot better, as do the title page and the dedication.

You seem to have applied a grey shadow to the capitals at the start of chapters. This might work if they were a lot larger (& you applied a baseline shift to make sure that the baseline of the black letter matched the rest of the line, rather than the baseline of the grey shadow), but I'm not fond of shadows in books (you may have noticed!).

I see you've changed the apostrophes.

The hyphens that should be en-dashes haven't been fixed. Compare (in close-up) the en-dash in the first paragraph with the hyphens elsewhere.

item – no

slow - she


See the difference?

I can see that you're tried to avoid widows and orphans (single lines of paragraphs left on the previous or next pages), but you shouldn't do this by just pushing the lines onto the next page - having the last line on the page be in a different position from page to page looks worse than the occasional widow or orphan. Especially on facing pages, and when the page number is so close to the last possible line. Instead, try minor adjustments to the tracking (spacing between characters) to make a paragraph either take up fewer lines or more lines.

It does look like you've fixes the ellipses - much better.

I don't have any experience in Open Office. I would expect that there's a "Drop Caps" command in there somewhere, perhaps in paragraph attributes.

And, of course, there's the question of what you think it looks better. I'm just someone with a knowledge of typographic terms and practice from a few years writing software for the publishing industry. I have little to no artistic/design talent.
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Old 11-17-2009, 11:10 AM   #14
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Just give my two cents - like the second image in the second batch (the grey one) the best. Looks great

Moejoe- please pm me your email details as I might have some work for you down the line.
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Old 11-17-2009, 11:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
I'm probably just being very picky about the page number. (BTW, I didn't intend that it should be centred on all pages, but that looks OK.)

The chapter starts look a lot better, as do the title page and the dedication.

You seem to have applied a grey shadow to the capitals at the start of chapters. This might work if they were a lot larger (& you applied a baseline shift to make sure that the baseline of the black letter matched the rest of the line, rather than the baseline of the grey shadow), but I'm not fond of shadows in books (you may have noticed!).
No applied shadows, that's just how the font is.


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Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
The hyphens that should be en-dashes haven't been fixed. Compare (in close-up) the en-dash in the first paragraph with the hyphens elsewhere.

item – no

slow - she


See the difference?!)
Not sure, but I'll give it a look.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
I can see that you're tried to avoid widows and orphans (single lines of paragraphs left on the previous or next pages), but you shouldn't do this by just pushing the lines onto the next page - having the last line on the page be in a different position from page to page looks worse than the occasional widow or orphan. Especially on facing pages, and when the page number is so close to the last possible line. Instead, try minor adjustments to the tracking (spacing between characters) to make a paragraph either take up fewer lines or more lines.

Guess I'll be digging into OO help - I have no idea how to do that at this point.



Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
I don't have any experience in Open Office. I would expect that there's a "Drop Caps" command in there somewhere, perhaps in paragraph attributes.?!)
There is a Drop Caps attribute, but it doesn't include word-wrap, not that I can see anyway. Will dig into Help and see if I can find a solution.

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Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
And, of course, there's the question of what you think it looks better. I'm just someone with a knowledge of typographic terms and practice from a few years writing software for the publishing industry. I have little to no artistic/design talent.
I do think it looks better after your suggestions, except for the widow/orphan control. I'll work on that.

Thanks heaps!

Kate

EDIT: I found a tutorial that explains drop caps, so I'll try that when I get home from work. Tracking, kerning, etc. are apparently not features of OO, so I'll have to find a work-around. I do agree the book looks better when the page lengths are the same. Will have to put my problem-solving hat on, unless anyone has experience with OO and can give me some pointers.

I'm learning as I go along.

Last edited by khalleron; 11-17-2009 at 12:16 PM.
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