Getting into Shape
Now things were getting serious. I had a large word processing file full of words that somewhat resembled a dictionary. My goal was to produce a presentable book. So how do I get from here to there? Fortunately, I spent some time doing desktop publishing in previous jobs and had a recent copy of PageMaker on my computer, so I figured I could do the layup myself and save a lot of money. But what should a book actually look like?
I pulled a few handfuls of wine books off my shelves and looked at how they were set up. Not terribly complicated: cover, title page, ‘front matter’, introduction, and then straight into it. Seemed easy enough. And my handy self-publishing reference came to the rescue once again, giving me detailed instructions on how to set up the front matter. One piece of advice it gave -- which I think may not be relevant today -- was to create an ‘imprint’. That would be the name of your publishing company (we chose “Chester Press”; it’s a long story). The idea is to throw people off the scent and make them think you aren’t self published. Today it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, as self publishing is coming on strong.
So with a few simple guidelines, I put together the first few pages and was ready to tackle the content. I threw together an introduction (which I still think is a bit lame) and added it to my lay-up. I then came up with something in the way of a layout style for the content: a term on one line with its definition below and indented. I did something radical here; I didn’t put periods at the end of the definitions. I have no idea why, and I still like the look of it. I imported it all into PageMaker and I was, essentially, done. There was only one more very important step before heading off to my printer.
Through another writers group I belonged to at the time, I’d met a proof-reader who was as ruthless at proofing as I was at editing. We negotiated a ‘good friend’ price and I handed her my manuscript. I’m pleased to say it came back with only a modicum of criticism. Now, despite the fact that I have a lot of training in English, grammar, writing, etc., and years of experience as an editor, I still gave my manuscript to a professional for one final check. And I paid for the privilege. It was money well spent. Although we didn’t find any major errors (mind you, there were errors), I had the peace of mind knowing that the manuscript had passed the acid test, that I wouldn’t be alienating any readers who were touchy about grammar and typos or embarrassing myself.
Next step: a cover design