New website project launch:

On Friday, I officially launched my latest website project: an author website for children’s book author Dianna Sanchez, whose debut novel A Witch’s Kitchen is forthcoming in a month from indie YA publisher Dreaming Robot Press. Check out the site!

Backstory: Two months ago, I put out a call to the Universe (via Facebook) for some freelance work. Among the respondents (and there were a few, thank you, Universe) was an old friend from my MIT circles who needed a spiffy new website to go with her first book’s upcoming publication. She had set up a starter website back in April, in WordPress, but it was… rudimentary. (I’d say “basic” but that word has acquired problematic cultural overtones in the last ~5 years.) I never took a screenshot of it, but now I wish I had for posterity, because like most people I love before-and-after stories!  Continue reading

New for 2015: I’m in a book!

Last month, I received an email inquiry from a photographer named Susan Ressler, formerly of Indiana (she is Professor Emerita of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue University) and now of New Mexico. elements

Susan was preparing to self-publish a book of her fine art photography from a recent trip to Israel, organized (as it happened) into sections based on the elements: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. She had come across my 2007 piece Elements: The Holy Cities and wanted to include it in the introduction to her book, as a way of setting the stage!

Her completed book, Understanding Israel (subtitle: “Jaffa is More than Oranges”), is now live on a print-on-demand site called Blurb. It’s available in two trim sizes: 8×10 ($45.99) or the more luxurious 11×13 ($99.95), both in a dramatic landscape format. If you click on the title above, you can browse through the entire book. For the curious, my contribution is on page 10 :-) but the rest is well worth a look.

Below is the official Blurb “badge” for the book:

Understanding Israel (8x10
Understanding …
Jaffa is More than…
By Susan Rebecca Ressler
Photo book

(And also, since apparently this is my first post in the new year: Happy 2015!)


Since my last post in January, dear readers, I have:

  • Gotten married (February)
  • Quit my job in NYC in order to move back to northwest Indiana, into my new husband’s house, 15 miles from my hometown and 40 miles from downtown Chicago (April)
  • Logged almost 8,000 miles in the Ford Focus, across 17 states and including 7 national parks, on a 6-week Epic Roadtrip Honeymoon (late May through early July)

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful 6 months!

We came home on July 4, after which I started working in earnest on updating my resume and combing online listings for jobs that might suit my skill set.

Besides submitting job applications, most of what I worked on last week was some developmental and copy editing on a new musical by a good friend in NYC. The book is still in process, but preliminary recordings of selected songs can be heard here.

I’ve also got a book project in progress (typesetting a Hebrew translation of a children’s book, which is a first for me; more on that after it’s completed), some inquiries about new website projects, and some other creative design projects in the works.

In the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to making some updates both to this blog and to my website in order to share some more of my recent work.

My long-awaited big book project: Embattled Farmers

Embattled FarmersSo, remember the giant book production project that was eating my life from about November to April? It is really, truly, for realsies DONE and published!

So now it can be told: The book is called Embattled Farmers, by Richard C. Wiggin, published by the Lincoln (MA) Historical Society. ISBN: 978-0-944856-10-9 hardcover; 978-0-944856-11-6 paperback. And I did the text and cover design and production (i.e., decided what everything should look like and then laid it out).

Fundamentally, it’s a collection of biographical profiles of the 252 individuals serving in the Revolutionary War who were natives, residents, or in any other wise associated with the town of Lincoln, Massachusetts. This undertaking alone required a massive research commitment, investigating and cross-checking primary and secondary sources all over the region. But the book goes a step beyond those individual statistics, pulling together a surprisingly cohesive narrative from the webs of relationships to the cultural fabric of a small and close-knit New England town at a time of great crisis and upheaval.

The official launch date was Monday, April 15, otherwise known in Massachusetts as Patriots’ Day, not to mention Marathon Monday. I actually had never heard what the final arrangements would be for the big launch event (once it was established that I wasn’t going to be able to get up to Boston for it in any case); and then with the bombings at the Boston Marathon, speaking of crisis and upheaval, I didn’t follow up to ask how things had turned out. But today I got an email from Rick (the author) with the following great news:

The National Park came in with a big order, as did several other shops, museums, historical sites in the area. And I moved a number of books in and around the various Patriots Day events last weekend and the weekend before. The Boston Globe ran an article about the book a week ago. And I’ve been getting phone calls from people wanting the book, from as far away as Amsterdam, NY. By the Launch Party last Monday, I had moved about 80 books. For the Launch Party, we had 290 people show up, and we sold 95 books that night. And since then, I have received restocking orders from 2 of the sites that are carrying it. Hard covers are not likely to arrive for another week and a half, and we have already taken orders for about 1/3 of them. So for all intents and purposes, we have just about sold out our initial print run. I’m doing my best not to let my 15 minutes of fame go to my head. But the Historical Society is ecstatic, to say the least! They have authorized a second print run, which I’d like to get into the works before we actually do run out of our dwindling inventory.

I’m personally very pleased with the way this book came out. At 592 pages (and 157 illustrations), it ended up being at least 20% longer and 100% more complicated than either Rick or I ever anticipated. But I truly believe that in its final form it’s achieved the status of a very important work of scholarship, and I’m proud of my role (technical as it may have been) in helping bring it together.

… Now if only there were a link to order it online! But folks in the Boston MetroWest area can check it out in the following venues:

And eventually I’ll manage to post a sample of the text along with the cover on my portfolio page. In the meantime, however, I would just like to note that the book does already have its own Facebook page. Talk about culture shock.

More about ISBNs

After my last post, a friend commented on Facebook to point out, “This doesn’t give you an ISBN, just the ability to print a barcode for any ISBN. You have to pay for prefixes for those things…” Well, yeah, I said. I know that. Therefore it hadn’t even occurred to me that the distinction might bear explaining!

So here’s a little primer on ISBNs.

The ISBN is the identification number which is required for most online sales as well as library systems. It stands for International Standard Book Number. (Note that this means “ISBN number”, which I used to hear all the time from my bookstore colleagues in the early 1990s, ranks up there with “ATM machine” as an instance of RAS syndrome.)

Every distinguishable edition of a book (most often, hardcover and paperback, or 1st edition vs. revised/2nd edition) requires a separate, unique ISBN. Exceptions that can retain the same ISBN include (a) reprinting a book, in the same format as previously, with a new cover but the same interior, or (b) reprinting a book, in the same format as previously, with minor text corrections to individual pages but no substantial revisions or additions.

Now ISBNs, as an international standard, can only be issued by the official ISBN Agency for each country. The authorized U.S. ISBN Agency is a private company called R.R. Bowker, LLC, who also used to publish the multi-volume hardcover catalog of Books In Print, which was completely indispensable back before there was an

Bowker will issue “a publisher” (whether that’s yourself as a private individual, or a corporate entity) a single ISBN, for a service charge of $125 per book. But for $250, you can apply for a “prefix” and reserve a series block of 10 usable ISBNs. Either way, start with the application link here:

Why the jump from 1 to 10? Because of the way it’s structured. Modern ISBNs have 13 digits, as follows:

  • 978 = arbitrary 3-digit prefix added in 2007 to convert all formerly 10-digit ISBN strings to 13 digits
  • 0 or 1 = US country code
  • The intervening 8 digits are divided up between the publisher prefix and the title identifier. Large publishers have very short prefixes (3 or even 2 digits), because they could easily have 10,000+ distinct titles/editions in their catalog, so they need to be able to encode 5 figures’ worth of unique digit strings under their prefix. The smallest publishers will have a 7-digit prefix, leaving only 1 digit for their title space: 0 through 9. That’s your block of 10. Single-ISBN reservations simply get issued a string of all 8 digits at once and you’re done—you can’t get another in the same sequence after that.
  • The last digit = a check digit for redundancy. This is like a parity bit in computer programming: it’s calculated based on the preceding 12 (or formerly 9) digits. This is why the ISBN-13 for a given book shows a different check digit from the old ISBN-10.

Bowker will also sell you a bar code for your ISBN, for the modest additional charge of $25 each. You do, in fact, need a bar code to place on the cover—bookstores, online retailers, and libraries all require it. But as I already noted, that’s the part for which there are now free online generators.

Other important cataloging steps have to be addressed separately from ISBN registration if you want to do them:

Further reading for the truly intrigued: Bowker’s ISBN FAQ list.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: I’m still waiting on the last text corrections from the author before I can send the book project to press, which is why I have time to write all this. :-)

Free Online ISBN Barcode Generator

My dad says I’ve been “pretty quiet lately”, which is perhaps because I’ve been plugging away solidly for the last month trying to get a book project to press. This is a freelance project on which I’ve been working for over two years at this point, but we’ve been in the home stretch since approximately November 2012.

In the home stretch of the project, as all designers know, come all the nitty-gritty details that you’ve pushed off dealing with until “later”. Guess what? It’s later.

So tonight’s task (while I wait for the copyedited index and last few page corrections from the author) is to get the cover files set up. We’re doing a split bind (about 1/3 stamped cloth case with jacket, 2/3 paperback cover), so I have to do them both ways, according to the measurement templates the printers sent me just this morning.

It also means we have two different ISBNs, and guess what else? I need to create bar codes for them. Back in my early publishing days, we didn’t even HAVE barcodes; then we used to order away for them specially. But I figured in this day and age, there was a good likelihood that the Internet could deliver something instantly, and maybe even for free.

Lo and behold, Google found me the answer:

These fine folks wrote a slick little utility that will generate an EPS file of your ISBN barcode, complete with the price code add-on (if you have one).

I am grateful, so I’m sharing the love. :-) They also do really nice work on the design side.

Let’s just remember to test both barcodes before we commit ink to paper, okay? And I promise I’ll tell more about the book itself when it actually launches.

Marge Piercy

Going around right now is this “top 15 authors that have affected you” meme, but I’m not doing that today. All I have for you on the topic of authors is this:

I just reread Marge Piercy’s 1993 novel He, She, and It (I’m proud to say that my copy was sent to me by Ira Wood when I was doing some typesetting work for the Leapfrog Press, back in around 1998-2000… but anyway).

I’d forgotten how good it was. Really. I inhale books; but as a result, very often a book can move me greatly and then within a few years I have only the vaguest notion left, or none at all, of what lived and breathed between its pages. (Though I have to wonder if I so vividly cast Yod as Brent Spiner the last time. I can only assume that I would have.)

Then, I picked up my copy of Woman on the Edge of Time (published 13 years earlier, in 1985).

Again, I had retained zero memory of what it was even about. At first I found it woefully unpleasant, to the point of thinking to myself “Yeah, I’m giving this away after I finish, ’cause who needs to read this again?” But by last night, a good third of the way into the book, I was engrossed. So if you read it and hate it at first, give it time; it has more to say.

The thing that gets me is how similar, in a way, some of the themes/motifs are (well, except for the cyborg bit… and the Jewishness…) — but they’re handled very differently. I could say more about this if I had time (sorry if that’s what you came here for! maybe later!), but I will just say this for now: While WOTEOT is still a fine book, it’s very, very much an earlier book. The way her style and storytelling matured from one to the other is just… startling.

Which produced the further insight that I, personally, had damn well better get cranking on writing my first novel, so that I can eventually write my tenth. X-)

That is all.