New website project launch: DiannaSanchez.com

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

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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 Amazon.com.

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: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/application.asp

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:
http://bookcovers.creativindie.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

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.

PSAs: music and publishing

Two quick PSAs before I run away:

(1) Honorable Menschen’s debut CD, By the River (featuring myself!) is now available for PREORDER! Release date is slated for 12/13/2008, with a free concert at Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge. Order in advance for best discount, and pick it up at the concert, or have it shipped in time for Chanukah.

(1a) (We’re also having auditions Nov. 2 and Nov. 5, for those who are interested. Click the link for more info.)

(2) Hey all you Boston-area people interested in publishing… it’s time once again for Bookbuilders of Boston‘s free intro-to-publishing Fall Workshops!

In order to bring a new focus back to our educational mission, Bookbuilders of Boston will offer six free Fall Workshops. We will chart the course of the modern book through the editorial, design, production, and manufacturing processes, and provide insight into who we are, what we do, and why it matters.

Although aimed at entry level staff and students, there’s enough here to attract seasoned pros as well. We have assembled our finest panels ever to offer a better understanding of how books are made.

On six consecutive Thursday evenings at 6:00, from October 9th through November 13th, come to Pearson’s 9th floor at 501 Boylston Street, Boston. Doors open at 5:30, and light refreshments will be served.

And yes, the Fall Workshops are free.

Marty Rabinowitz, President
Kirsten Sims, Chair of the Board
John Walsh, Education Director

Thursday, October 9, 6 p.m.
SESSION ONE: THE OVERVIEW
Brief outline: The story of publishing in Boston; the path of the book, from concept and contract into the editing process, rights and permissions, art and design, production and manufacturing, and marketing; the kinds of publishing done here and the types of jobs available; the story of Bookbuilders and how networking enhances your opportunities; Q&A.
Speakers: to be announced

Thursday, October 16, 6 p.m.
SESSION TWO: EDITORIAL
Brief Outline: Acquisitions, contracts, list planning, publication planning, editing styles, manuscript preparation, artwork issues, developmental editing, proofreading, indexing, book design.
Speakers: to be announced

Thursday, October 23, 6 p.m.
SESSION THREE: PRODUCTION
Brief Outline: Production techniques, scheduling, estimating, vendor relations, composition and page make-up, processing artwork, electronic prepress, proofing options, the PDF workflow.
Speakers: to be announced

Thursday, October 30, 6 p.m.
SESSION FOUR: JACKET AND COVER DESIGN
Brief Outline: How designers reconcile the needs of authors, editors and marketing people with their own aesthetic sense, from concept to approval, through proofing, printing and post press considerations.
Speakers: to be announced

Thursday, November 6, 6 p.m.
SESSION FIVE: PAPER
Brief Outline: The varieties, finishes, qualities, weights, shades and calipers of paper seem almost unlimited and can be intimidating to many people in our business. Where do the increasingly important aspects of recycled content fit into this equation? How can the publisher choose the right paper and control costs? What roles do the printers, the paper merchants and the paper mills play?
Speakers: to be announced

Thursday, November 13, 6 p.m.
SESSION SIX: BOOK MANUFACTURING
Brief Outline: Electronic prepress, printing one, two, four colors (and up), offset v digital, paper considerations, component printing, binding styles, binding materials, domestic v overseas, packing, delivery, fulfillment.
Speakers: to be announced

Bookbuilders of Boston Free 2007 Fall Workshops

(Since I know there are some publishing-interested types on my list here, I’m passing this info along. Of course, this also reminds me that I never have put together that publishing salon I once talked about, but that’s a topic to resume another time.)

Expand your book publishing knowledge by attending the free Bookbuilders of Boston 2007 Fall Workshops! Each free workshop will focus on a particular aspect of the publishing process and will be presented by seasoned professionals.

Wednesday, October 24, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
Last year’s evening with Lissa Warren was such a big hit, we’ve invited her back to present:
REINVENTING BOOK PUBLICITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: The state of the book review, the “new” author tour, and how to prioritize in a world of so many books.
Speaker: Lissa Warren, VP Senior Director of Publicity at Da Capo Press and Adjunct Professor at Emerson College and Boston University.

Thursday, November 1, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
THE GREENING OF THE BOOK BUSINESS: How The Green Press Initiative and Others Promote Earth-Friendly Publishing
Speaker: John Wash, Director of Production at the Harvard University Press.
Additional speakers TBA

Wednesday, November 14, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.
AN INTRODUCTION TO MULTI-CHANNEL PUBLISHING: Reuse and Repurposing of Content
Speaker: Jamie MacLachlan, Production Technology Analyst at Cengage Learning.
Additional speakers TBA

Light refreshments will be served!

All workshops will be held at:
Houghton Mifflin Company
222 Berkeley Street, 5th floor
Boston, MA (Arlington Green line T-stop)

Register online at http://www.bbboston.org/ or by phone at (781) 378-1361

Straw poll: Publishing 101 Q&A?

Over the past several months, I’ve had at least three or four people ask to pick my brain about the publishing industry and my (roughly 13 years’) experience in it.

It occurred to me at some point that it might be cool to get them all in a room at once so I can hold sort of a “salon” on the topic.

Unfortunately, this was just one of the many “hey, that would be fun to put together… someday… when I have time” items on my back burner. (So was following up to most of the original inquiries, for which I am sorry.)

So now that I HAVE time to consider such a venture, I’m polling to gauge the real scope of popular interest in the topic. (Which is to say, among my friends and friends-of-friends. But feel free to point people I don’t [yet!] know at this poll, if you think they would also be interested.)

[Poll #949855]