Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let's Get Real: Pseudonyms Have Their Uses.

Sometimes: At one of my workshops, a would-be author asked me what I thought about pen names. Knowing that he was thinking about writing an exposé and wanted to hide in the bushes, I said, "Not much." Of course, I sympathized with a whistle blower who just wanted to protect himself. It's just that books don't sell themselves. If you (as author) don't do it, no one else will. At least not in the real world.

Still, I was jumping to conclusions, not so much about this guy but in general. Just because you choose to write under a pseudonym doesn't mean you are anonymous. For example, the banker who puts on an orange wig, whiteface, and a red rubber nose in order to entertain at children's parties is wise to do so as "Chuckles" rather than as "Mr. Charles Morgan," even if parents know who he is outside of his get-up. He's not anonymous, but the pseudonym separates his clown persona from his banker's persona. In the same way, you can build your brand with a pen name.

Moreover, just because you remain anonymous doesn't mean you can't represent your book. It's trickier. though, because you have to find ways to be "visible" without being "identified." You might find yourself interviewed in the shadows or with your natural voice changed electronically.

What you can't do, at least in my world, is write a book and put it out there, thinking somebody else is going to sell it for you.--The Publishing Pro.

Do It Yourself Typography: Justified vs. Ragged

It's a conspiracy: Justified paragraphs are still more common in books than ragged-right paragraphs, but you almost never used to see ragged-right paragraphs anywhere except in ads.

Today ragged-right paragraphs are something you should consider for your book, especially if readability is your top priority. Ragged right paragraphs are easier to read because the spacing between the words is the same on every line. If the ragged-right paragraphs are not hyphenated, an option not usually entertained for justified paragraphs, they are even easier to read.

Even so, most books today seem to be done with the traditional justified paragraphs.

Here's a secret of sorts. The reason justified text became the standard is that it made journeymen printers (who had served four-year apprenticeships) indispensable. Linotype operators (and before that, manual compositors) needed years of training in order to quickly determine the proper amount of space between words for every single line. It was quite a skill. If the standard had been ragged right, the space between each word would have been the same for each line and anybody who could type could have done the job. To raise the skill level a notch, linotype operators (cleverly, some would say) didn't use the QWERTY keyboard that everybody else in the English world was, and still is, used to. Instead, they used a keyboard unique to linotype machines, which increased the need for specialized training. Anyway, people got used to seeing justified paragraphs and so today most authors still think justified paragraphs are “the way” you have to do a book.

Fair disclosure. My grandfather was a journeyman compositor (typographer) and linotype operator, and my father was a journeyman compositor. My father had to change careers because computers made it much easier to create justified paragraphs. With a click of a mouse, any fool can do it now, but that doesn't make justified paragraphs any easier to read.--The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What Kind of Agreement Do You Make with Your Illustrator?

Put it in writing: If you commission artwork for your book, you should: 1) do so on a "work for hire" basis and 2) put in writing. In response to a question from a customer, I did some research and have decided that this advice is a little too general.

A work-for-hire arrangement, where your intent is to buy the artwork outright and upfront, is simpler in the long run than royalty, shared proceeds, or partnership deals. This is why I recommend it in most cases. Because of its simplicity--the artist does the work and gets paid--I haven't heard any stories about authors and illustrators or photographers coming to blows over the work-for-hire results. However, because copyright law favors the creator of a work, you are at some risk if you don't dot your i's and cross your t's. Apparently, to be safe, you should agree in writing with the artist that you will own all rights to the commissioned artwork once you pay for it. Moreover, you should make this agreement before the artist actually begins the work.

Although I have favored an informal memorandum of agreement, you would be safer with a more formal agreement with, sigh, the requisite legal language. I did find a Work for Hire Agreement template--it's only one-page, which qualifies in the legal world as a simple form--on the website of Lloyd J. Jassin, a New York attorney specializing in publishing law.

Note that this form would set you up to own all of the rights of the artwork. In my world, I want to be friendly with my vendors. Thus, I wouldn't want to restrict the artist from using the work in a way that might benefit me or at least do me no harm. For example, I certainly would allow the artist to show off the work as a sample in a portfolio, brochure, or website. I might even allow the artist to make prints of the work for sale, perhaps for no more than credit on the back of the print. However, it appears that those secondary arrangements are best made after you've safely acquired all the rights to the artwork. The Publishing Pro.