The Chilli Effect

The Chilli Effect – photo by Blaise van Hecke

Do you like to eat chilli? Would you munch on one raw? Probably not unless you’re one of those people on a food challenge show on YouTube. Why do you think they would do it? Usually there is a reward for it, like winning the challenge, getting media exposure or winning money.

We will get outside our comfort zone if the reward is there. If not, we’ll remain as most humans are: lazy. What is it YOU want for 2018? What are you going to do to make it happen?

If there isn’t enough incentive for you to make something happen, it will be very hard to find the motivation to do it. I’ve lost count of how many people tell me in writing workshops that they feel unmotivated to sit down to their writing. This just tells me that they don’t want it enough. It comes down to the reason WHY you do it. Determine why and you’ll be able to have that to reach out for. It’s not easy writing a book or climbing a mountain, so your why needs to be big enough to keep you going when it gets tough.

I’ve told myself many times that I’m not a disciplined person. But getting something done actually doesn’t require discipline. It requires you to sit down and map a plan to get where you want to go. Sometimes you’ll get off track but don’t be hard on yourself. Get back on track and keep going. Keep giving yourself little pep talks and adjusting your plan to keep you moving forward.

Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself moving forward with my writing:

Set goals that are achievable.

I was writing my first novel for about 10 years and was still only around 20,000 words into it. I had plenty of reasons for the lack of time: running a business, two teenagers etc. Then I asked Les Zig to coach me. He told me to set aside 15 minutes every day. It’s easy to find 15 minutes. I got up half an hour earlier than usual (I’m NOT a morning person) and sat down to write. I managed to write the full novel in nine months by doing this.

It isn’t helpful to set goals that are too hard to achieve. Instead of 1000 words per day, aim for 250. If you go over it, you feel good and it’s better than no words at all.

Remind yourself why you’re doing this.

It takes a lot of hours to write a book. It may take time away from your favourite TV show, or Facebook or even your family. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, I promise you it won’t happen. My incentive was to just have written a novel. It was more of a bucket list item than anything.

Hang out with like-minded people.

When you tell someone that you’re writing a book, they might think that you’re all talk. Or they might wonder what you could possibly write about. It seems like a very indulgent pastime. When you find a tribe of people who do what you do, they’ll get it and will encourage and support you, as well as give you critical feedback on your work.

When the work gets hard, think about that chilli. Is the purpose big enough for you to keep pushing on? Take a nice big bite and reap the rewards.

Blaise, the book chick

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Designing a book isn’t rocket science. Or is it?

Busybird Publishing has worked on around 300 titles over the past ten years or so. With each book, we learn a little more about what does and doesn’t work in terms of the book design and we often need to explain to authors that the setup of the internals needs more thought than just plonking it into a template. Of course it isn’t rocket science but there is a little bit of mathematics to it.

Most people only think about the cover but that’s only a part of the equation. There are several factors that need to be thought out, so here are four considerations when designing your book:

1. The physical size of the book
When a book is written, 95 percent of the time, it will be set up in Word on an A4 size page. This is pretty standard and the margins tend to have a default too. This is fine but when it comes to setting up the book into its printable version, there may be elements that don’t easily transfer to the desired format.

Let’s take a standard size to use as reference. The C Format is 234 x 153 mm. This is substantially smaller than A4. If you’ve been labouring over a pretty table with shading and styles that look gorgeous on the page, you are going to be disappointed when it goes into the template and the page cuts the table in half, or leaves only a couple of rows on the next page. Or you might have a graph that is wide and you reorientate the A4 page to fit it. This will mean that in the printed book, you will have to turn the book to read it and possible have it shrunk to fit.

If your document has a substantial number of graphs, tables, or images, you might want to think about the format you use to make it user friendly. A quick way to see how the pages are working is to convert your word document into an A5 page and get a visual idea of how everything is working. Remember too that margins are different in a book compared with a word document, so this needs to be considered.

2. Images
Colour printing is expensive and often not warranted unless you’re publishing a coffee table book or brightly coloured children’s picture book. For this reason, any images need to be converted to black and white (greyscale). Not all images look great once converted because they may be too dark, too dull or rely on colour to convey a message.

Orientation of images is also important. If you think of a regular book, it will usually be portrait orientation. This means that if your image is horizontal, it will not be able to fill the page unless you turn it on its side.

The biggest issue we have is the use of horizontal images for the cover. This usually involves a lot of cropping, which may diminish the value of the image. This can be disappointing if a particular image has been earmarked for the cover for some reason.

3. Fonts
Don’t underestimate the value of font choice. It brands the product into a particular category and changes the reading experience greatly. There is a temptation to use wild and cursive fonts (often hard to read) or a lot of different ones. Keep it simple please! (That goes for layout in general). Try to stick to two or three fonts at most and make sure the size is legible.

4. White space
Readers who read a lot understand white space. White space, or negative space, is anywhere that shows the colour of the page and is vital to the reading experience because it allows the eye to relax at points rather than being bombarded with information right through a book. A page that isn’t balanced with negative and positive space can appear cluttered or messy. Getting this balance right is good design.

For this reason, don’t be stingy on the width of your margins and if an image falls a particular way and there is some space under it before the end of the page, that’s okay.

A bit of thought and research into design will make the success of your book much more likely. Our next Publish for Profit Meetup will be covering these design elements in more detail, so drop by our studio if you’re nearby.
Blaise the book chick

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