Tag Archives: the book chick

Adelaide Writers’ Week

adelaideLast week I attended some of the events at Adelaide Writers’ Week. It was stinking hot while I was there so it did take a bit of effort to gather myself up and make the trek from another venue where I ran my own publishing workshop.

Luckily Adelaide’s traffic is not nearly as dense as Melbourne, even though Adelaide-ites were telling me how crazy it was with so many events on.

Writers’ Week is held in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, off King William Street. What an oasis this is. Sitting under a canopy of trees, a breeze skipping through the leaves, were hundreds of eager writers and readers listening to novelists, poets, short story writers, memoirists and the like. The heat was soon forgotten as we listened about the craft of writing, browsed the book tent or just reclined in the cool grass.

Not only is the setting apt for this event but all the sessions are free. Food and books were available if desired – small bottle of coke a bit pricey at $5 but when it’s hot I guess you don’t care.

I’m not sure how this festival is funded but I can say that it is top quality, with a lovely glossy program and a great line up of speakers. It might sound like I am a bit gushy about it but it’s because I was pleasantly surprised.

So, what about some of the sessions?

I managed to hear Tony Birch and Paddy O’Reilly – this session called ‘Outsiders’ – talk about the outsiders in their fiction. Both writers write quite differently in terms of writing habits. Tony (he mentioned he has OCD) likes everything to be orderly and planned out while Paddy writes slowly and a bit haphazardly. I gleaned from their discussion that both put a lot of themselves into their writing, hence the characters are fringe dwellers. This makes for authentic characters. I especially liked Tony’s comment about ‘place’ always having story happening right now (story is always happening in place was how he said it).

Two pieces of advice from these authors: Tony – Give your work distance before putting it out into the world. Paddy – Don’t show early drafts of your work to anyone.

I haven’t read either of these authors but I was intrigued enough to put them on my ‘to read’ list.

Another session that I enjoyed was ‘A Guide to Berlin’ by Gail Jones. Her novel is set in Berlin, obviously, and follows six travellers who meet and share stories. What I loved about this discussion was the journey to writing this book in the first place. Gail had gone to Berlin on another project but was surprised by Berlin when she got there. ‘Here was a city that is meant to be a shiny, hipster place but I felt a sense of melancholy’.

This is a great example of how story comes to us in mysterious ways. There was also some great discussion about Vladimir Nabokov, which made me think that I need to explore his writing a bit more.

The most interesting thing about my visit to Adelaide Writers’ Week is that there is always something to learn, something to discover, something to think about when it comes to writing and stories. I just might go again next year.

Anatomy of the book

10395833_977071822307054_1991451818504137387_nThe reading experience of a book is very different from reading on the screen. This is why I know that the printed book is a long way from death. It is a sensory experience to hold, smell, and look at a book.

Because of this, the design of a book is something worth thinking about. It isn’t a matter of dumping all the content into the layout program, adding page numbers and the contents page.

It’s helpful to get to know the language of book anatomy so that you can talk confidently to editors, book designers and printers.

This is the finished size of the book. Most printers will have standard sizes such as pocket, A5, A4, C and B format (to name a few). You can actually print any size you like but keeping to standard sizes will be cheaper. When choosing the size of your book, bear in mind the reading experience. For a novel, you’d want something like a C format because it’s nice to hold when reading in bed or in a chair but a history book with lots of photos might be better as an A4 because it’s larger.

Postage is charged by weight and size, so this is an important aspect to think about. A C format book with 160 pages will be cheaper to post than one with 300 pages. The paper stock will also change the weight. Your printer can advise you on this.

Most commercial trade books, non-fiction and fiction tend to be perfect bound. This means that the binding has a flat edge to it, with the title, author name and publisher printed on it. Other types of binding includes spiral (can be wire or plastic and used for workbook, diary publications) and saddle stitch (heavy duty staples, used for thinner books or to save cost).

Paper stock
When you open a book, there’s something about the way it opens that is nice to the touch. Stiff, white paper will not be pliable and the spine will crackle when you open it. The idea is to choose the paper to suit the book. Fiction generally uses creamy papers but a book with images might have white so that the images look crisper. The cover stock is also important, too thin and it wears badly, too thick and the book has that non-giving stiffness to it. Again, printers will know what to suggest when you talk to them.

Everyone judges a book by its cover. If you skimp on anything, don’t skimp on the design of the cover. The cover needs to attract your ideal reader and needs to also stand out as a thumbnail image on the computer screen. The blurb is also something that needs special attention. Once you’ve hooked someone to pick the book up with the cover, the blurb needs to make them want to buy it. Keep it under 300 words and make it intriguing.

When designing the layout, it’s possible to take a week to choose a font, there are so many of them. I always say less is more. Think about your book. Is it casual, professional, new age, academic? If it’s fiction, what is the genre? These factors should determine the style of font you use. Look at other books in the marketplace that are like yours if you have no idea where to start.

White space
This refers to the parts on the page that have no images or text. White space is very important in creating a visually inviting page. Think about your margins, how wide are they? Will the page number be top or bottom, middle or right or left in the margins? Is there a running header top or bottom? Again, the type of book will determine the amount of white space you use. You can get away with small margins with something like a text book but a poetry book will require lost of white space and well thought out formatting to the poems.

Does your book need them? If the content is heavy duty, images might be good to break it up a bit. Or maybe you need them to demonstrate what you are talking about. Images can be illustrations, photographs, graphs or table. If you choose to use images, you will need to decide whether they are colour or black and white because this will change the cost of printing dramatically.

With a little bit of knowledge, the physical aspects of the book will be less daunting. When choosing a designer, look for someone who has experience in book design because they will understand the book trade.

Most of all enjoy the process. It’s exciting to see your ideas come to life in a printed book.