Re: ATM:Book Writing

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Heebie's questions are good. Also, if you think the book is eventually going to be touched by a graphic designer, don't kill yourself doing layout. I think Word is pretty much the industry standard for how books are handled by publishers until they're in layout. Just be sure that any images you generate are high res or vector. Disclaimer: it has been 16 years since anyone paid me to edit a book. But I read a Charles Stross post complaining about Word a couple years ago, so I think I'm up to speed.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 3:21 PM
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yes, it's still normal for a graphic designer to be given copy in a Word file.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 3:47 PM
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On the copyright question at the end, I don't want to come too close to giving actual legal advice (which I'm not) but you should be fine doing no more than anthologizing public domain articles that appeared in old journals with a new introduction. Of course, there might conceivably be some other issues depending on precisely what you want to do.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 3:54 PM
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A lot of technical fields use LaTeX to publish books; probably the split is along the same lines as journals.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 3:56 PM
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I read a Charles Stross post complaining about Word a couple years ago, so I think I'm up to speed.

His first life was as a Linux guru, so I am sure that has a lot to do with it. Relatedly, if this was me, who gets unreasonably rage-filled fighting Word and related programs for control over formatting, I would use a plain text editor for writing and LaTex for formatting. From there you can pretty much convert to any kind of document format you want. I acknowledge that LaTex is going to be a bridge too far for most people, though.

If you are specifically thinking of making ebooks, I have read a couple books produced with this platform, which seems pretty cool : https://www.softcover.io/


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 4:04 PM
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I think that in big design shops that kind of image heavy stuff tends to be done in InDesign theses days --- i.e the author gives the designer a bunch of words in a Word doc and a bunch of images, and the designer decides where they go, and then some Mac operator on fuck-all an hour puts them there.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 4:14 PM
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All the cool kids use markdown and pandoc.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 4:14 PM
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6--Kinda, or at least the way it used to work is that a designer would create the shell of the design (this font for heads, this for body copy, margins like so, etc.) and then a production artist under their supervision would flow it in.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 4:30 PM
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Oh, I was envisioning self-publishing. In the process of blogging about old articles, I've seen that the highest "audience interest / effort" ratio comes with posts whose message is basically "Look at this weird old thing, it's weird and old". I think it would work well in book form and wouldn't be that hard, and also would be less self-indulgent than a typical book of collected blog entries (aka essays) (aka ramblings).

Not that my blog has any sort of following, since it's a blog that was started less than 7 years ago. But I've found a lot of people on twitter who would be interested in this sort of thing, history of science type stuff. And I don't see any existing books out there of this sort of miscellany.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 5:00 PM
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That softcover thing looks cool. Has it published more than eleven books?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 5:00 PM
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10: I guess not. I read the rails tutorial and command line book in May. I did not realize it was so startupy.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 5:09 PM
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On the copyright question, I think most people handle that by changing the vampire to a billionaire and adding buttsecs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 6:24 PM
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And I'm giving you actual legal advice, unlike some people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 6:26 PM
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Buttsecs is good for boosting sales, too.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 6:41 PM
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To be honest, I prefer history of science.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 6:43 PM
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How do you convert rods to buttsecs?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 7:04 PM
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Petroleum jelly and lies about how effective birth control is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 7:32 PM
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The tiny publisher that put out my book uses Lightning Source for their print-on-demand needs; they seem to do a good job. They take proofs in PDF, which the publisher generates from InDesign. (I actually did most of the InDesign layout on the book myself, because the publisher is just that tiny and I had no wish to be a prima donna to anyone about what to italicize.)

Anyway, the present quality of POD means it's much easier to get a niche title out through this sort of small house, which is almost self-publishing but does have the advantage of involving a few more pairs of eyes, plus hookups with the major distributors so you can have bookstores special-order copies and so on.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 8:23 PM
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(By "small house" I mean the tiny publisher, not Lightning Source itself, which is just a giant anonymous pipeline to the printing shop and distributors.)


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 8:26 PM
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I've produced camera-ready copy for a book for a major academic publisher (not my book: this ). I used LaTeX, which I find easy in use. However, that was an academic book, for which LaTeX is well-suited. Those talking about Word + InDesign are right, I think. Our in-house book designer(s) work that way.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-28-14 11:56 PM
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Currently writing a technical book which will be self published. We want to target web and e-book readers, and our layout is not particularly complicated. At the moment we're using a custom system based on Markdown and Jekyll, but we're looking closely at Softcover. Softcover provide an open-source book formatting system that uses Markdown, and a separate book publishing system, so you can use the former without the latter. Since the basic format is Markdown you aren't too looked into Softcover if you start using it and it doesn't work out. You can always use Pandoc or other tools as suggested above.

If you want a complicated layout you might run into trouble if you use one of these systems. The limiting factor is the ebook formats, which are not very expressive. The other major issue is the difference between the infinite sized HTML page and the fixed size physical page. So if a fancy layout is a must you might want to design for print first and then convert to HTML. I don't really have any suggestions about the best way to do this. For me LaTex would be my first port of call, but that's certainly not for everyone.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 12:18 AM
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LaTeX, I think, if you make some small changes to the defaults, and don't use Computer Modern as your default font, can produce very elegantly formatted text-centric content, and is, of course, great for type-setting formulas, logic, source code, etc. I don't think it's really possible to do any particularly image-centric, though, other than basic in-line figures or illustrations. It wouldn't be my choice for anything that required precise control over placement of multiple images.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 12:22 AM
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20. I hope they paid you a shitload of money for doing it, if they're selling the end product for £175.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 4:16 AM
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re: 23

They fucking did not. It's still a sore point, even now. The 'budget' for the production of the book was risible. I basically did it as a favour for the editor, and for Cohen, who was very old and frail at the time and in no fit shape to take an active role himself. I got one line of acknowledgement in Cohen's introduction which doesn't really quite capture what I did.*

Kluwer basically presented him (Cohen) with the tiny chunk of money and expected camera-ready copy in return. Academic publishers are utter bastards.

* everything except write the editor's introduction, basically. I type-set the text, copy-edited it, corrected formulas, you name it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 4:30 AM
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Cohen died a couple of years afterwards, actually:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/sep/30/guardianobituaries.mainsection



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 4:33 AM
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Hey, this relates to my sabbatical project! I'm mashing together and expanding a couple existing free logic texts to create something that can do the work of Hurley, but be completely free.

Word has definitely come a long way since I was writing my dissertation, and it would crash if I put more than two chapters in the same file. People are also right to point out that it is the standard way publishers deal with authors. Most of the files Molly copyedits seem to be in Word.

I still find Word really frustrating when dealing with long documents, though. Last year I tried using a free critical thinking text that I had customized and laid out in Word, and it was a nightmare getting all the formatting to be consistent. Simply being sure the font size stayed the same throughout the document was hard.

I'm doing my project in LaTeX, which I've found really enjoyable to learn. I'm still having trouble getting things to look right, but overall I'm making progress. Laying a book out in Word felt much more Sisyphusian. Fixing a problem here would just create a problem there. The thing is, you can't see how the system works, so you just have to deal when it decides to do things.

If this is mostly a project you will be doing without any outside help, I would recommend LaTeX.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 4:47 AM
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I used to sometimes help teach a Word for your Thesis course that Oxford used to run, that was pretty good for teaching people how to do long form projects in Word with tables of contents, and bibliographies, and so on. It's still easier to do that stuff in LaTeX, definitely.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 4:56 AM
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||

The latest "This year's freshmen" list from Beloit College is the lamest yet.

|>


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 5:10 AM
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That is in fact startlingly lame. 1996 must have been a very dull year. It reads like "Here are a bunch of commonplace things you take for granted" instead of "Here are a bunch of things you mistakenly think are recent innovations".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 5:14 AM
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28: Clickhole did it better


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 5:15 AM
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It's so stupid the way they write it up. Nobody thinks "Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been one nation," even if they grew up knowing about Bosnia-Herzegovina. What the fuck??


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 5:54 AM
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'Citizens have always had a constitutional right to a "dignified and humane death."' -- did someone amend the constitution when I wasn't looking?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:01 AM
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They mean the 2nd amendment. Just go to the gun range and stand next to the Kid Zone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:05 AM
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Dignity comes in many flavors, is what I'm saying.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:07 AM
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'Citizens have always had a constitutional right to a "dignified and humane death."' -- did someone amend the constitution when I wasn't looking?

Actually, given that "qui mori didicit servire dedidicit", you could argue that the Constitution (before 1865) implicitly forbade people from seeking a dignified and humane death if they were "held to service". The Fugitive Slave Act might apply.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:25 AM
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The thing is, you can't see how the system works, so you just have to deal when it decides to do things.

Not to defend Word, but you can learn a lot fo the things. First thing when you start using a new copy of Word is to go in and turn off a whole bunch of that stuff. And having used both Word and Excel professionally, I find the automatic stuff built into the latter much worse. No, I did not want you to change the formula I explicitly typed into that cell.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:26 AM
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I just switched from Office 97 to whatever the new one is. I don't like to learn new menus but the IT people don't like to support 13 year-old software.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:30 AM
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Hell has always been associated less with torment and more with nothingness.

Huh?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:31 AM
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The thing that drives me crazy about Word/Excel is that if you turn off their auto-formats and so on, it all reverts when you start your next document.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:32 AM
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I know how to shut them off permanently in Office 97.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:38 AM
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It sounds like I need to start using InDesign. I'm pretty good with Adobe Illustrator by now, so that should be possible.

What exactly is an "EPUB" file and who would need one, and at what point in the process does your file become an EPUB file?

Also, I assume Lulu is no longer the self-publisher of choice, since it's existed for a decade, but it's the only one that leaps to mind.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 6:39 AM
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Epub is the non-DRM ebook format.

Has no one here mentioned Scrivener? I am writing a book in it, and it's pretty good for pulling large amounts of material into the shapes you need for work purposes.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 7:14 AM
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Has no one here mentioned Scrivener?

They prefer not to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 7:16 AM
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I think you can DRM epub but at least it's not tied to a single device like Amazon's kindle format.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 8:14 AM
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I remember with fondness the Damask Revolution, when the four legions of Bosnia liberated the Herzegovinans from their wicked king and formed a new, free nation.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 8:31 AM
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41: The epub format is stupidly simple too; it's just a bunch of zipped-up HTML files in a particular directory structure with the .zip extension changed to .epub. InDesign will do a not-great job exporting to it, but there are also a bunch of freeware tools, and sites like Lulu will convert (or try to convert) Word to epub for you.

Scrivener is great for book-length projects, but I've never tried to use it for graphics-heavy work.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 9:34 AM
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For writing shorter pieces I like the Ulysses text editor, which combines the look-at-this-fucking-hipster appeal of Scrivener and markdown.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 9:38 AM
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Also, I assume Lulu is no longer the self-publisher of choice, since it's existed for a decade, but it's the only one that leaps to mind.

On ne parle pas d'Amazon.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 9:43 AM
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Definitely don't try to do your graphic design in Word, it will break your heart. Word if for writing. There is other software for writing that you may prefer, but the standard for publishers is Word.

If you're self-publishing, I would stay away from InDesign, both for writing and design. It's absolutely not built to be a writing program--it's for graphic design after the copy/art is generated. If you do want to lay the book out for yourself it's a great program, but expensive and the learning curve can be steep.

A cursory search for free alternatives led to Scribus for actual layout, but Scribus doesn't seem to support epub, so I dunno.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-29-14 1:28 PM
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