Friday, May 12, 2006

Sailing on the Galleys

(NOTE: The following is a memoir and as such is told using lies, misinformation, faulty geography, and plain BS. Dialog has been invented for fun and to plumb the depths of honesty for a more meaningful fiction. The moral compass is pointed to where children sing and gambol. Am I an advance order yet?)

After a steamy, cross-cultural weekend involving trans fat-free snacks and two Portuguese-speaking au pairs, the galleys arrived in a fresh white box. Many writers have lost their reason when they see the projected book set in type. The editorial process does not lessen the surprise, and the writer’s question changes from “Does my book suck?” to “Do I suck?” Galleys can intimidate even the writers who score major advances. Thomas Sanchez received the galleys of his novel, MILE ZERO, and rewrote the entire book. This caused problems for publisher Knopf, who spent serious money having several hundred copies printed and were unable to hand them out at the annual bookseller’s convention on account of the changes. Would I do the same to Cynthia Frank and Cypress House? Naw.

The page proportions were solid with enough space allowed for the gutter and the small cap running heads reminded the reader what book they were reading. My concerns were over the typeface, my prejudices coming from years of working with the beasts in lead and on desktop. Any designed by Frederick Goudy were out (too blocky and stolid), along with san serifs (uncomfortable reading best for machines), and Palatino (display face by Herman Zapf accidentally used for text, though Aldus is fine), and the heavy or plain weird designer types. A typeface needs to be readable but should also have a hidden grace based on the movements of the scribe and stonecutter’s hand.

I bless the Cypress House designer’s surgically-cleared eyes. DOG WALKED is in Bembo, a classic typeface named after scholar Pietro Bembo, whose AETNA tanked when first published by Aldus Manutius in fifteenth-century Venice. The face was revived by the Monotype Corporation in the early twentieth century and since become a standard for bookwork. A line of Bembo has a friendly rhythm without being obtrusive, what every reader wants. I have set Bembo in lead and the type is damn terrific to handle. Having DOG WALKED in this typeface is double cool. I burned a pot of coffee and marked the pages. There were two names to add in the acknowledgments and the last entry in the Annotated Resource List read flat so I had to rewrite the short paragraph. Design questions were asked, changes suggested along with a couple of demands. Cynthia had kept her word. DOG WALKED sang in the best of humanist typefaces.

The month is May and BookExpo America runs the weekend of the19th in Washington, DC. Any corrections will wait until after the show. We must have prepublication copies available and this means going print-on-demand, not the least expensive solution. BookExpo America is the grand convention of the American Booksellers Association and showplace for publishers to display what tomfoolery is on press for the big fall season. Booksellers complain about rising gasoline prices and too many chain outlets. Publishers complain about making not enough money. This is business.

“We have a signing scheduled for DOG WALKED on Saturday,” Cynthia told me. “There’ll be a blow-up of the cover and you’re at Table 19, from 3:30 to 4:30.”
“What should I wear?”
“Don’t mix stripes and plaids and be on time.”

Ten Speed Press made a hit of HOW TO SHIT IN THE WOODS by giving away books at the BookExpo convention, and the inky terror has gone on to sell 1.5 million copies. Free books spread goodwill and the welcome word-of-mouth, and encourage booksellers to place an order. Coming from an independent publisher, DOG WALKED depends on goodwill. This means I have to be on my best behavior and not mention the chapter excised from the finished book, “How a Shower Scene Can Save Your Second Act.”

Once more for the detail-minded:
Saturday, May 20, 2006
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Table 19, Autographing Area/Upper Level Exhibit Hall
Washington DC Convention Center

DOG WALKED will also be available at the Partners West booth 3157 in Hall A.

NEXT: Convention News for the Unconventional


Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

"How a Shower Scene Can Save Your Second Act" sounds like a bestselling sequel.

I also would like to say that I wish Cynthia Frank thought to fly me out for the BEA as well. Cheerleaders can be an asset at away games.

Oh and one more thing... a la costume? Go big. I have a HS band jacket that I used to wear to signings. And even though I was not signing the book, I was simply there to listen, the author asked for my autograph after the reading. More can be more, I think. Quirky is so in for fall... Hee.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Sal Glynn said...

The Cypress House corporate jet is already full with my personal trainer, masseuse, dietician, valet, astrologer, therapist, bartender, and lawyer. Next trip you'll be invited as designated cheerleader, promise.

Still looking for a pair of liturgical purple socks to wear with show standard dark suit. Booksellers appreciate the dash of color.

4:55 PM  

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