Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Is A Book?

by Cathy Bryerose

What is a book?  The first answers that come to mind are pretty simple — it's a story, it's entertainment, it's knowledge.  A book can take us away to another place, another time.  We can learn things from a book, maybe things about ourselves when we see that glimmer of our own being staring back from the pages of a book.  An author puts their soul into telling a story or sharing an idea that has percolated in their mind for months, or sometimes years.  

They write and they edit and they rewrite and edit some more…some authors have trouble calling there work complete because there always seems to be something that they wish they had written a little differently.  I think almost everyone can agree that without the author there is nothing.  But when the author is done, is it a book?

An editor spends hours, days, weeks, and months with the goal in mind to make the work the best it can be.  They look for plot holes, rearrange scenes, help the author to rewrite even more than they did on the first five rewrites before the work went to an editor.  The editor corrects grammar and spelling.  After all is said and done, after months of work with the edit complete — is it a book?

The typesetter formats the work.  The font has to be the right size and the spread is determined.  The margins have to be correct and mirrored and the chapter headings must be sized.  The headers and/or footers must be formatted as well, and page numbers added.  Much of the formatting is done to make it easier to read, comfortable for the reader to immerse themselves in the story.  Acknowledgements, dedications, and biographies are inserted.  The PDF file now complete — is it a book?

Often given nothing more than vague ideas, the cover designer must find just the right combination of images to make the work appealing to readers.  What color should the background be to make it pop?  Should a romance really have a graveyard on it or should a mystery have a cute toy on it?   Is that image the author loves too small to stand out on the eBook?  What font will make the title stand out?  So many things to consider. Version after tweaked version is looked at and discarded.  When it all falls into place and the cover is ready — is it a book?  Almost.

With the artistic pieces complete, its time for the nuts and bolts — the text file and the cover file — to be joined.  It is the publisher's files being put together that creates that thing we call a book.  Whether an author choses a publishing company or decides to self–publish it is still the joining together of the parts that makes the book happen, that makes the form recognized around the world as a book.  The publisher's files are used each and every time a print book or eBook is sold because they are a part of the whole.  The files are used individually or together for advertising — on websites, on promotional items.  And when a book is submitted to an award program, it is those publisher's files that are being used for as long as the book is actively being considered for the award – months and months after the nomination takes place.  

A book is many things and is touched by many hands before it ever reaches its final form.  Even a book done by "DIY Publishing Company" where the author edits, typesets and does their own cover probably also gets seen and evaluated by beta readers who want to help a friend.  So, the next time you read a book, think about how many people worked to get it to you for your reading enjoyment, most of them simply because they love what they do.  

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1 comment:

  1. Nicely done, Cathy. I doubt most people ever give a thought to what effort goes into each book. Some readers seem to enjoy "snit-picking" about books they don't like. I made up that word, snit-picking. I think it's more potent and descriptive than nit-picking.

    Thanks for sharing!