Don’t Slay Me with the Layout
In case you’re wondering why you haven’t seen the published edition of my 8th book yet, The Difference Between Pain and Suffering, it’s because formatting and cover design guru Ramajon Cogan, editor Tony Kessler and I, Catherine Carrigan, the author, have been close to driving ourselves crazy trying to get it right.
When you publish a book, it goes through phases:
- You/I/the author writes the damn thing.
- Someone more patient and more left-brain dominant than the author does what’s called a content edit. This is where some brave soul stands up to the author, points out where he/she makes no sense, and calls for higher order.
- The author tries again. This is where the moral support of a good dog comes in handy. You may be an idiot but at least your dog can’t tell.
- You turn over the newly-revised manuscript to your editor, who now realizes he has the upper hand. He uses a fancy edit program that slashes red ink all over the pages, pointing out yet again where the author has failed to make good use of the English language.
- The author, feeling humbled, goes through the red ink. At this point, I personally usually accept 100 percent of my editor’s suggestions. During an all-too enthusiastic clean up of my home years ago, I quite stupidly threw out my 7th-grade grammar manual, which is the only book I ever read that got me somewhat familiar with participles, conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs and other literary construction devices. Sometimes I wonder how I ever passed that class.
- Once the edit is done, you/I/the author feels like you’ve just been washed with holy water. A new person, your once-tattered manuscript blessed by your editor, you bravely turn it over to your layout guy.
- The layout guy then formats the manuscript. This means he takes all the paragraphs and finds a way to fit them on pages. Now keep in mind that everybody who touches the book can add in mistakes. Or, in my case with this book, The Difference Between Pain and Suffering, I recognized after meditating an hour and a half one morning that two important illustrations had been accidentally deleted.
- You/I/the author proofreads the formatted version. My dog Dixie by this point had read the damn book so many times even she looked tired lying next to me in the hammock as we fretted over trying to find new omissions of important details and commissions of stupidity by yours truly.
- Now here’s where things got tricky. I also asked my fearless editor Tony Kessler to read the book again – his third read-through. On reading the formatted version, Tony unearthed previously hidden sins on my part and we all had to go back to the drawing board, adding new pages and resulting in a second layout.
- Pep-talk time. Ramajon Cogan, the layout guy, reminds me what a great job the editor, Tony Kessler, has been doing. I already tell Tony he has job security, especially since I don’t even remember the title of my 7th-grade grammar book, couldn’t buy a fresh copy even if I wanted to and would never go back to high school English class even if you paid me. Rama points out that because we have all been going crazy trying to get the details right, the reader will have a better experience.
- And??? This is where I am right now. Rama is currently having another go at the layout. Tony has selflessly offered to read the book for a fourth time. My dog Dixie would rather go for a walk. The audiobook folks, Holly Parsons, my book reader, and Mike Gustin, the audiobook engineer, have kindly rescheduled the sound recording sessions while the manuscript gets washed and blessed afresh.
Are you tired yet?
Well come over for a snack, let’s find a new way to procrastinate, self-medicate (I use meditation rather than alcohol) and get through this thing together.
It is not lost on me that I’m writing about pain and suffering. I realized somewhere around step 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 that I might could ENJOY the process of not really knowing what the hell I’m doing and just go with the flow.
And please don’t ask me when my new book will come out – I really don’t know!