Awards news

Thanks to Grace Yaginuma for reminding me that this past week Flavours of Prince Edward Island by Jeff McCourt, Allan Williams, and Austin Clement (Whitecap Books) won Gold at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards in the Canadian Culinary Culture Category, English-Language and Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (Douglas & McIntyre) won Silver in the Cookbook Category, English-Language. Congrats to all authors! The awards were announced November 7; see a list of all of the winners here.

A celebration of Fred Herzog

“Today’s cameras are not designed by photographers. Today’s cameras are designed by geeks. And geeks do not take good pictures.” —Fred Herzog

Tonight’s event was, hands down, the best book launch I’ve ever attended—probably because it was more than just a book launch. It was also the advance screening of a documentary on Fred Herzog (part of the Snapshot) series, which will air on the Knowledge Network on Monday, November 14, at 10 pm.

The screening was hosted by Knowledge CEO Rudy Buttignol and featured speakers Douglas Coupland, Gary Stephen Ross, Sam Sullivan, Andy Sylvester, and Shelagh Rogers, who each chose one of Herzog’s photos and interpreted the image from his or her own perspective. Rogers had a family emergency and couldn’t attend personally, but, being the pro that she is, recorded her essay in studio for all of us to hear as an MP3. These special presentations were capped off with Herzog himself, an incisively witty and charming man, who gave his take on the photos that the others had commented on.

At the beginning of the evening Scott McIntyre got an opportunity to briefly recount the growth of D&M’s relationship with Herzog, and even gave me and Peter Cocking shoutouts for working on the new book. That was the evening’s first surprise. The second was that I’m shown in a scene of the documentary shaking Herzog’s hand at the opening of his Reading Pictures exhibit at the Equinox Gallery this past February.

Herzog said very explicitly in the documentary that he doesn’t sign books, and so although I’d brought along my copy in the hopes that I could get his autograph, I was a bit too intimidated to ask him at the reception. Zoe Grams and John Burns gently egged me on (the latter even providing the pen), and Herzog was gracious enough to make an exception, even as he was just on his way out.

All in all, it was a spectacular evening and a complete privilege. I’ve thought about contributing to the Knowledge Network for several months now, and tonight has strengthened my resolve.

Free range indexers

A book’s index is an afterthought for most publishers—allocated the pages that are left over from the last signature after the main body has been set. What ends up happening (entirely too frequently) is that indexers are handcuffed by a severe lack of space. I once had to compile a six-page index to a 336-page book—that’s less than 1.8 per cent of the page count—and I was forced to trim so many entries that the index was, for all intents and purposes, useless.

For a reference books or technical manual, the index can be one of the most important components of the publication, and most of the indexers that I know charge by the indexable page rather than the entry, so they’d be charging the same total fee regardless of index length. To severely limit the index space would hurt the book more than it would the indexer (although I’d like to think that most indexers would be disappointed to put forth an inferior product).

What we need, then, is—dare I say it?—a paradigm shift. Publishers and editors and whoever has input into the total extent of a book needs to consider the index integral from the outset. Do a rough cast-off based on the manuscript, and if what’s left over of the last signature is less than, say, 2.5 per cent, consider adding another half or full signature, depending on the total length of the book, and use this new page count in your project budget and P&L.

The American Society for Indexing has some guidelines for index lengths. For trade books, indexes should be about 3 percent of the book, whereas for technical reference books, they could be up to 15 or 20 percent. These figures can be squeezed a little bit, especially if you’re reducing type size in the index, but they shouldn’t be significantly less than what the ASI has recommended, if you want the index to be functional and readable.

On the other end of the spectrum are self-publishing authors or publishers who don’t give any index specs at all and say, “I’ll just do what I need to do to make your index fit.” This scenario is cropping up more frequently as more people are turning to print-on-demand options where they can add pages two at a time rather than worry about a full sig. It sounds like an indexer’s dream, but, in reality, we appreciate constraints. Without a size limit on the index, the temptation to hand over a bloated, unedited draft is entirely too high. Having index specs helps indexers trim the fat—to put careful thought into clear and concise subentries and eliminate redundancies that can lead to clutter.

Basically what I’m saying is that indexers are a lot like chickens (an analogy I’m sure you’ll hear no other indexer repeat). We’re happiest—and we produce the best product—when we’ve got space to roam around and breathe fresh air. But we also understand the need to be penned in, for our own protection. And, of course, getting a generous amount of feed for our troubles doesn’t hurt, either.

Kobo gets into publishing

I’m a bit slow on the draw here, but Kobo announced yesterday that it’s going into the publishing business. (I find it a bit curious that, a day later, none of this information seems to be on the main Kobo site—at least not in any of the obvious places, such as its blog or press centre.)

Apparently Kobo will be actively acquiring new titles and editing as well as designing them. I wonder what rates the company will be willing to pay its editors and whether they will be competitive with those of traditional publishers. Will Kobo bother to hire top-notch editors? Or will it take advantage of the low-cost outsourcing opportunities available on such sites as Elance and oDesk? It’ll also be interesting to see what the workflow will look like and whether this further addition to the burgeoning ebook medium will lead to formal, systematized professional development opportunities to train editors on ebook best practices.

Generally I’d say that the recent growth of ebooks is good news for editors; as many of my colleagues have discovered, helping self-publishing authors with their manuscripts can be huge business. However, with the glut of uncurated content, it can also be hard to impress upon the authors the importance of professional standards (I take heart in the fact that people on social networks still bother to correct others’ spellings—though Muphry’s Law does apply), and being an editor for a self-publisher can also mean becoming de facto project manager—a role you may or may not have wanted.

Purgative roundup

I’d been vacillating about adding a blog component to this site, primarily concerned that my personal musings had no place in my business. But September’s Editors’ Association of Canada BC Branch meeting, which began as a showcase of portfolios and quickly morphed into a discussion about online marketing opportunities, convinced me that maybe blogging wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Since this post is my first, and I’ve got a backlog of news, let me dive in. In no particular order:

1) After a long wait, Cow (Greystone Books), written by Florian Werner and translated from German by Doris Ecker, has finally been released. A million thanks to the amazing Temple Grandin for providing the foreword to this cultural history of the cow.

A massive part of my work on that book involved picture research—seeking out public-domain images whenever possible, tracking down image copyright holders, negotiating permission fees, and the like. At the September EAC meeting, I was lucky enough to win a free EAC seminar and am looking forward to the April 12 Picture Research seminar by Mary Rose MacLachlan and Derek Capitaine (MRM Associates).

2) D&M Publishers celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a party at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. In addition to seeing my old D&M colleagues, I got caught up with Jesse Marchand and Michelle Furbacher from Whitecap Books (friends from my old Ubyssey days!); Megan Brand of UBC Press; Ann-Marie Metten of Talonbooks; and fabulous freelancers Grace Yaginuma, Lara Kordic, and Stephanie MacDonald.

3) I’m excited to attend an advance screening on November 2 of a Fred Herzog documentary for the Knowledge Network, which will also be the launch of Fred Herzog: Photographs, an incredible privilege to work on. I’ll post the air dates of the documentary when I find out what they are.

4) This snort-inducing article about Mary Walsh as Marg Delahunty intimidating Toronto Mayor Rob Ford into calling 911 reminded me of the actress’s contribution to Shari Graydon’s terrific collection, I Feel Great about My Hands—a celebration of the unexpected benefits of aging. To keep up with Shari, read her blog here.