Looks Count

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. –Steve Jobs

Would you want to read a book that is typeset in 18-point cyan bolded Comic Sans with all the "important" words (and sentences…and paragraphs) in all capital letters, underlined, and italicized? 

If you say "yes, I would indeed enjoy reading a book formatted that way," then I shall label you a spiteful teller of tall tales. Take that!

If you really want to tick off an editor or an agent and have them immediately toss your hard work into the recycle bin, submit an improperly formatted manuscript. What’s an improperly formatted manuscript? Anything that doesn’t fit the submission guidelines of the publication or agency to which you’re submitting. Always read the submission guidelines before you send a manuscript.

Barring that, an improperly formatted manuscript is anything that doesn’t fit within the generally accepted standards of manuscript format. Generically, a standard manuscript should have the following characteristics:

  1. one-inch margins all around
  2. an easy-to-read typeface, such as 12-point Times New Roman or 12-point Courier New
  3. left justification, not full and not center; the words on the right side of the page should form a ragged pattern as you scan down the page
  4. a half-inch indent on the first line of each paragraph
  5. double-spaced paragraphs, which means that the lines of text on your page are separated by a full blank line that is generated by your word processor’s paragraph formatting function (not the Enter key); it also does not mean that you should manually include a blank line between paragraphs
  6. your name, the shortened title of the story, and a page number in the upper right corner of every page except the first/title page
  7. your name, address, email address, and telephone number in the upper left corner of the first page of the manuscript
  8. the approximate number of words in your manuscript (your word processor’s word count rounded to the nearest 100) in the upper right corner of the first page of the manuscript

Admittedly, the above guidelines were created before we regularly communicated our thoughts as bits over global network media, so they probably seem dated. Editors stick with them because not everyone’s standard of "looks good and is easy to read" is the same. The guidelines ensure that writers do not try to become graphic designers and that the quality of the written work takes center stage in the mind of the agent or editor.

You’re a writer, after all. You should be painting pictures with the meanings of your words, not with fonts, italics, bolds, colors, justification, and other word processor magic.

Publishers: Don’t Be Afraid of Change

An interesting piece on embracing change in an industry that traditionally eschews it appeared in Book Business:

For the last few years, we have watched the world around us changing, but within the industry’s walls, we have seen just glimmers of change surfacing along the horizon. Now, we are going to watch this industry evolve around us in a massive blaze.



As I write this, the Book Business Extra e-newsletter reported developments in mobile content, MP3 audiobooks and free book downloads. The fi rst story covered digital book distributor OverDrive’s new offering of downloadable audiobooks (for retailers, libraries and schools) in MP3 format that will be compatible with nearly every mobile phone and MP3 player, including the iPod. Borders will be the fi rst to offer the audiobooks at Audiobooks. Borders.com and at Digital Centers inside select Borders stores.


Advertising Spending Falls 15.4 Percent in First Half of 2009

From Forbes:

Spending on advertising in the U.S. fell 15.4% in the first half of 2009, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to an annual report released Tuesday by The Nielsen Company. For the six-month period, ad spending plummeted more than $10.3 billion to $56.9 billion.

National newspapers saw ad spending decline 22.8%. Local newspapers dropped 13.2%. National magazines, outdoor media and network radio similarly fell 21.2%, 14.9% and 9%, respectively. Even the Web took a hit. Ad spending declined 1% through the first six months of the year.

He Said the Magic Word!

Can high-power corporate executives run a local newspaper like a local newspaper? At least one of Star Tribune‘s potential new board members (who was once president of the UK Starbucks Coffee Co.), thinks so.

The Star Tribune said Monday that unless another buyer emerges, its board of directors will include L. Gordon Crovitz, former Wall Street Journal publisher; Michael T. Sweeney, managing partner of the Minneapolis private equity firm of Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison; former banker and investor William F. Farley of Minneapolis; and Michael E. Reed, head of GateHouse Media Inc. of Fairport, N.Y. Two additional board members are expected to be named later.

"I think a local newspaper company like the Star Tribune is the epitome of a local business," said Sweeney, who previously served as president of Starbucks Coffee Co. (UK) in London. "So it’s a pleasure to be involved in such a local business."

Click "Read more" for the rest.

Faced with plunging ad and circulation revenue and heavy debt, the Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection last January. The Chapter 11 filing came less than two years after Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm, bought the Star Tribune for $530 million from The McClatchy Co.

Full story at Yahoo! News

Publisher of 30 Newspapers to File for Bankruptcy

Full details at Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register and 30 other US newspapers, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection this week, according to published reports.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times quoted unidentified sources as saying that the bankruptcy filing would lead to Freedom’s lenders taking over the company, which is owned by the Hoiles family.

The Times said the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which protects a company from its creditors while it restructures, could come as early as Tuesday.


Should Newspapers Really be Saved?

Some months ago I was invited (about a dozen times) to join the "Don’t Let Newspapers Die" cause on Facebook. Most of the well-meaning folks who invited me to the cause were, in fact, people in the newspaper industry with whom I have worked for many, many years. As a nearly 20-year veteran of the business, I can forgive my Facebook friends for assuming that I would be interested in preserving the newspaper industry as it exists today, and as it has existed for the bulk of my career.

It was with a not-so-heavy heart that I silently ignored the pleas for my participation in this particular cause.

Why? Because information gathering and reporting, like any other human industry, must be allowed to change and evolve with the technologies and the demands of the times.

We no longer live in an era when the common man, he who puts his nose to the grindstone every day just to feed his family, is restricted to digesting a filtered, dumbed-down hashing of the day’s events with his breakfast bagel or his evening meal. News delivery today is consumer-participatory. We read it, we digest it, we "tweet" it, and we do not necessarily glean what we regurgitate from traditional sources.

The print newspaper business must evolve if it is to remain a viable information utility. To date, it has been the slowest overall of the more traditional news reporting sources to successfully leverage the Internet in the daily lives of news junkies. Granted, it’s had more to overcome. Flipping on the television or radio and sponging the news in spoken or visual form is still easier than putting it together yourself from various blogs, feeds, and editorial content online, even with technologies like RSS and social media sites.

Let’s look at it this way: no one hires a scribe to manually copy, translate, and distribute documents anymore. Why? Because Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing and the printing press. Even as far back as the 1400s, technology was changing the way news was delivered.

And then there were newsboys, who are famous in American history for shouting headlines on street corners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to sell papers. Word-of-mouth, in fact, was one way newspapers managed to attract readers and subscribers throughout the ages. "Did you read that story in the…?" was most often the phrase that led to more eyeballs on a particular column.

These days, there’s nary a newsboy to be found and no one uses movable type printing anymore. Why? Because we have desktop publishing applications that make it simple to put words on a page, and we have television, radio, blogs, advertising, social media, and a host of other means of spreading word-of-mouth.

Now fast-forward to 1997, when Matt Drudge "revolutionized" online newsgathering by becoming one of the first aggregated news sites on the Web to both make news and break major political scandal. Suddenly, people were turning to the Internet in droves to read news from sources that were not ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. What Drudge did was successfully break a Newsweek work-in-progress on the Internet. Although it wasn’t Drudge who uncovered the story, his action on it was the very beginning of what would become the medium accused of destroying the newspaper.

For years, I’ve heard that craigslist is killing print media because of free online classifieds, and that bloggers are killing print media because they have become the new, true "community" journalists, that they are performing original local reporting rather than just spilling something from the Associated Press into an empty hole every day.

In the end, though, it is up to the newspaper to maintain (and build) its readership, and not up to craiglist, bloggers, twitterers, or whatever the next generation of newsgatherer becomes, to protect the old gray print media from wasting away to nothing.

Should traditional print media go the way of the dinosaur? Absolutely. It should evolve.

Publisher Joins Creditors In Attempt to Take Over Philadelphia Newspapers in Bankruptcy

More daily papers are facing hard times now. Creditors are attempting to take over Philadelphia Newspapers, and have been joined in that fight be a longtime publisher. Full details at Yahoo! News:

Creditors will extend for two months the company’s exclusive right to present a reorganization plan. Their plan proposes the auction and posts a starting bid of $37 million in cash plus real estate and bankruptcy costs. The company values the plan at $92 million.

The debtors propose to keep $60 million in debt on the books, in contrast to the company’s plan to emerge debt-free.

"We believe that it achieves the highest and best value for estate assets for the benefit of creditors," said lawyer Larry McMichael, who represents Philadelphia Newspapers. "We believe that because we haven’t been able to find anybody else to put money in."

Ailing newspapers in Boston, Minneapolis and other U.S. cities have all struggled to raise capital or find new buyers, he noted.

Two Peas Launches Paperback edition of “Jennifer’s Plan”

Two Peas Publishing announces the paperback release of Don Meyer’s novel Jennifer’s Plan (ISBN: 978-0984077311). The book is available through amazon.com and other online retail outlets.

The novel is an action-oriented crime drama that follows Jennifer Cerriety as she fulfills her plan to seek retribution against a gang of roughnecks who commit unspeakable acts of violence against her and a man named Harold Seaweather.

Midwest Book Review gave the hardcover edition of Jennifer’s Plan five stars, calling it “a masterpiece of narrative storytelling and a highly recommended addition to community library collections and supplemental reading lists.”

Don Meyer is the author of three books, including Jennifer’s Plan, Winter Ghost, and the Vietnam War memoir The Protected Will Never Know.

Jennifer’s Plan is available for purchase by booksellers from Two Peas Publishing. It is available for retail purchase through Amazon.com, Don Meyer’s website, and other retail outlets.

Are Self-Publishers Saps?

Bill Ruesch thinks not.

Today’s publishing reality is that approximately 4% of manuscripts submitted to publishers ever become books. If you have written a book you need to face the truth. The odds of getting your book published through traditional methods are slim to none.

Recently a self-publishing author of my acquaintance inked a deal with a major publishing company for some very large bucks, maybe the largest in history for a new author. How did he do it? I’ll tell you.