• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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And You Know That Notion Just Crossed My Mind

Seventeen hour day and still on the train. Phew. Highlight of the day was a meeting with a publisher and her colleague. They came to do a dog and pony and brought lots of books, promotional materials and catalogues. They  explained how they make editorial and formatting decisions, and how they market and promote, etc. They are doing an impressive job on the internet marketing; this is not true for all publishers. The books are gorgeous. It made me long for my editorial days. When people ask me if I miss it, this is what I miss: making the book. As involved as I am as an agent, I’m not talking to designers about end papers and trim size and coated stock or rough fronts. I love design. I love the package. I love fonts! I fuckin’ love them. I heart fonts! I break for French flaps. My kingdom for a satin ribbon!

How important is this stuff to you? As a consumer? As a writer?

33 Responses

  1. I love the paper. I love the smell of ink. I love the feel of the book in my hand, the heft of it. I like design but it doesn’t usually get me to buy or keep me from buying. The title will be why I pick it up if I haven’t heard of the book.

    As a writer, I have a secret fear that I sell a book and then have to back out of the deal because they want to put a woman walking in a field or by the sea or some generic picture like that. Seriously, I’m not sure I could go there.

    (staying anonymous so my wonderful agent and potential editors don’t think I’m hard to work with.)

  2. ps once again perfect lyrics for the post.. watch your speed

  3. staying anonymous too…I love design. Love it. Love gorgeous fonts, hate tacky ones. I love smaller books that fit well in the hand, like Algonquin’s…I requested same for my book but was told that design was too “quiet.” I also want to be published by Knopf so I can have that awesome little graf at the end of the book that explains the history of the font. I LOVE that. I WANT that. Fuck Times New Roman.

  4. Maybe I’ve been lucky, or maybe I was just hypnotized, but I’ve never read a beautiful book that sucked. Or maybe sometimes things just happen the way they ought to.

  5. oh em gee

    i love fonts too and i’m not just saying that because you are betsy lerner.

    when i did the title page for my MSS in its word doc, i spent an entire afternoon playing with the fonts for the title.

    and when i sit and stare at all 85K+ words of it not knowing which end is up and where to begin rewriting and revising, i select all and change the fonts for the entire thing. Times New Roman, Calibri, MS Script, French script, mom’s typewriter.

    which font perfectly conveys the intent of this story???

    it changes daily.

  6. I’ve always wanted to write a paranormal romance for young adults and so I decided between job hunting to make a dream come true. I know the chances of getting it published are slim but it was an incredible feeling the day I completed it. I don’t know anything about blogging…it’s all new to me…my searching and clicking brought me to your blog. I’m trying to get traffic to my book site, to get feedback on my story line, but I have not figured out how it’s done. If anyone has a chance to check it out I would be grateful for any tips on how to link to other sites or what is meant by the term “tag”? I also wonder if an author can actually tell a publisher the mental picture they have for the cover art? Writing is such an incredible chance to put all those ideas swirling around in ones head down on paper where it can be shared with others. Any comments or suggestion would be greatly appreciated. http://www.jmjbookblog.wordpress.com

    • good luck with all your endeavors, j.

      you will find that you won’t get much response to a personal pitch like this on a blog, especially when it’s off-topic. just part of internet etiquette.

      keep surfing around around and you’ll learn a lot.

  7. Readable fonts are part of the art of the readability of the book to me. I find myself reading a lot of classics, last century, famous in my life time, for lack, and wishing I had the original fonts so my eyes don’t strain. Readable is good. The cheap reprints of these books, which work into my budget, and I don’t know the lingo, are so small that I don’t want to read them (Don’t sell your books for cigarette money! Get a part-time job!) But, once I adjust the light, and settle-in to, or am drawn in, to another great book, all the art work that surrounds a great book, which mostly has nothing to do with the story as it manifested itself from nothing and was written down by a brave soul, and changes after all the hub-bub, has little to do with my admiration for and gratitude to a great book. The writing, again using a worn out dictionary, is the book. So, I vote edit a great book and bring it to life. The dog and pony show will always be there for those who can’t read and write all that well (Which isn’t an insult.)

  8. This is bragging. Can’t be helped. My son was reading a book for college, one of those everyone on campus reads the same book deals, about the Triangle Shirt-waist factory fire; contemporary cover. I opened the book. I said, this is a photo offset or whatever the equivalent is now of an old set of pages. How you can tell he said. I said, the font, the design, this and this…. When do you think it’s from, he said. The eighties? (Aren’t they darling what they think is old?) I said no, I’d guess early 60s. So he checks the copyright. 1962. You get to the point with a life with books where you can pick them up and hold them and smell them and check both sides and know if it’s interesting or unusual. The judgment isn’t even rational anymore, it’s more along the lines of a hitter knowing where a pitch will be by the time it reaches his bat. Where I’m teaching, the English course books — actual novels and books of poems, mind, not the big anthologies — now come to the bookstore with a “Rent Me!” sticker.

  9. Who are these admirable publishers by the way? Any reason to withhold this information?

  10. Fonts? Let me preface this with the declaration that I was a graphic designer for a zeebillion years. I have over 30,000 of ’em!

    I have favorites (Poetica and Cochin, for instance) and actually have a “Hell fonts” folder with despised, overused, scapegoated fonts that I blame for everything from traffic snarls to declining civility to bad political outcomes.

    I saw a bumper sticker that pretty much says it all for me: “Comic Sans is not a font.”

    That said, after just moving thousands of books, my first choice for all future book purchases will be a digital format, which can also have wonderful fonts and visuals. Yes, I enjoy physical books, especially the paper when it is a good stock. I am out of bookshelf space and never ever want to pick up even one more box laden with books again in my life.

    And my iPad lets me choose the fonts my ebooks are displayed in. . .

  11. In case anyone thinks book design is unimportant, I know that John Updike was closely involved with every part of how his books looked.

  12. Book design. . . that’s where it’s at. That’s when I pick up the book. And what’s with the partial women on covers….is the some subliminal code that if you read the boo you’ll find out about the whole woman and even wheeeee little part of her?” Below is my favorite code-font: P.s I work for Interpol
    and ’’’’…’”

  13. BEMBO!!!

  14. I live for fonts. Some publishers are putting out nigh-unreadable fonts these days. I especially hate it when the punctuation marks are too light, or are hard to distinguish. My favorite font of all time (so far) is Mutlu. I don’t design many things, but I nearly always find a place for some Mutlu.

  15. The only thought I’ve put into fonts lately is to make them bigger. And no, I don’t need reading glasses.

  16. A book is like a meal. Presentation is important.

  17. Print my books on blackboards with fingernails. Just pay me.

  18. What Sally said so concisely. Truth, that.

    I’ve been unplugged, therefore out of the loop, so I apologize for my late:
    CONGRATS Betsy on your new and improved edition of the Forest for the Trees.

  19. Another graphic designer here who admittedly still can’t read one of her dear kiddos a children’s book without thinking “if only he’d kerned a little more there, or may just given a little more air between the “Big” and “Monster”–some habits are hard to break.

    And of course as I await seeing what the art department comes up with for my debut’s cover, I have many family and friends thinking I might have a hand in that when of course I won’t, and I don’t think I should. Frankly I’m more excited to see someone else’s idea of my book.

    But the font choices, well…

  20. “How important is this stuff to you? As a consumer? As a writer?”

    I am a simple man. I want a book to be readable, so font and margins matter in that regard. I want a book to last, so quality of paper and binding matter in that regard.

    I want a book to be a friend and lover who will never betray me, and whom I will never betray.

  21. Unlike the old saw to the contrary, you can judge a book by it’s cover (design and structure).

  22. I was trying to explain to dear boyfriend (who works in tech) that part of the reason writers can’t get very excited about e-books is because it messes with the image we have in our head since childhood of what it would mean to be a published writer: to hold the book in your hands, see the printed words on the page, see the cover art that was chosen to illustrate the story that originated in your imagination. All those physical, tangible signifiers that you are the real thing.

    I know what really matters is whether or not poeple read your stuff, not matter what the format, but I find these things hard to let go of.

  23. Very important to me as a consumer. I’ve judged many a book by its cover.

  24. I’m in the minority here, but I prefer e-books because they don’t have a cover. Images distract me. With my hardcovers, I ditch the dust jacket before the book even makes it home. If there’s a face on the cover, that face becomes the character for me. I hate that. I want the characters’ faces to come from my mind. Same thing with the setting. I want the story to be purely an idea. Words and nothing else. It feels like there is more space for me that way.

  25. As a matter of principle, if the author’s name is larger than the title of the novel? I don’t read it. So yeah, I’m not reading a lot of popular fiction.

  26. It isn’t about a typeface per se (font by the way, actually refers to the size of the type–but that’s been lost to the ages, fine, letting go). More importantly what, sigh, fonts go together.

    Click to access 19-top-fonts-in-19-top-combinations-chart.pdf

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