Now whatever a baby is like - physical appearance, personality, talents and traits - is all written into his DNA. The DNA that came from both Mom and Dad, who actually didn't have any influence over what they got either. About the closest you'll ever come to manipulating DNA, like I mentioned before, is to either marry a very good-looking person or just forget it and opt for adoption! What can I say ... life's a gamble with no predictable outcomes!
But here we're talking about book-babies! Particularly the babies that self-publishers birth. No DNA here, but still, when you put all the right ingredients into that baby, you absolutely will end up with a beautiful baby! With these kind of babies, you absolutely can control what's going into them and how they'll turn out.
So what do you put in to make sure that baby is pretty? Let's find out how the pros do it ...
Traditional publishers have got this nailed! Their books are professional and high quality. It's because they know the secret ... the secret that self-publishers can learn, too. The secret that will turn those boring, homemade-looking babies into fabulous books that real people will actually pick up and read ... and isn't that the whole point?!
The secret is marrying the left leanings and the right leanings. Blending them perfectly will give you the results you want.
Our society has made the whole left-right thing political and it divides and separates us. That's a shame. Because the two sides are not supposed to oppose each other. They're supposed to compliment each other! It's not about us and them, it's about we!
I wrote about this in another blog last summer. The right side provides structure and order. The left side provides creativity and pizzazz!
We all have a bit of both sides in us, though most people tend to lean predominately in one direction or the other. There are those blessed people that are strong in both and can switch between the practical and the creative. And you need both in life and in those beautiful book-babies you're creating.
Because most individuals tend to lean one way or the other, the work we do will also move in our dominant direction. Sometimes this works, like when you're writing scientific or technical papers. Or painting flamboyant abstract paintings that will hang in galleries. But picture books are in a category all their own. And except in rare cases or unique subject matter, if you don't get these two leanings in balance, you are going to end up with an ugly baby. Count on it.
So since there are two directions to lean, there are two sure fire ways to make your book-baby really ugly ...
Ugly Baby #1
The first path to a really ugly baby is to shut down your left leanings completely and only operate out of your right leanings. Stay practical. Figure out that budget. How much will you spend on your baby? Make lots of projections regarding how you are going to recoup your costs. This is a business venture.
When you write the story, make certain you explain everything to your readers. Don't leave anything to their imagination. They probably won't understand what you mean, so go into great detail. Don't leave anything out.
Don't write like real people talk ... write correctly. Make certain that you follow all the grammatical rules. Never, never begin sentences with conjunctions or end them with prepositions.
Make certain those illustrations show exactly what's in the text and never deviate or embellish. Sensible is the rule here ... text on the left page, pictures on the right page.
But those illustrators are expensive! Let's just use some colorful clip art instead ...
When designing the cover and selecting typefaces for the interior pages, traditional is the safest route. And it's got to be easy to read ... Times Roman and Helvetica are the way to go. You do need to dress up the cover a bit ... put the title in red, maybe with a black outline. And a nice sketch of your main character ... that's all you need! Or maybe just throw some more of that clip art on there ...
Printing will be a snap, because whatever paramenters or guidelines the printer has, will be followed to the letter. Producing these books will be smooth and easy.
Congrats, my right-leaning friend! You now have a boring, ugly book! I hope you have a very large garage to store all those unsold copies!
Ugly Baby #2
The second path to a really ugly baby is to shut down your right leanings completely and only operate out of you left leanings.
Kinda' plan your budget, but don't sweat over it too much ... it just feels right! The details will work themselves out.
Writing and putting ideas on paper ... that's a bit organic and it takes on a life of it's own, so just let that story flow where it wants to flow! Don't worry too much about explaining anything. This is art! Different people are likely going to be getting different messages, and maybe not what you actually intended ... maybe more than you intended! Woo-hoo!
Flowing, organic stories are really cool, because that means less editing! Yeah, we should probably use spell check, but that's about all we'll need. Freedom, baby! Let that story be what it wants to be!
Illustrations! This is the fun part! Unleash the creativity! You know what would be really fun? Instead of all the pictures in the book being too much alike, let's hire a few different artists and let each of them do some pages. Or maybe just one artist, who can work in a few different styles. And give them lots of freedom to interpret the story however they see best. You'll get better art if you don't put too many limits on the artist.
Selecting typefaces and designing the cover is the the final fun part ... the more exotic the font, the better! Let's use something no one else ever uses. Let's pick several! Maybe all handlettering is the way to go ... hmmm
Our left-leaning friend will have the most trouble with getting his book printed. If he's not in the graphics industry, he won't understand what the printer needs, like sending color files over in rgb and not cmyk. He made the files in Photoshop ... isn't that the industry standard?
If he is in the graphics industry, he knows what he's supposed to do ... he learned in art school that printers need .25" bleed on full page layouts. So when his printer asks him for .06" bleed, he will likely dig in his heels and argue with the printer about why the printer is wrong!
The bad news is, if he actually makes it through to getting his first book printed, he's not likely going to get a second book. Unless he picks a new, unsuspecting printer!
The good news is, since he won't be getting that second run of books printed, maybe he'll have room in his garage to help store all the right-leaning guy's books. Maybe that's the way to get the right and left sides talking to each other and heal the divide ... just a thought!
Now I know you probably think I've finally lost it. Not so. I've seen the evidence. I've seen the ugly babies. And I can generally tell you which ones were made by the right-leaners, and which ones were made by the left-leaners.
The ugly babies from the right-leaners usually have a very institutional look about them. They will have color, but it will be very conservative and careful. And not too much "in your face" bold color. Font selection will be traditional and easy-to-read, but not interesting to read. Characters are flat without much personality. The story line will be predictable and the ending will be – yawn – happy. And no surprises anywhere along the way. They are very safe and very dull.
The ugly babies from the left-leaners are a lot more fun, but also a lot more amateurish. The copy on the cover can sport 3, 4, or more different font styles that are sometimes hard to read. There will be more bold color, but again, very amateurishly applied. The stories in these are better as far as subject matter, and the characters have more personality. But the writing can ramble and there are unforgiveable grammatical errors throughout ... verb and subject tenses not matching up, singular or plural pronouns and adjectives to describe the opposite kind of nouns. Punctuation gone awry, if not absent all together. Fun stories, but hard to read and hard to follow. Colorful art that may or may not have anything at all to to with the narrative. These books can draw you in for a closer look, but are tiresome to read. You might not make it to the end!
So how do the pros marry these two together and end up with beautiful babies? And can a self-publisher pull that off?
Absolutely they can!
See you next week ...