Wrestling with InDesign

Contrary to popular belief, I have not given up working on my new book, nor have I forgotten about this blog.  My spare time (what there is of it, anyway) has been consumed by updating the winery book for 2013.  Since I opted to go the independent publishing route, this means doing a lot of the formatting and mapmaking myself.

Why do this when I could probably hire someone to do it for me?  Well, two reasons, really.  The first has to do with concept and the second with cost.

When I first started working on the book two years ago, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to look like:  each chapter would start with a map of the wine region, and then each sub-chapter would begin with a more detailed map with roads, towns, and the specific locations of each winery.

Since there are nine wine regions in Virginia and multiple sub-areas, this translated to over 50 (!) maps for the book.  It also translated to a more complex layout than a book with just text or with only a few graphics of some sort.  Standard book layout means that each chapter should begin on the right-hand page of the open book.  In order to allow the reader to see the map and see the start of the chapter, that means that each chapter and sub-chapter map must be on the left-hand page.

But having the maps on the left page can lead to a lot of white space if one isn’t careful, including totally blank pages at the end of chapters.  This can give a pretty appalling and less-than-professional overall look to the finished product.  Not to mention the fact that the cost per book is based on the number of pages, so any extra unnecessary pages will ultimately eat into the royalty payment that you’ll get.

This leads straight to the second issue:  cost.  Cost in terms of producing the maps themselves, and cost in terms of laying out the interior of the book.

Last year, after I’d finished writing the text of the winery book, I started looking around for someone who could do the maps.  This was a lot harder than I’d imagined.  I finally located a cartographer who would do the job, but the fee was pretty astronomical:  anywhere from $400 to $1000 per map.

After almost hyperventilating at the total cost, I decided to just do it myself.  After all, I’d had a cartography course back in my undergraduate days and knew the basic principles of mapmaking.  And while Adobe Illustrator was pretty expensive, it was sure a lot less expensive than having someone else do the maps and maybe not do them the way I wanted.

I did opt to have the publishing firm do the interior layout for the very first edition published in January 2012.  But this led to a lot of extra white space (see above) and less than ideal formatting here and there.  I’m not complaining, really.  After all, their business model is based on getting things processed and out the door as quickly as possible.  (My business model, by contrast, was focused on making sure my book looked the way I’d envisioned it.  A clash was bound to occur.)

Having mastered Illustrator, I took the plunge in February, got InDesign, and then completely redid the interior myself, moving some of the one-page “Wine Basics” to other locations to fill up that white space, rejiggering other sections to give it a better overall look, and ultimately reducing the total number of pages pretty significantly.

On the plus side, the second version looked exactly like my vision; on the down side, InDesign can be quirky to work with.  I’d gotten pretty good at it earlier this year but now am wrestling with it again as I try to remember exactly how to do things like inserting and resizing graphics, inserting new text, and so forth.  It’ll get easier, I know, and will be worth the trouble.  And Lynda.com’s online courses are a big help.

So, now, back to InDesign.  But in the meantime, enjoy this sunset view of Sharp Rock Vineyards’ guest cottage on the banks of the Hughes River near Sperryville.  (Hikers, note:  Old Rag Mountain, one of Virginia’s popular hiking spots, is very close by Sharp Rock.)

Sharp Rock Vineyards, Sperryville, VA

Sharp Rock Vineyards, Sperryville, VA



1 Comment

Filed under Formatting, General, On Writing

One response to “Wrestling with InDesign

  1. I haven’t been to Sharp Rock Vineyards in some time.

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