This is Robin, writing to you from a wind-swept, misty cafe, and I have news of the book: a tiny white object appeared on my doorstep last week. It’s a delicate little thing, half written and half designed, but it happens to be the very first prototype of Adventures in Typography, the book that this here newsletter is building towards.
Well, okay. This is just the first prototype and there are many, many sharp edges that have to be sanded down over a dozen or so prototypes in the future. But this moment requires celebration: the project is real! I can point and prod and poke at the details, no matter how embarrassing those details might be. I can show friends and get their initial thoughts, giving myself a launchpad to push off in one direction or another.
It’s a slim volume, just shy of 150 pages which makes it about the size of a novella right now. That’ll expand with time but perhaps only by a dozen pages or so.
There’s a few things I wanted to test with this prototype. First, I wanted to make sure that these initials that appear before each chapter feel right…and I sort of like them! Of course, in the final copy there’ll be a completely different paper stock and printing method so there won’t be these big ugly inky stripes down the page. But I feel like you can treat this thing like a flip book now, skimming over all these beautiful letters.
The next thing I wanted to test was the format, the size and fit of things. For now, I’m playing with a regular ol’ paperback format—5x8 inches—but I might go even smaller in the next prototype. We’ll see.
How did I go about making this thing though? Well, a few weeks ago, I took all the words that I’d edited in Word and threw them into InDesign…
…and then I exported it all as a PDF.
Many moons ago, I read Marcin’s post about making a small batch of printed books, and so I decided to go with Barnes and Noble Press since they appear to have the best browser interface for doing all this. One night I made an account, imported that PDF from InDesign and for just $14 I had a real, honest-to-goodness book on its way to me.
Ten days later it arrived at my door. Magic.
(I feel like these books-as-a-service websites have a bad rep for cheap books and shady writing but I think for making prototypes they are the absolute best thing in the world.)
Anyway, the prototype was immediately successful. When it arrived in my hands I could tell that—yes!—this book works at a small size. The writing belongs at this scale. Although, in my rush to get a prototype in my hands, I forgot obvious details like justifying the text or using small caps…
See that right hand side of the text column? Look at any other printed book and you’ll see a straight edge where the lines are completely stacked on top of each other. Like, I said: beware the sharp edges. But really my goal with this prototype isn’t to nail down all these obvious typographic details. Instead, it’s to see if this is the right shape and format for this thing first. Do the stories fit at this scale? Do I have enough space to show beautiful typefaces off? And I think so, yes. Nothing’s lost at this size, but when I get to designing and illustrating things perhaps that will change.
Yet I don’t need to think 10 steps ahead here. Making a book is not a game of six dimensional chess where every single piece needs to be correct for it all to work out in the end.
Instead, making a book is about making it 1% better today, right now, and nothing else.
Until next time,