Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Writer's Wednesday: Large Print Books
At the request of my mother (and the librarian at the retirement home), I have created a large-print edition of Death By Ice Cream, with more to follow if this one flies. In case others are thinking of doing the same, I thought I'd share what it took.

Cover: In the best of all worlds, you'd probably do a new cover just for the LT book. Since I don't have the funds for that (the more so as I'm dubious about this making the money back), I opted to use my okay Photoshop skills to enlarge the regular cover. Why enlarge? Because to make a LT book work, you probably need to use a larger format, unless you are already at the 6x9" size. Even then you'll need a much wider spine--something I didn't adequately account for when doing this one (I decided it's good enough, though, and am not going to change it).

For the next book, I will probably try taking the separate pieces and enlarging them individually to assemble a proportional cover according to the specs for the size book. I think that will be only slightly more work, and will look more professional. One problem I had here was that there wasn't really space to put the words "Large Type Edition" on the cover, and I ended up having to stretch the bottom of the cover a bit to make room. That resulted in a less-than-optimal design, which a fresh cover design would avoid.

Interior: Here's where you really need to put in some effort. First, I chose to make the book 6x9", which seems to be a pretty standard size for the LT books at our library. That's a bit larger than my usual books, which means that I could get more words on a page. That's important: not only do POD books cost per page, but a super-thick book won't stay open well, and may be heavier and more awkward.

A note here on a limitation we author-publishers using POD printing have: a traditionally published LT book will use thinner, lighter paper to keep the bulk and weight down. We don't have that option.

So here's the nitty-gritty: a book counts as LT if the font is at least 14 points. I thought that wasn't enough (my test is to see if I can read it without my "cheaters"), and used 16 points. Of course, the font you use will make a difference, and here's the thing: a lot of the more popular typefaces aren't great for the visually impaired. The recommendations call for a sans-serif font (without the little extra lines at the bottoms or tops of many letters): APHont, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica (the first is not included with word processors, but is free. I didn't try it). I experimented and found that Arial gave me the lowest page count but still very clear and easy-to-read type.

At least one recommendation I read suggested block type with double-spaces between paragraphs (as this blog post has), but I don't see that in most of the books I looked at, and I didn't do it. But what I *did* do was increase the space between lines, setting it to "at least 20 pts." That really helped readability by creating a little more white space between lines of type so the eye isn't so easily confused.

To reduce the overall length, I took out "extras" in the book, combining a couple of the front-matter pages into one, and adding the "other books" list to the "About the Author" page. I also moved the chapter headers up to just a couple of lines below the top of the page (instead of 1/3 of the way down), and removed the headers so the top margin could be a little higher.

The end result is a book that I think can be much more easily read by someone with limited vision, without being too large and heavy to hold. The page count increased from 291 to 435 for my 82,000 word novel, which still allows me to price it under $20.

Is it worth it? I won't know this for a while. In financial terms, my only investment was time (plus the cost of purchasing a few copies so I have them available for sale when I do talks). So I'm not really out anything if it doesn't sell. But if no one buys it, I may not think it worthwhile to do the other books. On the other hand, maybe I can do some direct marketing to other retirement homes and build a market. With cozy mysteries, older women are a significant part of the market, so taking a little thought for their needs seems worthwhile.


In other news: Check out this great trailer for Tick Tock A Stitch in Crime, which will be out on Tuesday!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Lucky Broken Girl


Title: Lucky Broken Girl
Author: Ruth Behar
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017. 243 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
Based on the author's childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro's Cuba to New York City. Just when she's finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood's hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie's world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

My Review: 
This was a lovely story, and I think the blurb leaves out the biggest part of what it is about: Ruthie learns that she has to be strong and determined if she's going to do anything. Yes, she learns about those things that make her confinement bearable, while she also learns that parents are human and the demands her injuries make on her mother are a strain. But she also learns that she can only recover if she is willing to work hard, bite the bullet, and push herself. The book shows us her journey from sullen resentment of her situation to an embrace of her helplessness, to a place where, finally, she can fully recover because she's willing to try.
It is particularly important, I think, that Ruthie's journey isn't a straight line, and isn't always in the same direction. She gets angry and frustrated and gives up and then tries again, then backslides... In short, she is remarkably human (maybe because the author is writing from her own experience, she seems to have a better than usual grip on the reality of how a person processes something like the accident that changes Ruthie's life). The story is compelling precisely because it's sometimes challenging.

My Recommendation:
This is good for kids from about 8 up. Older children will probably get more out of Ruthie's journey, but younger ones can enjoy her struggles and successes. I have to also say: I had no idea there were Jewish Cubans, families who migrated there as WWII was heating up in Europe (maybe because the US wasn't too open? The author doesn't go into that). It gives Ruthie's family some interesting twists, and makes for a good reminder that people aren't always just what they seem, or what you expect.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Lucky Broken Girl out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

#Fi50: Hours of Fun

It's time for the April Fiction in 50 blog hop! I'm posting up early so that it's ready for you Sunday no matter what time zone you're in.

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 words exactly.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back to my post so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.

The April prompt is... 
Hours of Fun

That's it. Pick your 50 words with care and post your link in the comments! 

Hours of Fun

Fluffy gets bored and shreds the furniture. I spent most of Saturday searching for a good toy to distract her while I work.

My son raises lab rats, small furry white scurrying creatures. When I got home, somehow they had gotten out of their cage.

Fluffy found her own entertainment.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!