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Layout & separating fact from fiction

August 6, 2015

It has been a busy time because we’ve been preparing several books for publication, and as I wear many hats, both figuratively for the press, and literally in real life (I’m the proud owner of about 40 specimens, if you’re interested), I’ve been up to my eyes in the last stage of preparing a book for publishing, layout in other words.

One of the books, the remarkable Place Lamartine by Jeroen Blokhuis is written in Dutch. We specialise in publishing Dutch authors in Dutch and English early in their career. Place Lamartine is a novel about Vincent van Gogh set during the time when he lived in Arles where many of his famous paintings were created. It’s Jeroen’s debut novel and a rare find, so we’re extremely excited about it.

Vincent van Gogh is, of course, quite an icon, and nowhere more so than in the Netherlands. I didn’t quite realized this until someone living there voiced some concerns after reading the manuscript. Apparently, it’s questionable if fiction embellishes an event mentioned in passing in one van Gogh’s letters. Descendant may well be upset at words spoken or thought in a novel. Really?! After all, we’re talking about fiction, the terms says it all.

That’s why I love being a publisher of fiction and poetry. One of literary fiction’s strength is to shed light on society’s past, present and future foibles. Making it happen is challenging but very rewarding.

But back to the mundane and so important matter of checking a book’s layout. Our versatile and trusted collaborators at Reactive Graphics also handle the layout of our books, and a book in Dutch is a challenge. Why, you may you well ask? Well, because on average Dutch words are longer than English words. So, therefore, they are more likely, in a printed book, to wrap around at the end of a line, and, guess what, the rules of breaking of a Dutch word differ from English rules. But it all worked out fine.

Another of the books that needed to be formatted for printing was 100 Dutch-Language Poems. Poetry is always more difficult than fiction, layout-wise: frequently there are special indentations of lines or words, long lines may exceed the width of the printed page and can’t be just broken, etc. To complicate matters, for this publication we wanted the original Dutch poem and its English translation side by side. This required lots of checking, but I think it proved fruitful, and I’m very pleased with the result.

Now, we just have to promote these books and I haven’t even mentioned Winegarden, but that is for a future instalment of my tales about being a publisher.