The Writer as Typesetter

Typesetter used to be an actual job. While I’m sure professionals typically handle book layout at major publishing houses, writers at mid-size and smaller publishers must now do it themselves. The days of huge mechanical machines are gone. Machines where someone had to lie out each word for printing, a job which must have been horrendous. So much of publishing is now electronic and I’m not referring solely to e-books. Writers handle the writing process, manuscript submission, edits, and layout.

At heart many object to this. I understand this is more cost-effective for the publisher. With new companies, a tiny publisher, and those offering a larger percentage split, it’s even crucial. Still, it leaves a lot to chance and sometimes can be a complicated process. The writer often has to work a day job, raise a family, have a life, AND write, AND promote. To lie out a work for publication can feel like the last insult. One reason this bites is a writer can go to all the hassle of formatting work to submit to a specific publisher, only to have it rejected. They then have to re-format the work to submit elsewhere. That’s why I firmly believe in the old Standard Manuscript Format. I certainly believe no publisher should require a writer to format a work any other way prior to acceptance, and not, necessarily, even then. Since when has a writer had to be a typesetter?

Likewise, most publishers have a house-style using a particular punctuation system and spelling rules. It’s impossible for writers to keep up with these ever-changing and differing systems. For any writer working with more than one publisher, it can be a nightmare, especially if the house-style updates. I’m a UK writer who often writes for a US market, so whether my books appear in English or American, spellings vary. Usually, I have no option but to at least accept a different punctuation system. I’ve had to come clean with these publishers, to tell them I only know one punctuation system: the one I grew up with. The more I tried to learn another, the worse my punctuation became. Some of these things are too much to ask of the average writer on an average day. It’s something any would-be writers out there need to be aware of. Typesetter is also commonly now part of the job.

About Sharon

Writer of Dark and Light Fiction. Fact, fiction, poetry, short stories, articles and novels. Cross-genre, slipstream, non-traditional romance, gothic, horror, fantasy and more... Visit this diverse writer's site.
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