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Typography: It’s a (Copyrighted) Art

October 13, 2009

lettersIt was with my burgeoning interest in design several years ago that I first became aware of the art of typography—how fonts are set in a design to appeal to readability, practicality, and aesthetic tastes. I’ve by no means since become a font aficionado, though I am something of a snob about choosing just the right font for my creative work.

There are those—typographers—who have made this their goal: to create just the right font for any situation. It is a true art. The intricacy of font work lends itself to a great deal of vision, patience, and mayhap a bit of oddity. (Check out “Being a Typographer” at CreativePro.com).

It is the same as any other unique image—and has just as much of a claim over copyright. But that fact is something we occasionally forget. ‘We’ being anyone from a personal user creating a poster for a band to a business creating a website for their product to, say, a very large company using the fonts for their ads.

Such was the case with NBC, which is currently facing a lawsuit from typographic firm The Font Bureau over a mishandling of font licensing. The Font Bureau, which is a big shot in the typographic world (having designed over 1,500 fonts for over 300 companies, according to their website), claims that NBC did not secure the rights to use a handful of fonts that appeared in their fall marketing campaign. A big mistake, as without proper licensing, all of that advertising can be pulled and would need to be redone. And that is an extremely expensive process.

Even large companies running intricate and expensive advertising campaigns make mistakes. But the fact of the matter is that, whether this or other incidents were purposeful or honest mistakes, people occasionally see a font as something they have an automatic right to—because it’s there, and it’s only text, and hey, who cares anyway?

A lot of people care. Fonts aren’t just text, they aren’t just how you read something. They can determine your perspective, your emotions, your thoughts. They are about appeal, about cleverness, about intrigue. It’s certainly apparent in the publishing industry. Typography is essential to both cover and interior design, and determines if a reader will even pick up your book. Not to mention the delicate balance between creating a good design and creating a design that smacks of the amateur or unprofessional je ne sais quoi, usually in ways more subtle (even subliminal) than we can imagine.

Diatribe aside, take some time to consider typography if you haven’t already. You’ll find that you have tastes and preferences, fonts that you love and fonts that you detest (and fonts that you just find lame). You’ll start to notice common fonts and design nuances, the way a sign over a shop or a billboard along the street or a book in your bookstore can grab your attention just by using the text in the right way. And remember that when you are creating your own design, that those typographers have worked to give you a near-infinite selection of font designs to enhance your work. And whether the fonts are purchased or free—show them the love they deserve.


Interested in fonts? Here are a few blogs dedicated to fonts and typography:

-        i love typography

-        the font feed

-        AisleOne

-        The Ministry of Type

-        Type Directors Club

-        TypeOff

-        Typographer.org

Looking for fonts to use on your own projects? Free or Creative Commons-licensed fonts:

-        dafont.com

-        urbanfonts

-        Font Freak

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Big Bad Weekly Tip: The First Self-Publishing Book Expo is Coming

October 13, 2009

Weekly-Tip-2103Self-published books and authors will finally have the spotlight at the first annual Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE) in New York City. Featuring an appearance by our very own Tanya Hall, the SPBE will be a great learning and networking opportunity if you live near New York City or have been thinking of taking a trip to the Big Apple.

Open to the public, the SPBE will offer authors a unique opportunity to exhibit and sell their books. Authors and attendees will also have a chance to get expert advice on a wide variety of topics from publishing experts and industry veterans, through a series of panels, lectures and discussions scheduled throughout the day. In addition to the general public, editors, publishers, literary agents, and members of the media are expected to attend the event, all looking for hidden gems and great stories that may otherwise be under their radar.

The SPBE will be held in New York City on Saturday, November 7, 2009 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers. To register, or for more information, visit www.selfpubbookexpo.com.

ALSO ON THE RADAR: Author 101 University is taking place in Las Vegas on October 30-31, 2009 at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino.

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The Huffington Post on How Not to Pitch Your Book to a Blog

October 8, 2009

1055089_no_spamThis week Jonathan Fields of the Huffington Post posted an e-mail exchange he had with a publicist from a major house who was pitching a new self-help book. The publicist not only sent the same cookie-cutter release twice, but then engaged in an argument with Fields—the person he wants to be on his side—about why his outdated methods work for everyone else. Fields uses this almost unbelievable exchange as the starting point for an insightful commentary on book publicity as it should be today. You may have heard the basics of how publicity has changed already (broadcasting to old media doesn't work anymore, social media requires joining the conversation, etc), but the post is a graphic demonstration of what we hear all the time.

Fields, who wrote and promoted his own book, Career Renegade, also points out a truth that held for both himself and 4-Hour Workweek author Timothy Ferriss: mentions on top-notch blogs and other social media can do a lot more for book sales than advertising in national newspapers and magazines or even appearing on national television.

As further evidence of the power of conversation, some great points are made in the comments section of Fields's post, so check that out as well. HuffPost blogger Lisa Earle McLeod chimes in with a piece of wisdom we've given you already: it's critical for authors to understand how media and publicity work today. Depending on your publisher and/or publicist to do it all for you is a sure formula for weak sales.

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Big Bad Weekly Tip: National Reading Group Month is Here!

October 5, 2009

Weekly-Tip-2103October is designated as National Reading Group Month by the Women's National Book Association. The mission of National Reading Group Month is to increase public awareness of the joy and value of shared reading. Special events are being held throughout the month in each of the association's 10 chapter cities: Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Charlotte, N.C. These events are open to the public, so you might consider doing some mingling with reading group members if you live in one of these cities. If you do attend, consider preparing and bringing a discussion guide for your book, as well as some free copies of the book, to hand out.

As we’ve mentioned before, reading groups can be an effective way for authors to find a readership and build word of mouth. Reading groups love author contact and will be more inclined to select your book if you offer to participate in discussions in person or via audio/video conferencing.

If you can’t attend the National Reading Group Month events, here are a few other places to find and connect with reading groups:

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Big Bad Weekly Tip: Book Awards Deadlines Approaching Fast!

September 28, 2009

Weekly-Tip-2103The submission deadline for the third annual 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards is October 15, 2009. 800-CEO-READ, a sister company to Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Wisconsin, created the business book award program to recognize the best business books published each year. The awards include several individual categories, as well as an overarching award for the Best Business Book of 2009. Any English language business book originally published in the U.S. in 2009 is eligible. Each book will be judged on the originality of its ideas and content. The winners will be announced on December 15, 2009. Click here to enter your eligible business titles today (entry is free).

Also, note that USABookNews.com, a site that highlights hundreds of new and notable books each month, has extended the deadline for their annual National Best Books Awards to September 30, 2009. (That's this Wednesday!) The awards are open to all books with an ISBN published in 2008 or 2009. Visit the National Best Books 2009 Awards page for more information and to enter your eligible titles.

Good luck!

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