Book production

When I posted my book announcement on 2 June, I thought the huge project was almost done. Unfortunately I was wrong; right now I'm still working on the book. I thought I'd give you a quick update on what I'm doing right now.

Word editing

On 2 June I delivered what I called the "final version" of the very last chapter (chapter 2) in Word format. In the two weeks before, I'd already turned in final versions of all other chapters, the Introduction, and the Afterword.

However, it quickly turned out that I still had the chance to edit the book a bit. After 2 June, I got back most of the chapters, still in Word format, to answer a few questions, solve a few last-minute issues and to make sure that Peachpit's editors hadn't accidentally introduced technical errors.

I'm a compulsive editor. When given the chance, I'll edit a book chapter or article for an indefinite period of time; there's always a sentence that could be clearer, a code example that isn't quite right, or a sequence of topics that should be slightly changed. Back in 1997 I wrote a 20 page historical article for a scientific magazine; and it took me about six months because I kept editing it again and again. The result, however, still pleases me today, there are only a few very minor errors, and the article flows smoothly—far smoother than the average scientific article, I feel. (The article is in Dutch; see my publications page for the details.)

The design

Then the book went into production, which means that the final Word files were sent to Peachpit's Production department. The design and production wizards then cast my words into the book template, which my editor and I had approved earlier on.

I'm very happy with the design; Peachpit's production wizards have clearly worked on technical books before—and I feel my book is better laid out than the average JavaScript book. The paragraphs are evenly spaced, the code examples take exactly as much space as they should, and even the line width of the code examples is fine. The next line of code fits exactly on one line in the book:

var x = document.getElementById('test').getElementsByTagName('a');

(Incidentally, I feel that this line represents the minimum width that code examples in a JavaScript book must have. It's the "1em" of JavaScript book code example typography.)

Before seeing my real chapters in the design, I was afraid that my code examples would be far too wide, and that countless lines would be broken in random places.

Fortunately my fears proved unfounded; less than 5 % of my code lines are too long, and I still have the chance to tell Peachpit exactly where they should break off.

PDF editing

Then PDF versions of the chapters started to come my way, and I was given to understand I could still tweak the text a bit, as well as spot typos and other errors. The compulsive editor in me was gratified and went to work immediately.

(Incidentally, the PDFs also revealed the page counts of the chapters; I added them to the book page.)

For the first time I was able to appreciate my words in their design context; and I can tell you that that makes a difference.

So right now I'm happily editing the PDFs (that is, I insert notes, and it's up to Peachpit's production wizards to do something with them). Actual typos are very rare: I found only three until now. However, the technical chapters make liberal use of the inline code style (which I mark up with <code> on my site), and occasionally I find that I made a mistake in applying them. For instance:

"... if it's there (if (z[i])) ..."

should of course be

"... if it's there (if (z[i])) ..."

These errors are hard to spot, and I don't doubt I overlooked a few of them.

Occasionally I'll change a few words, but adding or changing entire paragraphs is quite difficult in this phase because the entire book has already been laid-out; and that includes deciding where the text flows to a next page.

If I were to insert a new paragraph on one page, it'd mean that the last few lines of that page would drop to the next page, and the last few lines of the next page would drop to the page after that, and so on. Essentially, the entire chapter would reflow, and that's not something that Production would receive with glad cries.

Therefore, whenever I really want to add a new line, I also have to remove one on the same page or the next. This makes editing more of a puzzle and less of a straightforward writing job, but I think it's fun.

Anyway, I've returned the PDFs of six out of ten chapters. A seventh chapter is waiting for my second pass, and I still have to receive the PDFs for chapters 7, 8, and 9. After that come the Introduction and the Afterword.

And when those are done, I'll be really ready with the production of the book. Marketing is a wholly different story, of course.

Incidentally, I've decided to publish part of the Introduction on my site. Peachpit has given its approval, but right now we're waiting until a few boring but necessary copyright issues have been solved. I think the actual publishing will take place somewhere next week.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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Comments are closed.

1 Posted by Sascha on 20 July 2006 | Permalink

As already said befor, I'm really interested I your book. Would be great to read here a part of the Introduction.

regards from germany

2 Posted by Electronical on 21 July 2006 | Permalink

Too bad I can't pre-order it via, yet. Or is there any other way to buy this book online in the Netherlands?

I think I'll try it via the local book store, though.

3 Posted by wilfred nas on 24 July 2006 | Permalink

good luck with the editing, I have allready placed my order at a local bookstore and am looking forward to getting it.

4 Posted by Nick Fitzsimons on 3 August 2006 | Permalink

How times have changed. My geography teacher at school (in the 1970s) wrote many textbooks, and one day he showed us the way they were laid out: he had taught himself to handwrite in the same size and text pitch as 10 point Helvetica, and wrote the entire book out longhand, pasting in copies of the diagrams and illustrations as he went. It was the only way to ensure that diagrams appeared next to the relevant text.

I pulled out my copy of the same book and opened it at a random page somewhere in the middle, then compared it with the handwritten version: there was one word at the start of the page that appeared on the previous page in the printed version, and a couple of short words at the end of the second page that were on the next page in print.

He wrote a book every couple of years, and had to go through this process for each of them.

5 Posted by Andy on 6 August 2006 | Permalink

Way to go! I`m awaiting for your new book to be ready for buying!

6 Posted by Rush on 8 August 2006 | Permalink

Just love the tutorials and the way you explain stuff at Quirksmode, i doubt if i'd be able to buy your book as i doubt it would be available in my part of the world.