Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What Is an Illustration Program?

Lisa makes a good point--I've talked about illustration programs a couple of times now, but for those blessed amongst you who have never had to deal with them, you might not know why I find these little buggers so daunting.

Whenever you see an illustrated book (or a book with pictures of any kind throughout the text), you can be sure that somewhere an editor (or, in many cases, and editorial assistant) has spent hours on a "program" to communicate the raw art you, the author, have turned in to the design team, who lay out the text (this is a reason you want to thank your editor's assistant in your acknowledgments if you get a chance to--odds are s/he has slaved away on the book about the same amount as your editor has).

The easier version of the illo program happens when a book has an insert. That's still a lot of packaging and copying, but since all the pictures come in a separately designed clump in the middle of the book their placement doesn't affect, for example, text design or page widows.

However, many books have photos throughout the text (and let's face it--while they won't be as glossy as they would be in an insert, they will be a lot more useful to the reader). In those cases, these are the things that need to be turned in to the design team:

1) two hard copies of the manuscript with illustration call-outs
---a "call-out" is a demarcation in the text that indicates where a particular photo goes

2) the illustrations themselves, either in hard copy or digitally, carefully labeled so that one image clearly corresponds to one call-number

3) two hard copies of print-outs (or photocopies) of each image, clearly labeled, so so the design team knows exactly what they're supposed to be looking for (these should be assembled into two packets)

4) an illustration checklist, usually done in some form of spreadsheet, that indicates for each image: 1) the call-out number; 2) the image name; 3) the kind of image it is (hard copy? JPEG? TIFF? pick-up art from a previous book by the author?); 4) the size it should appear on the page; 5) the caption; 6) the credit; 7) the status of the image (is it ready right now during the transmittal? is it TK (that stands for "to come" in Publishese--yeah, we can't spell; it's pretty funny)

The bulk of the time spent on the illustrations is pre-program creation. The reasons are these:

1) Authors frequently don't know copyright laws and photo usage permission guidelines, and you can't blame them--this is really not a terribly intuitive process, and unless the author also happens to be a lawyer odds are they have not done everything they could to protect themselves legally before securing an image. The editorial assistant spends much of her time hounding the authors and book contributors for signed photo release forms, as well as (occasionally) processing mini-contracts for particular printing licenses. Although getting these materials together is almost 100% of the time the contractual responsibility of the author, there are inevitable confusions in the process.

That said, your editor (and her assistant) will love you FORever if you can do what you can to investigate permissions before turning in an image. If you guys are interested, I can do a separate post about copyright.

2) Authors frequently turn in a load of pictures but either don't have a plan for where they should go in the manuscript or are too shy to suggest things like that to their editor. If you're in the latter camp, DON'T BE!!! Any suggestions you have for your editor are invaluable, since you're so familiar with the manuscript material. Your suggestions will save hours, since your editor won't have to spend a bunch of time digitally searching through the book for keywords.

A good time for you to get involved at this level is after you've seen your editor's first-round edits, so that you'll know whether or not any big chunks of text are going to get moved around before you set suggested call-outs yourself. That will save you pain and agony later.

If you do take this project upon yourself, try to keep a couple of things in mind:

1) There should be a good balance of text between images. If all the photos have call-outs in Chapters 8 and 9, Chapters 1-7 are going to be pretty boring.

2) A good way to number photos that will give your editor some leeway to make changes is to use a system like 7A, 7B, and 7C for the first, second, and third photos in Chapter 7, respectively. That way, if your editor wants to swap some photos or take one out she only has to renumber one chapter's photos instead of ALL of them.

3) Make sure you mark your hard copy images or digital images with their designated call-out number REALLY clearly. It saves hours and lives, I promise. The first book I ever did was an exercise book with 174 workout photos, with 2 or 3 photos per exercise, and the photographer turned in a disk where everything had a number like 1873672 or 187683. Fabulous. Especially for a girl who really doesn't know the difference between a bicep curl or a tricep extension.

Moral of this story: be kind to your editor and write a straight text book. (Just kidding... Illustrated books are magnificent. But you know.)


Lisa said...

Thanks so much for the explanation. This is really helpful to understand. So, when a book doesn't have actual photo illustrations, what about the little pictures that you sometimes see underneath chapter numbers or at the beginning of chapters? They usually look like drawings. Where do those come from? I always wonder who makes the decision to put them in (I like them) since some books have them and some don't. Thanks again for taking the time to explain this stuff!

moonrat said...

Oh--good question. Those are design elements that a book's interior designer either comes up with or finds. Designers pride themselves on their creativity with "dingbats" (which is what we call those little pictures; they also occur at section breaks and stuff), font design, letting (that's space between lines of text), gutters (margins), and running heads and feet (the lines at the top and/or bottom that sometimes like title, author, chapter, and/or page number).

Those images, if the designer does not create them his/herself, are usually taken from public databases like the Dover design catalog.

Designers everywhere are tickled pink that you notice these! They work hard on them but are often overlooked.

Bernita said...

What an excellent post!
Even if one doesn't have illustrations, it always helps to understand the process.

Lisa said...

I LOVE the dingbats and the next time you run into a designer please tell him or her that an avid reader does notice and enjoy the little details. Christopher Moore's books all have killer dingbats and I noticed that The Shipping News has little knotted sections of rope in all the white spaces and lots of drawings of knots at the chapter headings. I love little vines and repeating symbols...all of it. Books with no dingbats are a little like a cereal box with no prize to me.

Ello said...

That was incredibly informative. Thanks for posting that. I knew some of this inforation but of course the process was a mystery. Demystifying publishing is always a plus!

Cheryl said...

Does my editor HAVE an assistant? I have never talked to anyone at her pub house but her. Is that really just her assistant sending all those witty emails? Haha. No really, does she have one?