Please Support The Writing Show!

You’ve Finished Writing Your Book. Now What?

RSS Link

With freelance editor and typographer Dick Margulis


If you’ve managed to complete your manuscript, congratulations! That’s a major achievement, and you deserve to celebrate.

Once you’ve finished the champagne, it’s time to switch hats and convert your opus into a product. Don’t know where to start? Freelance editor and typographer Dick Margulis can help.

Dick’s first editing job was chief copy editor for his junior high school newspaper–unpaid, of course–46 years ago. But his interest in typography predates that by a couple of years. He got serious about it in seventh grade.

In the intervening decades, Dick has been a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker–yes, all three–and, along the way, has had paying gigs as an advertising copywriter, a magazine columnist, a book editor, a technical writer, a marketing writer, an herbarist [sic], a Web designer, a compositor, a lithographer, and a few other things he’s already forgotten. But through it all, he has remained true to his passion of clear communication through careful editing and appropriate typographic design.

Join Dick and Writing Show host Paula B. for a most enjoyable discussion about post-writing tasks, including:

  • What you need to do after you’ve finished writing your book
  • How a manuscript and a product differ
  • Why you should get someone to edit your work
  • What an editor does
  • Why writers shouldn’t take suggestions about their work personally
  • What writers and editors should expect from each other
  • How editing fiction differs from editing nonfiction
  • Why you should ignore what your English teachers told you
  • What book design is and why it’s important
  • How graphic designers and book designers differ
  • What factors book designers have to consider
  • How books are printed
  • What it costs to print books
  • What the lead time for getting your book produced is
  • When the busiest times for printers are
  • What a proofreader does.

Interviewee: Dick Margulis
Host: Paula B
Date: November 20, 2006
Running time: 01:22:04
File size: 60 megabytes
Rating: G
Dick’s Web site:
Dick recommends: Language Log


5 Responses to “Podcast: You’ve Finished Writing Your Book. Now What?”

  1. Russell Says:

    I felt compelled to drop by and let you know how much I enjoyed this interview. As always, you asked great questions, and Mr. Margulis was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed his take on language usage (usement? :) , as it very tidily sums up my exact stand on the matter. I think it’s the first time I’ve heard any one but me express that sentiment, so I was silently cheering him on as I listened. Wonderful episode, wonderful guest.
    Thank you,

  2. Administrator Says:

    Hi, Russell,

    Wow! I’m so glad you enjoymented Dick’s interview. I’ll destinate your comments to him.


  3. Lesley Says:

    Dick Margulis had a great perspective of the publishing business but his definitions of Graphic Designer/Typographer were a little off, which kind of put me a little off, as a right-brained, Mac using, graphic designer.
    A Graphic Designer can also be a Typographer!
    Dare I say, Should!
    A Designers main objective is not at all aesthetics as claimed, but function, legibility, readability, and flow. This applies to a book, a magazine spread, an ad, or a flash site.
    If done right, aesthetics always follow.

    Job titles can be very misleading. There is a lot of overlap in skills and knowledge when it comes to the construction of a book. Authors, editors, graphic designers, graphic artists, typographers, proofreaders, post-production artists, printers, binders, distributors, marketers (did I miss anyone?). Nobody can do it all, but many can do some of the skills involved in a lot of these job descriptions.
    Dick himself confirmed this when he stated that he designed covers.
    Very impressive for a Left-brained, PC user.

  4. Administrator Says:

    Hi, Lesley,

    Thanks for your comment. I’ll pass it along to Dick.

    In January, Jill Ronsley, who is also a freelance editor and book designer, will be on the show. It will be interesting to get her take on the issue. I’ll be sure to ask her what she thinks.


  5. dmargulis Says:

    Lesley is correct that I generalized (I hope I acknowledged that in the interview). What I was offering was a rule of thumb for someone who is approaching the whole notion of physical instantiation of a book for the first time and who has no experience at all differentiating among the several professionals involved in the process.

    I have great admiration for many graphic designers. And, as Lesley says, the good ones are concerned about function, readability, and flow. In my experience, though, their knowledge of typography, if not always superficial, tends to be a bit clouded with false rules, the urban myths of readability that derive from poorly done so-called studies or from aesthetic theory.

    In any case, yes, a good graphic designer can produce a fine book. A novice author wandering the Web in search of a book designer, though, needs a way to distinguish good from bad and may or may not have the background to form that distinction by glancing at a portfolio. So my suggested rule of thumb may help narrow the field in a useful way.