So I was talking with my friend Nathan Ballingrud today about readings, and I said to him, you know what I like to do? I like to read part of a story and then pass out copies of a booklet with the whole story in it. That way, the audience members can read the whole story, and if they want you to sign something, they have something for you to sign right there. And it’s fun to have something that they’re not going to get anywhere other than at that reading, something they can’t buy. Something the writer made.
He liked the idea and asked me how I created booklets, and honestly, I could barely remember. It’s been a while. So just to try to remember, I made one out of my story “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter,” which you can read on the Strange Horizons website. It took me a long time to remember how. But here’s what it finally looked like:
This is just three pages, to give you an idea. (Why are the page numbers on the insides? Because when I actually print the booklet, they will be on the outsides. You tell the program to print a booklet, and somehow it rearranges everything during the printing process.)
Here’s the problem. I can do something like this in my favorite word processing program, which is (don’t laugh) WordPerfect 11. I think it’s the most perfect word processing program ever created. Simple, clear, clean. Sort of like a typewriter with word processing capabilities. I have a deep and abiding hatred for Microsoft Word, which I find frustratingly clunky to use.
But it takes me a while to format and print a booklet like this one. What I would really like is a program that would let me create a booklet simply, easily. As easily as I created this website on WordPress. If you know of one, will you tell me? I don’t need all sorts of advanced publishing capabilities. I just want to be able to make a booklet for readings.
So I was telling Nathan, who is of course a fellow writer (check out his latest story in Lovecraft Unbound), to think about the psychology of a reading. What can you do that will make your reading stand out, that will make people want to come and then remember it afterward? I used to do two things. First, I used to let everyone know that at my reading, there would be chocolate. (And of course there was.) And then, I used to give away booklets, as I’ve described. I think I’ll do that again this year at Readercon, which is one of my favorite conventions. (I just received the invitation, and I will most definitely be there.) Those two things gave people something to do at the reading in addition to just listening, and then something to take away.
I’m glad I remembered how to make booklets. Now the question is, how do I do it more easily?
Those booklets are a great idea!
It sounds like what you need is some page-layout software. The current gold-standard is Adobe’s InDesign; that’s what most pro houses use. I’ve heard that MS Publisher and Adobe PageMaker are good solutions for more basic needs. But I haven’t done serious publishing work in quite a few years, so I’m a bit out-of-date on these things.
Appropos of very little, I thought you might enjoy reading this: http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/essays/vanishing-act.php
It turns out that most word processing programs can make the sort of booklet I want, which is a relief, because I’m not sure I could deal with InDesign! Also, the copy shop can do a lot of it for me as well, if I just set it up right.
Thanks for the link! I’d read that article just recently, and it’s fascinating . . . The sort of thing that makes me want to do some research and then maybe write a novel!
I would very much like to have one of these, and not just because they will be worth a considerable sum someday.
I don’t know if you considered this in your prior research, but it looks like an alternative method:
Thanks, rushmc! That does look useful. Jeff, I may put one together, and if so, I will bring copies to Readercon . . .