OK! I’m a little punch-drunk
I’ve been through this before. In fact, I’ve been through it five times now. it’s been pretty much non-stop since 1991. My life and career [yours too, probably unless you’re a kid born after 1980—especially after 1990] has been radically transformed on a continual basis since 1990 with five major paradigm shifts.
- Hand-drawn art and metal type to photo-production [Offset Lithography]—the 1960s & seventies: I started in the midst of this change. My first art director could do marker roughs of typographic layouts which were so accurate you could actually use a ruler to measure the rough to spec the type.
- Photo-production to digital production [Desktop Publishing]—the 1990s: This was another massive change. I got into this fairly early. The whole paradigm was new. All of a sudden we graphic designers and typesetters were responsible for all the print production up to and including plate production. More on that in a bit.
- College-style classroom teaching to distance learning [Online Learning]—the late 1990s: In another major change, we started teaching online. I was in on the very beginning of this. I started teaching online in 1996. By the time I left Albuquerque TVI in 2005, over half of my students were online learners.
- From traditional books to online and ebooks—The late 1990s: I got in on the beginning of this one. I was publishing my coursework using PDFs distributed online in 1996. It was the only way I could easily get my materials to my students, who were now spread all over the world. It was a great day when my first graduate from New Zealand flew to New Mexico for her graduation ceremony. That was the first time I had met her or talked to her. Everything leading up to her degree was through my books, ebooks, websites, and email.
- From traditional publishing to self-publishing—The new millennium: I was a traditionally published textbook author up through 2000. But it became obvious that my audience was too small a niche for traditional publishers. So, I had to self-publish many of my writings. This was made much more enjoyable when Lulu emerged in 2002. Scribd and Createspace followed shortly thereafter. Kindle appeared, followed by Nook and Kobo. Smashwords emerged. Then this world was torn apart again by the iPad and the iBook Store. Now there’s Scribd’s subscription reading furnished for us by Smashwords or Draft2Digital. The monopoly attempted by Amazon is breaking down.
From hand drawing to photo-production to digital publishing to the Web and now to self-publishing
Our responsibilities have grown continuously
I can show what I am talking about.
Let’s start with photo-production. In the 1980s, I was the art director for possibly the largest, all-color commercial printer in New Mexico. I became an expert at speccing type, setting photo type, shooting halftones, and assembling mechanical artwork. I was an expert at building razor-sharp images and typographic heads using radically over-sized India inkwork, single-edge razor blades, press type, phototype, PMTs, drafting equipment, and camera manipulations. I became a one-person art department [with the help of a 110-word-per-minute typesetter]. All of the art production from the forties and fifties was now done by me. I replaced many skilled professionals: typesetters, hand letterers, photographers, layout specialists, and so on.
Then came desktop publishing: I took over the commercial printing department at Albuquerque TVI in 1991. We went all digital for pre-press in 1993. Now I was teaching graphic designers to spec type, set type, design layouts, produce layouts, produce the halftones and color separations, print the comps, and produce the plates—all from their computer. In the 1980s, all of these functions were done at Albuquerque Printing by 15-20 extremely skilled professionals in very narrow specialties plus work like color separations were subbed out to another team of professionals. I spent the end of the 1990s retraining all the prepress teams at all the printers in Albuquerque as all the printers went to digital production. Now it was all done by the graphic designer.
Then came the Web: For me that started with online learning. I started that in 1996 as mentioned. But I gradually learned HTML and then CSS. I learned about online marketing, publicity, email consulting, email newsletters, and on and on. Here graphic designers began to add entire new industries like PR and marketing. This was also done by the graphic designer.
Then came ebooks: Beginning in 1996, I began the transfer from traditionally publishing author to ebooks. It started because I was so early in the process that my publisher did not know how to do the digital publishing I was writing about. So, I had the opportunity to do all my own artwork for my books. I got everything press-ready. Once those skills were developed, it was a simple paradigm shift to begin offering those PDFs produced for printing plates as ebooks. I had to learn editing, proofing, and all the rest of the jobs done by traditional publishers to prepare a book for release. I even had to do my own press releases, because the publisher had no idea what I was doing. My final book was done by one of the Big Six. They forced me to let them do their thing and they completely destroyed the book [in many ways, and it would serve no purpose to discuss that here]. This was also done by the graphic designer.
Finally? We are now self-publishing: After graphic designers took over all the production duties of publishing, now authors are required to take over all the duties of both the publisher and the graphic designer. Now writing was added to the duties of the graphic designer.
No wonder you feel a bit overwhelmed!
The good news is that the tools we now have: Word, Scrivener, InDesign, and Photoshop, can easily be used by an author. Of course, it takes a bit of practice and study. OK, it takes a lot of learning. With a little help and sharing with your friends, the entire process of writing, editing, revising, proofing, laying out, formatting, and versioning can be done with very little or no capital expenses. The stuff you cannot do you can trade for with skills you have that your friends do not and vice versa.
Social media can provide encouragement, expertise, editing, proofing, designing, production and all the rest. You just need to pray the Lord will provide you with fellow publishers to work with, where you can be equally yoked. It’s a wonderfully exciting time of growth for us all. I know it’s been great fun for me.
Welcome to my world!
Now I’ve started, after fighting it for years, adding videos to my training materials. Here we go again…