Wednesday, February 23, 2005

John Scalzi gets my creative juices flowing again today with this "let's mock Scalzi" contest. Here's my entry (OMW means Old Man's War, a novel that he somehow got published)...

I'm going to pretend that many Whatever readers have written in, asking me how we decided on the page numbering system for OMW. I know many of you think that when you get to be a bigshot fancypants Published Novelist that the choice on how to number the pages is one of the perks of the job. But in fact, a number of people have made the important decisions before I even get so much as an unbound galley:

Numbers Editor: the Numbers Editor determines the basic system to be used (ordinal, binary, x-Mississippis,etc.), based on marketing data, sales projections, demographic reports, and a coin toss. It sounds boring, and it is, but a good numbers editor can make or break a book or at least get it printed in an order that matches the writer's vision. Teresa Nielsen Hayden started as a Numbers Editor. She's still famous for talking Philip Jose Farmer out of starting Dayworld on page 57.

Non-Alphabetic Typeface Designer: This person designs a brand new font for the page numbers, taking into account the genre of the book and how the page numbers can best serve the needs of the story. You may want to know why the same font as the text isn't used. The reasons for this are complex and varied and someone who isn't a Published Novelist (like most of you, and unlike me) wouldn't really understand. Just take what we give you.
By the way, Donald A. Wolheim broke into the business working as a Non-Alphabetic Typeface designer. This was back when you drew the typeface by hand using a lump of charcoal and numbers only went up to 216.

Number-Proofer: The Numbers Editor determines the vision. The Non-Alphabetic Typeface Designer brings forth the form. The Number-Proofer makes sure that each number follows one after another after another after another, in the proper sequence, and in a timely fashion. This may seem like no big deal, but for OMW this required no less than 320 separate checks, one for every single page. When was the last time you counted to 320? I get tired just thinking about it. Luckily, as a Published Novelist I work from home so I can take a nap.
Hugo Gernsback started as a Number-Proofer, though back then they were called "Counters" (because they were often found under piles of dirty dishes). Gernsback -forward-thinker that he was- is actually credited with inventing the numbers 217 to 321, so without him OMW wouldn't have happened. Or would have been shorter.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about how the string for the binding was chosen.
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