The work on Battle Rattle and Other Stories continues, as it will continue once this book is done and shipped because there is always another sentence. But I am taking a break to share a bit of awesomeness for anyone looking for an affordable layout program for a Mac.
There was a learning curve with the layout process since I never used Indesign or Quark or any other programs that dealt with layout during any of the periods when I worked on Mid American Review or Third Coast. All I did was read submissions and argue about what stories I did and did not want to see in the magazines.
I briefly attempted to use Quark to build the layout for the book Finn Fetches Numbers, the first kid's book I drew and wrote (specifically for my daughter's first birthday), but there were a ton of things that I didn't have time to learn before the free trial was up. And back then I hadn't planned on ever doing another layout on my own anyway. So the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on a program to build a single book layout seemed insane. (I can't say I've never spent a stupid amount of money on things I've only used once, but I'm a dad now, and I need to be smarter about the things I choose to be stupid about.)
So while working on the cover with my good friend and graphic artist Eric Smallwood on the cover for Battle Rattle and Other Stories, I realized there were a number of things that I couldn't figure out how to do within Pages. It's possible that those things are doable in Pages and it's possible they are doable in Microsoft Word, but I am not buying Word because I have grown extremely fond of Pages over the last five years of my MacBook Pro's life, and I googled the heck out of the internet looking for ways to do what I wanted to do in Pages and came up with answers to tons of questions that were not questions I needed answered. In short, I knew what I wanted to do, and I figured that if I wanted a professional layout so that my book looked as good as it deserved to look, I would have to get a layout program. What I did not want to do was spend hundreds of dollars. I searched for a program that wasn't hundreds of dollars and I found this one: iStudio Publisher.
I had a number of issues getting the document into iStudio Publisher, but that was because I am a millennial, and I never read directions. I was a kid who played video games without ever cracking open an instruction booklet and died countless times as a result. But after I emailed support (and was answered after just a few hours), I was able to do exactly what I wanted, and learned just how easy it was.
I'm working on a longer and more detailed post about how to set up a 6x9 book layout with iStudio Publisher that will go up at a later date. But for now, I just had to make it known that there is a layout program for Mac that costs $17.99. There are a few other programs that are powerful and way cheaper than the Adobe stuff as well, and I am sure that some "power users: out in the world would be able to note differences in the programs that one might need if she were an AP wire photographer or an artist for Pixar, but I am neither of those things. I needed to change a few minor things, and once I did and realized the potential I had for making other adjustments to the book that improved its look and readability, I felt even better about the money I spent on iStudio Publisher.
So if you are looking for an alternative to one of the more expensive layout programs out there and you use a Mac, then check out iStudio Publisher. I don't think you'll be disappointed.