Walt Shiel – Print Book Design, Typesetting, and eBooks

On March 18th, 2010 Tyler R. Tichelaar and Victor R. Volkman spoke with veteran author and publisher Walt Shiel about some of the most confusing topics for the self-publishing newcomer: print book design, typesetting, indexing, and even eBook production. Walt’s publishing company, Slipdown Mountain, has published three novels, two military history titles, two other nonfiction titles, and one short story collection. It’s subsidiary Five Rainbows Services for Authors and Publishers was spun off to meet the demand for assistance from self-publishers. Walt addressed some of these key points in today’s interview:

Book Design & Typesetting

• Is there any difference between designing a book and typesetting it?
• What are the key decisions a book designer must make?
• Isn’t typesetting just pouring the text into the typesetting software, adding some formatting, and letting the software work its magic?

E-Book Design

• Does design and/or typesetting matter at all in creating an e-book?
• Aren’t there software packages that can create e-books virtually automatically?
• Do readers even care if an e-book is well-designed as long as they get the content one way or another?


• What is an index and how is it different from a concordance?
• Doesn’t the author know better than anyone else what should be indexed?
• What do you need to know to create a useful index?

Independent publisher Walt Shiel claims he is now into his fourth career, following career stints as an Air Force pilot, telecommunications engineer, and aerospace engineer on the B-2 bomber program at Northrop and the F-22, F-35, and F-16 pilot training programs at Lockheed Martin.Walt has been a freelance writer since 1992, with magazine articles published in the US, UK, and Australia. Currently, he writes the “Warbirds” column for Cessna Flyer magazine and the View From The Publishing Trenches blog. Walt has served on the Board of Directors of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association for the past four years.Walt, his wife Kerrie, and his daughter Lisa founded Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC in 2003 in North Texas but relocated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2004.

Since then, they have published three novels, two military history titles, two other nonfiction titles, and one short story collection.In 2007, they formed a subsidiary, Five Rainbows Services for Authors and Publishers to meet the demand for assistance from self-publishers. Converting print books to Kindle and ePub formats has become a major part of this business over the past year.

Walt has written two military history books (Cessna Warbirds and T-41 Mescalero), a Michigan historical novel (Devil in the North Woods), and a short story collection (Pilots and Normal People). He also edited a reprint of Flying for France by James R. McConnell. His new book — Rough War: An American Fighter Pilot’s WW II Journey to Burma and Back — is due out in mid-summer 2010.

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About Victor Volkman

Author of "Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction" and six other books.
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