Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Reading, Self Publishing, Writing

Cozy Mysteries on the Washington Coast – Q&A with Author Jan Bono

After retiring from teaching in 2006, Jan Bono began to write—and she hasn’t stopped since! Author of the six book Sylvia Avery series, Jan is also a prolific Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and has been published in the series over 45 times, making her one of the top worldwide contributors. We love working with Jan, and recently asked her to share with us a little about her printing experience.

Author Jan Bono

Gorham Printing: You’ve recently completed the sixth book of your Sylvia Avery Mystery series. Can you tell readers a little about the series and what you wanted it to represent?

Jan Bono: Sylvia Avery is a middle-aged, fairly active woman who took early retirement on the North Beach Peninsula. She often finds herself tangled up in her friends’ lives, particularly when they’ve got trouble on their hands. Fortunately, Syl has a mind for mystery, and contributes quite a bit to solving the crimes that take place all around her—whether drug running, recent or cold-case murders, robbery, insurance fraud, kidnapping, and the like.

I’ve always loved reading mysteries, particularly “cozies,” and often I find myself wondering “What if” the events in the books, or even in real life, had happened a little differently. After 30 years in the classroom, I wanted to try my hand at making the community I live in a backdrop for the stories I had rolling around in my head. Writing a mystery series was on my retirement bucket list, and I took the bold move of starting this new endeavor in my mid-50s. After all, I retired from teaching, but not from life!

GP: Did your writing process change significantly from the first book to the sixth?

JB: The process? Not at all. My writing? Well, I like to think I improved as I wrote along! But my process did get a lot more detailed. Since the fall is my Season of Selling at holiday bazaars and craft fairs, I start most books in January by typing up all the notes and reading and summarizing my thick file of research. February is dedicated to writing a thorough synopsis. My definition of “thorough” has evolved from 18 to 20 single-spaced pages to over 40 pages for the last few books! Then I walk away for several weeks and leave the synopsis alone.

Between mid-March and mid-April, it becomes TIME TO WRITE! And although I have a very complete story summary, that doesn’t mean it can’t change, and often does! Characters I thought were only around for one book worked their way into my heart and I couldn’t bear not to carry them into the next book or two or even three! I’ve even changed “the bad guy”—twice—because I changed my mind about his or her intentions as I wrote. The synopsis is never in stone, but it helps me know where I’m eventually headed as I write.

GP: How long did each book take to write and edit?

JB: When I’m ready to start writing in earnest (about three months into the research and summary writing), I’m like a dog worrying a bone. I write first thing in the morning, every morning, and don’t quit till I have at least 1,000 words. Some days I just can’t pull myself away from the computer, and during the writing of Book 6, I wrote 1,500 daily words minimum, and on my most productive day I put down over 3,500 words!

When it’s my best effort at a first draft, I send it off to four or five friends to proof/edit/comment on it. And I only give them two weeks! I compile their notes, make corrections as necessary, and send it to my final reader, who somehow always manages to find another 20 or so things for me to review!

I like to say that the first book took me 31 years to write, but after that, it got much faster! HA HA! The last three books took 42, 42, and 39 days at the keyboard, but that was working from a very detailed synopsis. And it was so much fun! Then off to my proofer team (I had almost 30 people offer to help, but chose 5 or 6 readers for each book, and no one except my final reader read more than two first drafts). Then off to the printer! Start to finish, I averaged 5 to 6 months from first day of work to holding the finished product in my hand.

GP: How do you prepare your books for printing?

JB: I’m far from a computer geek, but there are some important things I’ve learned about formatting along the way. The Gorham Printing Manual was my bible in the beginning, but I also found that once I visualized the finished product, I could make it look on paper the same way it looked in my imagination! The manual clearly delineated the necessary components, and a retired teacher can certainly follow a lesson plan, but I also put different headers on alternate pages, chose my own font, and decided that 12-point, although it costs more to print more pages, was easier on “mature eyes,” and my regular reads are grateful for that! Then, after my proofreading team was finished with it, I made the corrections and sent the polished interior text folder to Gorham as a PDF with fingers crossed.

GP: We’ve been able to partner with you to do design work on the Sylvia Avery book covers. What was the design process like for you? What made you decide to work with a designer?

JB: Once my text was complete, I settled down to write the back of the book blurb, the author bio, take the selfie for my author photo, acquire an ISBN, and find—or take—a photo for the wrap-around cover. All these pieces went into another file for the book designer’s help, as I don’t know how to work photoshop, and I’m grateful I don’t need too! I worked with a designer’s HELP. I was glad there was an option between having it done for me, and doing it all on my own! The designer got all the pieces, and since I worked with the same one for the last four books, I greatly appreciated the fact that she soon learned to read my mind, and see my vision as I did. We communicated through emails, and I truly love the results of all our collaborations, without reservation. She made proofs that always surprised me, adding touches I hadn’t thought of, but that always looked fabulous!

GP: These books take place on the Long Beach Peninsula, where you live. What is it like writing about the place you live? How do your surroundings inspire you?

JB: On page 5 of each book is a map of the fictitious “North Beach Peninsula.” And yes, it looks just like the Long Beach Peninsula, in the SW corner of Washington State, but I’ve changed the names of the towns, bays, lighthouse, and other important landmarks, businesses, and features. In my series, Ilwaco, on the southern end, became Unity, which is actually what Ilwaco was briefly called at the end of the Civil War. Long Beach was founded by the Tinkers, and was Tinkerville for many years, but in my books it’s Tinkerstown. Oysterville has been replaced by the now-defunct community of Willoopah, which I moved across the bay to suit my purposes!

The Clamshell Motel was once the Tide Motel, a bit south of Cranberry Road, and the High Tides Burger Bar is still our long-time Corral Drive-In. Sadly, the Long Beach Coffee Roasters, which I renamed the Sandy Bottom Coffee Cup, is no longer in business, but my Buoy 10 Bakery, now Dylan’s Cottage Bakery, is right there in downtown Long Beach, and still makes the best pastries to eat while solving crimes anywhere on earth! My all-time favorite fictional restaurant name is Cinco Amigos’ Chinese Cuisine! In my first book, five Mexican friends decided to open an ethnic restaurant, but realized the local need was for Chinese instead of another Mexican food stop, and I let them take over the real-life Chen’s location. The name came to me when I thought about Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and I love the way people respond when first encountering Cinco Amigos’ Chinese Cuisine.

I’ve included aspects of the Crab Pot Tree Lighting, the Blues Festival, the Boardwalk, and many other true area events in my locales. Those things are real, but the Spartina Point Casino and Resort name is making a glamorous joke of spartina, which is actually a noxious weed that has been eradicated from Willapa Bay, or Shallowwater Bay, if you prefer! And The Veiled Rainbow, a geriatric belly dancing troupe, certainly exists, but not under that name. As I’ve said, writing is unlimited creative fun!

GP: Now that the Sylvia Avery mysteries are complete, what’s next on the horizon? Will you start a new cozy mystery series?

JB: A cozy series has no graphic violence, no obscene language, and no explicit sex scenes. It has an amateur sleuth working with the police department in a small town, quirky characters, and lots of laughs. When I finished the series, I already had a couple books in mind, just begging to be written. But the first on the list wasn’t in my usual “humorous” style, and I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of writing more dramatically, with suspense and tension and all that I’d need to write a solid true crime, which I’ve been sitting on for 25 years. I will write it, but that book is now second on my list, as I “practice” writing drama! The practice book will end up being 8 or 10 short stories about how women ON THE PENINSULA are able to get away with bumping off their husbands or boyfriends in unusual ways! This will be my transitional book, and then I’ll tackle the harder one. That’s my plan at this moment! And yes, Gorham will be printing this one too. Gorham has printed 12 of my 15 books, and I see no reason to do it any other way!

GP: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

JB: This darn pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench into my marketing plan! Whereas I usually sell the majority of my books at holiday bazaars in the fall, I’m now focusing on online sales. If you live within 25 miles of Long Beach, I can meet you at a public place in your area to deliver them, but any farther has to go through the mail. My website, where you can read a short synopsis of each book, is There are several ways to contact me through the website, and I answer all inquiries. If you get the recorder, please leave a message! But first, check out my body of work at Got it?  Thank you! And thanks to Gorham for this opportunity to tell you about my Sylvia Avery Mystery Series! I couldn’t /wouldn’t have done it without them!

It’s always fun to see a new book from Jan and know that we get to partner with her to design the covers. You can learn more about our cover design process by clicking here, or give us a call to get a custom quote for your book design!

Design, Page Layout, Writing

3 Tips for Writing Your Book in Microsoft Word

Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

Catherynne Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Whether you’re writing a gripping mystery novel, your great aunt’s biography, or the history of sawdust manufacturing in 1750s Bristol, your story likely began as an idea and spent a while kicking around in your head. When it comes time to print your book, that wild, intangible idea gets transformed into something solid that can be held in your hands.

The first part of that transformation is creating print-ready digital files, and most authors (myself included) use word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Pages to create their interior. Word processors are fantastic for writing, and using them to create a PDF is a breeze. That said, nothing is perfect, including Microsoft Word, and sometimes the programs designed to help you can get in your way. Here are three tricks for outsmarting your word processor to create a perfect print-ready PDF.

1. Know Your Pagination

Let’s talk about recto and verso.

Recto means the right side page, and verso means the left side page. This is a simple concept that will save you a lot of time as you think about book design. Especially if your book has spreads, (pages where content spreads across two separate pages) you’re going to want to make sure you know which is recto and which is verso.

This becomes critical on the first page of your book, because Word, Pages, and even Adobe Acrobat are likely going to show that page on the left, or verso. But all books, whether they’re softcover, spiral, or hardcover, start with the first page on the right, or recto.

book printing first page recto verso

If you format your book to start on the left page, it’s going to throw the rest of your pagination out of line. If your software won’t display the first page on the right, you can add a blank page to the beginning of your book and think of it as the inside cover. Just make sure you delete that page before you send it off for printing!

2. Center Your Page Numbers

Word and Pages make adding page numbers as simple as clicking Insert. Unfortunately, these programs will often put page numbers in the right hand corner. This looks perfect on the screen. But once you lay that document out like a book, you’ll see that half the page numbers are hidden in what we call the binding edge—they’re on the inside edge of the page instead of the outside.

book printing page numbers 1

Trying to make Microsoft Word alternative page numbers can be a headache, to say the least. Save yourself some stress and center your page numbers. Centered page numbers look elegant, clean, and no matter if they’re recto or verso, they’ll be in the right spot.

book printing page numbers 2

3. Review Your PDF

I recently printed my own book here at Gorham Printing.  I created the book in Pages, since I was using a Mac computer, and set my margins for a half inch all the way around. After all, I tell people day in and day out that half inch margins are the way to go for most books. I checked to make sure everything looked good in my Pages document—the margins were right, the font was the right size, and the spacing was excellent.

But then I opened my PDF.

Suddenly, I had one inch margins on the top and bottom. My page numbers were in a different font than the rest of my book. My recto and verso were all tangled, and the beautiful formatting work I had done wasn’t quite so pristine.

What happened? Well, two things. One, when I exported my document to a PDF, there were export settings that overrode what I had in my original document. Two, exporting it to a PDF let me see my document with fresh eyes. This is why it’s critical to open your PDF after you export it and make sure everything looks exactly as intended. If something doesn’t look right, you can always go back to the original document, make adjustments, and try exporting it again.

Using Microsoft Word to Write Your Book

Word, Pages, and other word processors are excellent tools to write your book, and thanks to features they’ve added over the years, they work well for creating a print-ready PDF. Like any tool, it’s important to know how to use them, and to know where their shortcomings are.

Some authors feel overwhelmed when they run into these issues, but there are countless resources to help you! Thousands of other authors are using these programs for the same thing as you, and many of them have documented their process. The Microsoft Help Forums and Pages Help Forums are a great place to start looking for expertise.

Book Printing Cost, Book production, Self Publishing

What to Look For in a Book Printer

Before I joined the Gorham Printing team, I had some experience printing my own books as gifts and creative projects, and found myself swimming in a sea of options. I had worked at bookstores and seen thousands of books, so I knew what I wanted mine to look like, but I wasn’t quite sure how to communicate that to the printers. There were more options than I realized, and all of those options had consequences I didn’t fully understand.

Now that I have more experience with book printing, I have a better idea of what I’m looking for, but if I had to go back and start fresh, this is what I’d tell myself about finding the right book printer for a project.

1. Type of Printing

Every printer is different, but there are different categories of printing, and if you know what you’re dealing with, you can better anticipate what the process will look like. There are three key words to look out for.

Print-On-Demand. This is the kind of printer I worked with for my first book. These printers are fast and flexible. The real benefit of print-on-demand is that they can print one or two books at a time, whenever you need. Because they print quickly, the quality is not always excellent, and the options may be limited.

Offset Printing. If you’ve picked up a book at Costco or Target, chances are, it was printed using offset printing. Offset printing presses are suitable for printing thousands or hundreds of thousands of books. It has a high set up cost because it involves metal plates being made for your book, so if you only want a hundred books, offset printing will break the bank. But if you’re looking to print a hundred thousand, offset printing is the way to go.

Short Run Printing. Short run printers are perfect if you want high quality books but don’t want ten thousand of them. With quality similar to offset printing, short run printing usually takes a little longer than print-on-demand, but the end result is a longer-lasting book. These kind of printers will sometimes have more options than POD (print-on-demand) because POD printers streamline their options to keep their production times fast.

2. Production Timelines & Quality

When I ordered my first book, I needed it quickly. It was a present and I had procrastinated. So I was excited when I saw I could have my books in as little as a week through a POD printer.

For my latest book, though, I planned ahead and went with a short run printer. There are a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is quality. Sometimes quick is critical, and this works perfectly for many projects. When you look at production timelines, it’s important to remember that the timeline can speak to the quality.

3. Finished Product

One thing I really wish I had known when I started printing books is to ask for a sample. At the time, I thought it’s paper and text; how many options are there?

The answer is a lot.

From the quality of paper to the type of printers used to create your book, each component has an effect on the finished product. Depending on the book printer you work with, the same files and book could come out any variety of ways. When I started printing, I had a specific feel I wanted for my books, but didn’t even know the questions to ask to see if that was possible. The best way to get a sense of the quality of your finished book is to request a sample of a similar book the company has printed. This will let you test the strength of the binding, the quality of the paper, and the way the book feels in your hands. You can also use it as a jumping off point to ask questions about the ways you want your own book to be different or similar.

Closing Thoughts on How to Pick a Book Printer

As a writer, I know that a book is the result of hard work, many cups of coffee, endless rants, and who knows how many sleepless nights. Writers work hard, and giving that hard work to a book printer can be nerve-wracking. For any writer, I would suggest picking a printer—specifically a book printer—you can work with long term who will help you find the right options for your book. If you’re not sure about whether a certain printer is right for you, the best way to find out is to give them a call and ask.

self publishing guidebook

Want to see a sample of our print quality? Click Here to request our new guidebook. It’s designed and printed here in our shop in Centralia on the same papers and printers as your books, and is full of helpful tips and tricks for self-publishing your own books.

Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Inspiring Voices: We Are the Future with Merna Hecht

One of the things I love about working with publishers and self-publishers is that wide range of books that come in each and every day. Any given day might involve a grandmother’s cookbook, the history of horse wrangling in South Dakota, a yearbook for a college on the East Coast, a book by an author whose work I already love, or someone new I’ve never heard from before. I never know what project is coming up next when the phone rings!

We Are the Future

We Are the Future was one of those books. Merna Hecht, a nationally known storyteller, teaching artist, poet and essayist, called us one day to talk about a new project she was working on. Right from the start I knew this was something special, and I’ve been delighted to follow along as We Are the Future came to life on the printed page.

We Are the Future comes directly from the Stories of Arrival Poetry Project out of Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Collecting poetry broadsides from refugee and immigrant youth, We Are the Future gives students a chance to tell their story in their own words and art. We asked Merna to tell us a little more about We Are the Future and the Stories of Arrival Project.

A Conversation with Editor Merna Hecht

i write for my motherland poetry book printing

Gorham Printing: Tell me about the heart of Stories of Arrival. What inspired this project?

Merna Hecht: Thank you for asking about the heart of what inspired the project. Most of all it is the core belief that co-director Carrie Stradley and I share that it is vital for refugee and immigrant youth to tell their own stories. These individual stories can educate the larger community about the experience of migration as it affects young people and their families. We believe that compassion and understanding are increased, not through sound bites about wars and conflicts, or as overwhelming statistics, but through individual stories that touch our hearts and broaden our sense of what it means to leave a homeland and arrive in a new place.

GP If you had to summarize Stories of Arrival in three sentences, what would you say?

MH: Our project gives refugee and immigrant youth a forum for speaking out on issues that determine their future and their well-being. We fully honor that youth are the future and we provide an arena for refugee and immigrant youth to articulate their identity, honor their cultures and speak to the world they hope for. It is a project that celebrates the power of poetry to tell stories of loss, struggle, hope and dreams all toward envisioning a more peaceful, humane world.

mariyam poetry book printing

GP: How have the students reacted to seeing their poems in print?

MH: They are thrilled to see their art and poems in print—they feel like their voices and artistic expressions have a far reach and they are very proud of that and of each other.

GP: How have readers reacted to We Are the Future?

MH: We have received responses from many people around the country telling us how deeply they have been touched by the poetry, stories, images and photos in the book. All of these kind responses tell us two main things. One is that the book touches the heart of its readers and enlarges their awareness of the courage and resilience of refugee and immigrant youth. Also, there is a sense of surprise and gratitude as to how much these young people have to teach us, contribute to our communities and remind us of our common humanity.

my small town poetry book printing

GP: What made you decide to self-publish this book?

MH: I wanted to bring the book into printed form so that the students could see their work and celebrate themselves and each other, because with the COVID-19 school closures we had no way of holding community showcases and readings to honor their voices and creativity and deep engagement in the project.

GP: How did you find out about Gorham Printing?

MH: I learned of Gorham from a friend who works at our local independent bookstore. She gave me the Gorham pamphlet of sample paper and covers and I knew right away that Gorham would fit perfectly for our vision of what we wanted for this full color book. The “vibe” was just right!  I stopped looking at other printers!

My Mom poetry book printing

GP: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the book printing process?

I wish I had anticipated how many copies I needed instead of eventually placing two more orders!

GP: Where can people find out more about your book?

MH: I have remaining copies from the Gorham printing and can be contacted at for price and mailing instructions. The proceeds go directly to our project. The book is coming out soon as a trade book from Seattle’s Chin Music Press and can now be ordered and mailed directly from them.

Elia poetry book printing

We are always excited to see anthologies and new voices come to life on the printed page. Do you have a book like We Are the Future that you’d like to print? Give me and Candace a call!