Last year, whileÂ on the road,Â I dropped into a bookstore to pick up a trade paperback copy of Zadie Smith’s WHITE TEETH.Â I’d heard a lot about the book, and was looking forward to reading it.Â I didn’t browse through the book first, just paid for it and walked out.Â Sitting in a restaurant an hour later, I opened the book, read about two paragraphs… and gave up. I haven’t opened the book since.Â Why?
Because I couldn’t read the blasted thing.Â The print was too small.
Now, I’m not at all vain about wearing glasses, but I’m not used to wearing them, either.Â TheyÂ feel foreign, sitting on my nose. Â Only in the last few years has the perfect vision of my childhoodÂ deteriorated to the point that I was finally forced toÂ order bifocals.Â But I just can’t seemÂ to enjoy the act ofÂ reading whileÂ I’m wearing those things.
Now, when I go into a bookstore, the first thing I doÂ before I even consider purchasing a book isÂ I check the print.Â Â I’ve ended up putting a few books back on the shelf — and the chances are, I’ll never read them.Â Not every book has a large-print version available.Â (AndÂ I’m not quite ready to admit that I NEEDÂ those large-print editions.)Â
I don’t think I’mÂ the only one who’sÂ in this position,Â with vision too weak for teeny print, but still too good for large-print.Â My eyes are in that in-between stage.Â LikeÂ the pre-teen who doesn’t quite needÂ theÂ grown-up bra.Â
I once had a nice chat with a woman from Thorndike Press, who holds the large-print rights to some of my books.Â She told me that large print is oneÂ of the few segments of publishing that’s showing sustained growth.Â The reading population is getting older, she pointed out, and baby boomers (who, I suspect, read more than Generation X-ers) are now in their fifties.Â Â TheÂ dumbest thingÂ a publisher can doÂ is print books thatÂ readers can’t comfortably read.
Before my books are printed, my editor sends me sample pages so that I can approve the typeface.Â Lately, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the font size.Â Â With the paperback versionÂ of VANISH, I asked them to use a larger font.Â Â Publishers don’t like to do this, because it meansÂ more pages, more paper, and a higher per-copy expense.Â But I insisted, and they agreed.
I don’t want my books to end up like WHITE TEETH,Â unreadable by middle-aged eyes.
If you’re a writer, think aboutÂ your older readers.Â Â Take a good hard look at the size of your book type.Â Â If you (or your mom) has a hard time reading it, then who the heck is going to want to buy your book?Â If the print’s too small, ask your publisher for larger type.
Your sales may depend on it.