Monday, January 2, 2017

When Looks were Deceiving, JAWS Saved the Day

My children's Christmas book, The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse, was self-published on December 14 as an E-Book and 15 as a print book.  I did not do this alone.  I tried using Amazon Create Space by myself and quickly realized that I would need more assistance than my local, sighted librarians could provide.  I've known for many years that some authors who are living with blindness and vision impairments are using the proofreading, editing, and graphic design services of Leonore and David Dvorkin ( and  I contacted them in November with a job that seemed impossible--putting out a Christmas book in time for Christmas.

Leonore, David, and I worked well together as a team.  Emails were flying back and forth daily and even hourly.  Then we hit a wall.  Finding the picture of an adorable mouse to download for the book’s cover for free was impossible.  Finding one for sale was also difficult and time consuming.  I was sent one picture for my approval and learned that looks can be deceiving, but not to JAWS (my screen-reading software).  JAWS reads everything on a computer screen no matter how small the print is and told me that the picture was not of a mouse but of a rat.  JAWS saved the day, and the search for the right mouse continued.

As we got closer to publishing the book and started to rush through simple items such as the synopsis and author bio, it was JAWS that was picking up typos.  We were getting tired, but JAWS was not.  I have been using a screen-reader for almost thirty years.  This software is marketed to people with visual impairments, but I would encourage anyone whose work requires long hours of reading a computer screen and frequent bouts of eye strain and dry eye to consider using these incredible tools.  There are free versions and demos to download online.

I learned about the services that are provided by Leonore and David Dvorkin (both published authors) when I read a book by Robert Branco, the publisher of Consumer Vision Magazine.  I found his book in the “Recently added Books and Magazines” section of the BARD website where people who are blind or physically handicapped can download reading materials for free from the National Library Service and receive free digital book players and training.  Leonore and David work with Bob on all of his books and also his magazine.  They also offer their services to people who are blind or low income at a discount.  I am impressed by the number of blind authors that they have published and the high quality of the fiction and nonfiction being produced.  At the rate that they are going, there could soon be a body of work that could be used in a course on Blind Literature.

The Dvorkins taught me what no creative writing course, lecture, or book ever did:  book marketing as a personal business that requires accounting, sales, and networking skills.  I highly recommend their services and look forward to working with them again.  I was more than ready to begin this project thanks to a course that I took on writing for publication from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  Assignments included writing short and long bios to be used on the cover of a book.  Even the photograph that was used came out of this course where visualizing a finished project that met professional standards was expected.  One more piece still is missing.  Writers need to be taught how to make their books available in audio for BARD and commercial sales.  Robert Branco says that his books were made available in audio with the assistance of the librarian at the Perkins school for the Blind, a school that he attended.

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