When Mountain Owl Ink was in its infancy I was bound and determined not to make it a one-stop shop of bookish services. I cringed at the idea of offering that kind of general, overlapping service; I felt that providing services other than writing would water down my writing work and dilute my skill set.
Even so, potential clients would ask me, “Can you do layout and design?” No. “Can you help me publish?” No. “What do you do?” My answer: “I write. I edit. I don’t want to muddle that in publishing, drawing, layout, graphics, blah, blah, blah.”
“I just want to write. That’s it.”
My, how my perspective has changed!
Gaining Perspective. Aug 23, 2017.
Mountain Owl Ink has transformed over the past five years, especially since adopting one new motto per year for the last three years to keep us on our toes: 2016’s “Just Say Yes” (no associated blog post–the motto was quite unofficial back then!); 2017’s “See Farther”; and 2018’s “Baby Steps”), I’ve come to realize one very critical detail about writing that I had absolutely wrong when I first started out in 2013:
Writing isn’t just about writing.
It’s widely understood that communication is about 80% body language and only about 20% the words we use. (Of course communication is much more complex than that, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll stick with the 80/20 rule!)
Body language (the 80%) is the visible: what we can see, feel, and touch. Speech is the invisible: those things spoken, the audible words we hear but cannot touch and the feelings elicited by those words.
The experience of reading is much the same.
In the same way a conversation has a speaker and a listener, so the act of reading has two participants: The writer and the reader.
Let me break it down for you:
The Reader’s Reading Experience
Everyone–with the exception of the dyslexic–hears a voice in their head when they read silently. It’s commonly called an “inner voice”, but the act of silent reading actually activates the muscles of the vocal cords, lips, throat, and mouth to move (if only minutely). In the scientific world, this is called subvocalization.
Subvocalization is reading’s body language response: The physical reaction our bodies make to words received via the page. The invisible part of the communication is the “inner voice” itself: that strangely audible yet inaudible voice that can’t be touched but can definitely be heard and experienced.
Subvocalization is reading’s body language response: The physical reaction our bodies make to words received via the page.
The Writer’s Communication: The 80/20 Difference
Obviously the writer’s actual words–their choice of words and the way in which they order them to create the voice of their book–make a difference to the reader’s response. The novice writer’s base assumption is that correct word choice and order is all that’s required to cause the reader to respond positively to their message.
That’s simply NOT true. Why? Because reading is so much more than words!
Just as 80% of communication is through body language, so 80% of the reading experience is the physical nature in which the words themselves are displayed.
If an author assumes that being a good writer is 100% about word choice and order, they’re 100% wrong! They’re completely missing out on the physical aspect that comes with the reader’s experience. In other words, the author is assuming that all communication is verbal, that none of it is body language. How tragic!
Let’s try it this way:
A Loving Example
Consider these three words: “I love you.” On a computer screen and in an unassuming font, perhaps they “sound” kind to you. There is no verbal inflection you can hear by reading them, no hints as to their source or implication.
But what if I typed them in bold, in bright red, and centered the words on a single line? Now read it:
I LOVE YOU.
Does it “sound” different now? Louder, more forceful, more certain and confident? How does it feel? Different? More intense? Maybe seeing it this way makes you happier; maybe it makes you uneasy. Whatever it does, it likely has a different effect on you from the first time I wrote it. And how about this way:
i love you.
Does that read like a gentle and warm whisper in the ear? A sweet nothing? Adding an ellipsis changes it even more:
i… love you.
Now what? Does it sound hesitant, quiet, shy, maybe even a little embarrassed? How about this:
I love you.
Maybe, written this way, you’re left confused. Hurt. Why say “I love you” only to cross it out? you may wonder.
From start to finish, the three words stayed the same. I didn’t even change the font. But the physical differences in their layout and design–color, page and line placement, emphasis (i.e. bold, italic)–help to demonstrate the power and importance of the writer’s “body language”.
If subvocalization is the reader’s (the listener’s) physical response, what is the writer’s (or speaker’s) physical communication device?
Simply put: the layout and design of the book itself.
Why Mountain Owl Now Goes Beyond “Just Writing”
With this concept in mind, I couldn’t well leave the layout and design of books up to someone else. If I was working to help authors communicate to their readers with an experience in reading, I had to also offer to involve myself in the other 80% of the work.
That’s why we no longer describe ourselves as offering “writing services” as we did from 2013 through last year.
Mountain Owl Ink is now in the business of offering “creative services”.
Yes, of course we still (gladly!) offer writing, editing, and proofreading. But alongside those things Mountain Owl Ink, LLC also performs these important–nay, critical–tasks that allow writers and authors to communicate at their best:
- Complete, print-ready book layout & design (on Adobe InDesign)
- for both print and eBooks
- Graphics assistance
- Direct Illustration
- Digital Graphics Creation
- Amazon Kindle and Amazon KDP publication assistance
- Writer’s Coaching
- Complete Manuscript Reviews
- Assistance with creation of Author Websites and Sales & Marketing Materials
Just as being an actor isn’t only about regurgitating lines of script but about conveying the full breadth of humanity through a performance deep in body language to an audience eager to hear (and see) a tale be told, being an author isn’t only about putting the right words on a page: It’s about lending a full human experience to your readers, your audience, through the language of visual design and aesthetic.
Being an author is about lending a full human experience to readers through the language of visual design and aesthetic.
Have a creative project on your mind? Contact Mountain Owl Ink today. We offer a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to let you know if and how we can help.