Last year ALLi was pleased to support the International Authors' Forum‘s guidelines to help indie authors make ebooks more accessible to the print-disabled, i.e. those who cannot easily access conventional print books, whether due to visual impairment, dyslexia or other reasons. (See Related Posts below.)
We were therefore very interested to hear of a similar initiative by one of our author members, A A Abbott, to produce special editions of her own paperback books for dyslexic readers. Here she shares with us why and how she did this, and appeals to fellow indie authors to blaze a trail in this field.
As a young child, I learned to read and write in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The world of books unfolded, bringing knowledge and adventure.
Not all of my relatives have been so lucky. Parallel threads run through my family: each of the last three generations has included at least one writer, one engineer and one dyslexic. My grandfather, a dyslexic engineer, achieved great things in his profession but wouldn’t pick up a book for pleasure.
It's a common story.
10% of the British population is estimated to have dyslexia, including celebrities like Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Keira Knightley.
In many ways, life is easier for them than in my grandfather’s day. The condition is better understood. There are digital aids for reading and form-filling. E-books and talking books make fiction accessible.
It would also be a simple matter to format books so they’re easy for dyslexic adults to read. Surprisingly, no one has done this in the UK – until now.
I decided to issue new, dyslexia-friendly editions of my last two crime thrillers, The Bride’s Trail and The Vodka Trail, once I realised how simple it was. The impetus was a conversation with an independent bookseller, Alistair Sims.
Meet the Dyslexic Bookseller
Alistair Sims, who owns the bricks-and-mortar bookstore Books On The Hill in the gracious Somerset seaside town of Clevedon, is himself dyslexic. He makes sure to stock an excellent range of books for dyslexic children and young adults, attracting customers from miles around.
It’s a source of frustration to him that mainstream publishers ignore dyslexic adults completely, choosing only to service younger age groups.
We both agreed that indie authors were uniquely placed to fill that gap.
To borrow from corporate-speak, indies are focused on solutions.
We’re not afraid to try something new, and we can get books published quickly. Within two months of meeting Alistair, he was stocking my dyslexia-friendly paperbacks in his shop.
What is a Dyslexic-friendly Print Book?
So what makes a paperback dyslexia-friendly? Alistair suggested I read the British Dyslexia Association Style Guide, which recommends:
- a large sans serif font
- wide line spacing
- black text on a cream background
I also investigated specialised fonts, such as Dyslexie, road-testing them on dyslexic relatives. However, they found conventional sans serif fonts just as easy to read provided the text was made large enough. It seemed the special fonts didn’t perform any better than Verdana, which came out well in comparison tests by the BDA New Technologies Committee. I therefore chose 14 point Verdana with 1.5 line spacing, and, of course, cream paper.
This makes the books nearly three times as thick as my traditional editions, and I sell them at a higher price to cover costs, but they’re still affordable.
The format also works well for readers who suffer from visual stress or sight defects.
Writing style is also important. I’ve deliberately written my thrillers in an easy reading style: they’re fast-paced and fun, with bite-sized chapters.
The new editions are available to the book trade through IngramSpark and online via CreateSpace at RRP £16.99 for a very thick paperback!
What I Learned
There have been teething troubles, too. As I used different ISBNs, my existing reviews didn’t show up on Amazon’s listings for the new editions.
Even though they’re linked now, you have to know what you’re looking for to find the dyslexia-friendly paperback versions. It’s early days, and there’s still a lot to do to spread the word.
The Net Result
Of course, the real proof is how readers react. I handed the new edition of The Bride’s Trail to my dyslexic brother-in-law. “I usually like stories about space battles,” he said, “but I read half your book in a morning. You’ve provoked my curiosity – I’m definitely finishing it.”
“I want more indie writers to do this,” I told him. “As soon as there’s a dyslexia-friendly book about spaceships, you’ll be the first to know.”
How about it, indie authors? Why not try a dyslexia-friendly format, and give the forgotten 10% some great new books to read?
OVER TO YOU Have you ever published dyslexic-friendly print books? Have you advice to share? We'd love to hear about your experience.How to #selfpublish books for #dyslexic adults - and why - by @AAAbbottStories #dyslexia Click To Tweet
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