Writers and readers are a diverse bunch, and we all want to do our best to make sure our content is accessible to all. But how do we do that when it seems like a huge (and time-consuming) challenge for an individual creator? Jeff Adams gives some tips for getting started.
In the intro, making as marketing [Ryan Holiday]; Enter awards but make sure they are worthwhile [ALLi; Reedsy; BookAwardPro]; The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Jeff Adams is the author of YA thrillers and gay romance, as well as the co-host of The Big Gay Fiction Podcast with his husband and business partner, Will. Jeff’s latest book is Content for Everyone, A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content, co-written with Michele Lucchini.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Staying involved in the author community when you’re not writing
- What is accessible content? Why is it important?
- How to address the associated cost of making content more accessible
- Using alternative text tags on images
- Improving link text to be more descriptive
- How screen readers process emojis and image text—and how to improve this
- Tips for improving accessibility of print books
- Publishing in multiple formats to improve accessibility
You can find Jeff at JeffAdamsWrites.com, his podcast at BigGayFictionPodcast.com, and his latest book at ContentForEveryone.info
Header image generated by Joanna Penn on Midjourney.
Transcript of Interview with Jeff Adams
Jeff: Jeff Adams is the author of YA thrillers and gay romance, as well as the co-host of The Big Gay Fiction Podcast with his husband and business partner, Will. Jeff’s latest book is Content for Everyone, A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content, co-written with Michele Lucchini. So welcome back to the show, Jeff.
Thank you, Joanna. It’s so wonderful to be here.
Joanna: Oh, yes. And of course, we met in person at Podcast Movement. And you were on the show with Will back in April 2020, which is a long time ago.
Give us an update on what you’ve been up to since then, in terms of your books and the Big Gay Media Empire.
Jeff: I aspire to it being an empire.
Joanna: I love it. It sounds like a massive empire, like Big Gay Media. You know, it sounds like you should be doing TV shows and all kinds of things.
Jeff: Definitely an aspirational thing there. The last couple of years since April 2020, I think like for so many creatives, and you hear it on the show all the time, it’s like it’s been a difficult span, with the pandemic and things just going on in the world.
And the last novel I published was actually the same month I was on your show last. I’ve been doing some short stories, novellas that have been in anthologies, but the creative writing has really been kind of difficult.
That said, we’ve kept going with the podcast, that’s still going. We’re in our eighth year now of Big Gay Fiction.
Joanna: Oh, wow.
Jeff: This nonfiction book, though, has seemed to spark my desire for fiction again. I feel those juices flowing. And it makes me think about what you talk about here sometimes, the way that you do fiction, and then you do a nonfiction. You kind of pivot back and forth, kind of have a palate-cleansing moment. I think I’ve maybe shooed away all the bad stuff, maybe, to let me refocus on fiction.
Joanna: Although, that’s interesting that you say that. I haven’t written a full novel, either, since probably that year, or maybe 2021. I’ve mainly been making short stories, and I did a novella, as well. So how does that feel? Because I mean, you have a day job, and this book is partly to do with that.
How has not producing much made you feel as a creator?
Especially in the communities we’re in where kind of rapid production, especially in romance, is kind of the thing.
Jeff: I’ve been through a lot of feelings on that. Initially, it’s like, why can’t I continue to do what I’ve been doing for like the last 2,3,4 years before that?
Because I’d gotten into a pace where I was doing 2,3,4 books in a calendar year, and then it kind of all fell apart what I was trying to do there. So there was a little bit of beating myself up, but then it was like, this is the best that I can do right now, and I have to take care of myself.
Which I think I’m in a position to do, because I don’t try to do this full time at the moment. I can’t imagine the stress on somebody who was in the mindset that I was, but also has to pay the bills with their creative output at the same time.
Joanna: I think that’s so important. And I often try to bring it back to this as well, which is most authors do have a day job. And I guess one of the things in the indie community, or even with traditional publishing, is like, oh, to be a proper writer or whatever, you must be full-time. But that’s not actually true.
I mean, even I could say this podcast is like my day job. It brings me an income, it’s not technically writing, although the transcripts are millions of words at this point. So you said, you know, the best I could do now. How many books do you have, though? You have quite a few.
Jeff: It’s quite a few. I mean, one of the things that I did through those years I wasn’t writing was getting some stuff republished because I had gotten a whole bunch of rights back at the end of 2019 and the early part of 2020. So I did do some republishing, I did do some freshening of some things. So I think in total, I think right now, I think it’s eight novels, and probably five or six short stories out there.
Joanna: But this is a funny thing, right? Because you see, some authors are like, yeah, I have one book or three books or five books, and for some people, that is a whole career. So we have got to be a bit more gentle on ourselves.
Jeff: Absolutely. I learned that for sure.
Joanna: Well, that’s good. I’m glad.
What does the Big Gay Fiction podcast do for you and the business?
Jeff: It definitely keeps the name out there. And we continue to put across like, “If you like the books we talked about on this show, we’ve written books you might also like.” So it still is that marketing element that it was even going back to when we started it when I was writing much more.
It also lets us keep our networking into the community. Even if we’re not working with other authors on like cross promoting books through our email lists or all those things that authors might gather up to do, even in this moment where I’m not writing, I’m still active in that author community through the podcast and promoting the genre, instead of just potentially dropping out entirely if we hadn’t had the show, and then I’m not writing at the same time. So I feel like it’s definitely helped to maintain that connection and network to the genre that we operate in.
Joanna: And that’s really good. I feel the same. I mean, I don’t think we’ve actually spoken since when we spoke in April 2020. I mean, we’re kind of aware of each other, and we email sometimes, and there’s a sort of connection between community members which supports all of us. So yeah, I mean, I feel the same way with my show.
Also, we don’t know who’s listening. We don’t know who’s listening to this. They may never have heard of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, but now they have, and it is one of the best show names in the industry. I still love it.
So we should probably talk about the book, which is this Content for Everyone.
What is accessible content?
Because it’s one of those terms we’ve heard, we might not understand. And why is it important? And why do you care?
Jeff: We could probably talk the next hour about that, but I’ll bring it down to some key points. So if you think about the content that’s out there on the web, and I think most of us think about engaging with content in the way that we personally do. And for most of us, it’s engaging with it visually on our screen.
We’re probably navigating with a mouse or maybe a trackball or a trackpad, or whatever that is. If you’re on a mobile device or a tablet, it’s tap, and zoom, and pinch and whatnot.
But if you think about people who need to use other methods to interact, perhaps they’re blind and using a screen reader, there’s going to be barriers to them potentially accessing your content because of how it’s done.
You could have somebody, certainly anybody who has hearing loss, transcripts for our shows are so important for them to be able to get the messages, understand what we’re putting out on our shows. Similarly, captions for videos.
Think about images. Images of text are used all the time in our industry.
I think one of the things we see for authors right now that are so popular, are those square images with the book in the middle and all the arrows coming into the book cover, you know, talking about tropes and plot points and whatnot.
So not only if people are blind, they’re obviously going to need some other text, either in the alternative text or in the post itself to give us what’s in the image. But then if they’re low vision, and you’ve got bad color contrast in that image, people aren’t able to connect with that.
If somebody’s dyslexic, and the font you’ve chosen is really curly and fancy, maybe they can’t connect with that. Those are just some easy examples to talk about when we think about accessible content.
It’s important because everything is on the internet these days. And certainly for us independent authors, we rely on our websites, on the stores that we run, on social media, on our newsletters, to convey these messages. And if you think about the population that has some form of disability, you’re talking over a billion people across the world.
Roughly 20% to 25% of the population has a disability that is somehow reported.
Whether it’s because they’re maybe getting disability from the government agency, it’s recorded with their insurance, or maybe they filled it out on a survey form at some point. And that’s just the people that are categorized as such.
If you add things that are temporary, like somebody breaks their arm, they can’t use their mouse, they need to navigate by keyboard.
Something that’s more situational. Think about somebody maybe holding an infant and can’t get to their cell phone at the moment, they may ask one of the assistants on the phone to do the job. I won’t say the name, lest one of them go off.
Or somebody even episodic, with a migraine or an arthritis flare up and how that impacts how they deal with the world that day.
Accessible content matters. And one callback I’ll make to the episode that’s just been out the week that we’re talking, which is 675, you mentioned that report from Ben Evans. 5 billion people have a smartphone. And, you know, the pandemic remade eCommerce and the internet. More people are online, there’s more people to access the content, so if your content is not accessible, then you’re missing people.
Joanna: Why do you, in particular, care about this?
Jeff: It’s been my day job. For the last more than a decade now I’ve worked for a company called UsableNet. UsableNet was founded as a company working in digital accessibility.
And in particular, over the last six, seven years, I’ve been working closely with companies on their accessibility programs, and really looking at the broad range of things that go into digital accessibility, which is far more than we talk about in this book.
Learning that, working with these companies, working with them on their content, it started with just me tying it back to my own websites. Like if I’m going to talk about this, I need to make them as accessible as I can, with my technical experience, which is pretty close to none outside of what I could do in those platforms. Because I can’t manipulate, for example, my WordPress theme. I can only do the things that I can do within the content entry place itself.
Then beyond trying to improve my own sites, you know, I see what my fellow podcasters, my fellow authors, others in the creative community, put out there.
Once you know what not-accessible content is, it’s really hard not to focus on it when you see it somewhere.
It’s like, oh, those colors, that’s a problem. Oh, this link text, I wish that was something better for people, you know. And so, like, I want to help spread the word in a place where it’s not talked about that much.
It’s talked so much, especially here in the US, because it’s very litigious for ecommerce companies who aren’t accessible.
But there’s so many more people to talk to about this, and to improve the internet for everybody. So it’s become my thing in a way I never thought it would. I never thought I’d write a book about my day job, essentially.
Joanna: Well, and we’re going to get into some tips for what we can do in a bit more detail. But I am going to play devil’s advocate, because one of the things that people think, so for example, I have always had a transcript on the show since the beginning. And at the beginning, I used to do it myself, and then I started paying humans, and then the AI tools came along, and then you still need them cleaning up, and blah, blah, blah.
I’ve always done transcripts primarily for a business reason, which is SEO. And it’s had the wonderful side effect of making the content accessible.
And in fact, some people listening, they’re not listening, they’re reading the transcript. A lot of people do just read the transcript from my show.
But the point being, I had a business reason, so over the years, I’ve invested. But I know a lot of podcasters, we both know podcasters, who do not do a transcript because it’s either expensive financially, or expensive timewise if you try and do it yourself.
The same way, if you say like an image on a blog, or a social media, like if I upload an image to Instagram, or an author listening goes, okay, I’m going to upload one of those images to Instagram or I’m going to upload an image every day. Do I make a halfhearted attempt to try and describe it? That’s going to take me another minute or two, it’s too long.
Or like you say, captions on video. I have to hold my hand up and say I don’t do captions because of the amount of time it takes, or I would have to outsource it.
It’s going to cost us time and possibly money to do this. So how can we address that?
Because I’m pretty sure everyone wants to be the best we can be, right? But how do we get over that hump? Or do you have a principle we can approach that with?
Jeff: There’s a lot of ways to approach that. And I’m right there with you, like Big Gay Fiction, we started transcribing our interviews at Episode 180, because we didn’t have the resource and the money coming in to do it. And we finally expanded to full episode transcripts probably about 50 to 75 episodes after that.
Big Gay Author rarely had transcripts, because again, a monetary issue.
You have to do the best that you can with what you have and decide the areas where you know that your audience will get a lot from it.
For you, like you had the business case early on with the podcast for SEO purposes. And certainly it improves SEO because of all the words that are in the transcript. And really think about what your audience is going to need and the audience you might be missing because something’s not there.
I’ll give you an example of something that’s in the book actually. We interviewed a few people for the book to get different perspectives from people with different disabilities and where the barriers are problematic for them.
So author EM Lindsey, they want and have tried to many times in the past to take courses, whether it’s a craft course, an ads course, a marketing course. You know, the breadth of the things that are out there for authors to take to improve. They so often find that in live scenarios, captions aren’t available, even if they are automated. They’re not there to help because they have hearing loss.
Often the replays don’t have captions, and this is for something that somebody has paid for.
Joanna: Can I just jump in there. Okay, so I have video courses—
I don’t have captions, but I always have transcripts. Is that not good enough?
Jeff: The transcript definitely works because you are giving an alternative way for somebody who can’t engage with the audio. So in that case, the transcript definitely works because then the information is still available to that person.
That’s just an example of you have to think about what your audience needs, what you can give them, what fits within the budget.
Because I definitely understand that you can’t do everything all the time. It’s like almost any other decision that you make in your business. And here, it’s just a matter of doing what you can to improve the experience for as much of your audience as you can.
Progress over perfection
It really dials back to something that we’ve mentioned in the book a couple of times about progress over perfection.
Do something to start to improve, whether it’s the images, whether it’s captions, whether it’s use of colors, whether it’s how you do your link text.
Whatever that is, think about the things that we present in the book, and then figure out how that maybe adapts to your business now, what you might adjust from your previously posted content, and what you’ll do going forward into the future as well.
Joanna: Yes, so images, for example. I probably spent the first five years of my internet life not even doing the alt text field, I mean, even for SEO, that’s really bad.
So can you just go into some specifics around images? And I still find this difficult. Like on Twitter, for example, you can type in some descriptive text, and I just find it really hard.
The example you gave of the book with the arrows going onto it, can you tell us what we would tag that with? What text would we use?
Jeff: Sure. So there are a couple places you can do this too, because you could also put it in the post itself, rather than the alt text, so that it’s just there for anybody who needs it.
They can get it from the image and get it from the post. But if you think about one of those arrow ones, you could say—and I actually built an example of this as one of the things that we have as one of the extras in the book.
So Tracker Hacker by Jeff Adams is a YA thriller that includes hiding secrets, rescuing the dad, hacking into computer systems, on and on and on.
So each of those things would have been the arrow, and then it just becomes a sentence whether it’s in there as the alt text itself, or if it’s even in the post, it restates what’s in the image, but then it essentially makes the image into being decorative.
So if nobody saw the image, for whatever reason, they still understand everything about the book because of what you’ve written in the post or in the alt text.
Joanna: But do you have to say, “with book cover showing person standing by a lake on a yellow background?”
Jeff: Not necessarily because it likely doesn’t matter.
Joanna: I think that’s what confuses me because you see some people doing it, and they’re describing all the different things about the landscape that’s on the book cover or something. And I think that’s what makes it hard. It’s almost like there are different rules for the different types of images. You’re saying it’s essentially making sure someone who can’t see the picture gets the gist of what you’re trying to say, not an exact description of the image.
Jeff: Exactly, and it matters in context, as well.
So the book cover on that image, on that promo image, the book cover itself probably doesn’t matter. The key things are the title, the author, and what the plot points are. That’s what’s driving that promo image.
If that cover sits on a cover artists website, then the alternative text is probably describing everything that’s in the cover itself, the landscape, the lake, the colors, et cetera, because maybe it’s up for sale as a premade cover. So somebody who maybe can’t see it does need the additional information.
So the context matters. And the high level kind of thing that I always say is, if you can’t see that image, what do you, as the content creator, need me to get from it? And it probably isn’t the detail on the book, but the promotional element of what you’re doing that image for.
Joanna: Yes, I can see that. I mean, I’m a very visual person, but actually I also have a lot of visual issues. So this is something I care very much about. So this is something that I do think about, and I just think I get wrong all the time. This is something I’m interested in learning more about.
You mentioned link text a couple of times. Can you explain how to do that properly?
Jeff: Before I get into link text, I want to say one more quick thing about images that I think a lot of people also don’t know. Instagram and Facebook automatically write your alt text for you.
Joanna: Oh, well that’s handy. Twitter doesn’t.
Jeff: Twitter does not, thank goodness.
Do not let Facebook and Instagram write your alt text because it will be wrong.
If there’s text in your image, and I’ll use the idea of the arrow picture again, the promo image, it’s going to read all the texts left to right. So it’s not going to like figure out that the thing on the right side of the book is all one thing and the thing on the left side is all one thing. It’s good to read straight across, no matter what.
It’s going to read all the text off your book as it goes through left to right, and it’ll just flat be wrong and a bunch of garbage. So you should always be looking at what it’s automatically generating for you and then writing your own so you don’t end up with gibberish.
Joanna: Right. So you upload an image on Facebook, and then the image will give you some options. And if you don’t type it in, then it will just do that, basically. So you need to overtype it or something.
Jeff: Yeah, definitely overtype it because it’s always wrong. I’ve never seen good auto generated text on either platform.
Joanna: Do you think this is going to get better, though?
I mean, obviously, there are a lot of AI tools, and some of them are getting better. Will the auto-tools improve?
Jeff: I’d like to think so. I think where AI will always struggle is to get the context concept, unless they’re going to tie the AI to actually look at the text of the post to decide how to marry it to the image.
I’d like to think that it’ll get there though. AI, as you point out all the time, the things you were thinking were going to come in five or 10 years are here now. Yeah, so it’s got to get better. It’s just I don’t know how it’ll deal with generating the right context, but hopefully, it can at least get better at what’s actually present in the image and parsing that information out better.
Joanna: Okay, so what about link text?
Improving link text
Jeff: Link text. So I’m sure we see this all the time, where it’s just “click here,” “buy now,” “buy this,” “add to cart,” “read more,” etc.
People who use screen readers, for example, and other forms of assistive technology have the ability to pull up and review a list of links. The screen reader will just read out every link that’s on the page, which can be really handy to jump to what you need. But if you are faced with a full page of click here, read more, add to cart, you have no idea where any of those links go off to.
So create a good link text is something I hope that we could all start to do relatively easy. So instead of saying, “click here,” be more specific.
You know, “click to Amazon to see Content for Everyone,” “Get Content for Everyone at my store.” It’ll be longer link text, but it’ll be more descriptive link text, which could also be good for even some people who have some cognitive disabilities, who might maybe have even short term memory loss, where seeing those very words as an underlying link text will go yes, that’s what I need, even if I don’t recall what might have been in the paragraph before it.
It’ll help everybody scan the page faster to find exactly the link they may want. As opposed to just seeing a bunch of “click here,” where they are going to have to actually read through everything else to see what each individually “click here” is within a context.
Joanna: Yes, and it’s funny, again—
I think this is a practice that I started doing because of SEO
—because Google links and all the SEO stuff, you need a descriptive link to make it rank better. So again, I think I fell into that for good business reasons. And now most of my site would be alright for that. Although I’m still guilty of it sometimes, for sure.
Actually, I say that, in the show notes I’ll say, maybe talking about this particular topic, and then I’ll have the source in a bracket, and it will just say The Guardian or something like that.
I don’t include the whole headline because those show notes go into like Spotify and stuff like that. So it is difficult, isn’t it, because we’re kind of also designing our content for these different tools that read into it.
Like Twitter, you only have a certain amount of words, so you have to change what you do in order to make that right. So it’s tough, isn’t it?
Are there any other particular ones for authors, where you think this is something people could improve?
Let’s say not do wrong, but could improve?
Jeff: Don’t use emails that are all images. I mean based on what we talked about a moment ago with images, you can imagine if you’ve got an email full of images and no text.
Joanna: Do people really do that?
Jeff: People really do that. Yes, including big ecommerce companies do it all the time. And we keep telling them, please don’t do that because there’s going to be an entire segment of your population that is going to have no idea for any number of reasons. From color contrast, font choices, you’re probably not loading up good alt text in your email forms all too often. And so all of that plays into it.
And doing good link text in an email because certainly in an email if you’re like listing a bunch of books, “blurb one, buy now,” “blurb two, buy now.” Be more specific about what books somebody is going to be able to buy now.
Be careful with emoji use. Everybody loves their emojis.
Joanna: I don’t know what most of them mean. I literally use smiley face and thumbs up. That’s about it.
Jeff: That’s good because those are often well-read. But you could find places where people will put an emoji between each word in a headline, for example. So if you use the emoji that is the smiley face with the stars in its eyes, you know the one I’m talking about?
Joanna: Yes, it means like, surprise, or wow, or something like that, does it?
Jeff: Well, a screen reader will read it out as starstruck. So imagine a headline that might be, “On sale now, 40% off.” And if you’ve got that emoji between each of them, it’ll be something to the effect of, “on, star struck, sale, star struck, now, star struck, 40, star struck, percent, star struck, off.”
Joanna: How annoying.
Jeff: Exactly. And it can be trouble for cognitively disabled users too, trying to figure out what those words mean, with those emojis between them, what are the emojis meaning context, trying to parse the whole sentence.
So just maybe put the star struck off at the end, so that it ends with that thing, but using it between each word can be problematic. And then if you’re stringing a whole bunch of emojis together, you can’t be sure that a screen reader is going to read out what you actually mean those to say.
Joanna: Yeah, yeah, it’s difficult, isn’t it. I mean, again, we only have so much time to do things. And you did mention progress over perfection.
Maybe the tip is: Just pick one thing to start doing better.
So for me, I am definitely going to try and get better at text or describing my images because I know it’s something that I do, but I don’t do it very well. So I think I could get better at that. I mean, is that the way to do it? Like, don’t try and do everything, because let’s face it, we all have a lot of things to do.
Jeff: Yes, it’s really the best way to consider it. I would say, if I were to break things down, it’s like, pick one or two things from the book and decide, I’m going to do, in your case, images better, maybe I’m going to do link text better.
And when you get comfortable doing that, and it becomes just part of the process and the way you do things, maybe you go back and pick up another thing to start doing well, and start going forward.
Look at your website too. Just look at your homepage, for example.
Is your homepage meeting the requirements that we’ve laid out in the book?
And if not, do you want to do a quick update there to make that better. Even like top level pages, maybe make those better. But definitely parse it all out, don’t stop writing your book to go fix this. But start to understand it, see where you could start chipping away at it, and over time, it becomes a thing that you just do.
You know, I don’t do my alt text perfectly every time either because it’s like, I’m just trying to post this right now. I know that I’m not supposed to do that, but as always, progress over perfection. Maybe I’ll go back and fix it later, you know, if I’m on the run or something as I’m posting, or just flat forget it sometimes. Also, these platforms don’t make it super easy to go do it. Twitter does, but Facebook and Instagram don’t.
Joanna: Just on the website thing, I mean, generally, the older your website is, the less accessible it is.
A lot of the modern themes, on WordPress certainly, are mobile compatible. They scale depending on what kind of device you’re on. I mean sometimes I’ll click on a tweet that somebody has put out because I still use Twitter a lot. I’ll click on a tweet on my phone, and I’ll end up on someone’s website that is sort of pre-2000, probably, and it’s like a black background and it’s tiny because it’s not scaled to a mobile device. And so you have to pinch and try and scroll in.
I mean, I find the white text on a black background is utterly ridiculous. Or like you mentioned about color stuff. It’s not necessarily even that people are entirely blind, although obviously some people are, but for some people there’s just other things going on, aren’t there.
Jeff: Do the best you can. I mean, it sounds like I’m saying don’t do anything at all. But it’s like, if you’ve got an older website, see how it can fit into your plan to upgrade your template, upgrade your platform, to move yourself into the 2023’s. Yeah, you’re right, there are companies and individuals who still have those pre-2000 websites that don’t scale up on the phone.
It’s interesting you mentioned that dark background with white text doesn’t work for you, because I actually operate in dark mode all the time. So even my Word document is black background with white text, it’s just easier on my eyes.
Joanna: That’s so interesting. My husband does the same. And I’m not going to say anything about your age, but I feel like people who used to use computers back in the day when that’s what they were. Is that where it comes from for you?
Jeff: It’s really only recently I’ve switched to this more dark mode setting because it was recommended to me actually by somebody I interviewed for the book. She operates in dark mode all the time. And she’s like, give it a shot, you might actually like it. And then within a couple of weeks, I had it across all my devices.
I think I spend so much time in front of a device or a screen, that it just does make it easier for me, I think from a brightness point of view and from a text sharpness point of view, for me to operate. It’s something like 50% of people, 50 – 55% prefer dark mode on their devices for whatever reason.
There’s also a great statistic around captions that like 60 – 70% of people will have captions on if they’re available because it’s how they prefer to engage.
Whether it’s a TV show, something on YouTube, to have those on because it’s a little bit more way for them to connect with the content.
Joanna: Yes, and there’s some crazy stat now that it’s not just people of older category, it’s a lot of young people prefer captions on Netflix and stuff like that. And it’s interesting, because we’ve been watching a lot of Korean TV on Netflix, and of course it is all captioned. And it was so funny, I found myself saying to Jonathan, “Oh, can you turn it up a bit.” Even though we’re watching the captions, I still want to hear the sound, I really like the Korean language.
It’s interesting, we’ve talked mainly, well entirely, really, about digital. But of course, we all do print books as well.
So I’ve been doing large print for years now. For many years, I’ve been doing large print and sell a lot of large print romance because my mum writes more senior romance as Penny Appleton. What I found like personally, I’m almost 48, my eyes are going the other way, I’ll pick up a book in a bookstore, like in a physical bookstore, and I’ll open it and the text will be so tiny, presumably because of paper stock or cost of printing, and then I just put it straight down again.
Or, for example, I used to buy Wired magazine in print, but what was happening is, again, they were using things like white text on the orange background and printing the font so small.
Obviously I could get my glasses, but even with that, the contrast. And I just felt like these are being formatted by young people. You can see, but it’s not an age thing is it. It’s just a difference in in ability.
What are your tips for accessibility for print books?
Jeff: Definitely large print where you can.
Like Content for Everyone, for me, is my first large print that I’ve done, and I will definitely be, as soon as I can get a little bit of bandwidth, going back to my other print books and creating the large print version of it. Because for those who want to read a physical book, I think the large print is good to have.
Certainly, and I think this becomes easier like if you’re doing something in Vellum or something to create these multiple formats, but to also pick a good font. You want to pick a font that is as accessible as possible.
And those tend to be fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma. You really want to look for the ones that have good character differentiation, and not like the ones where the uppercase I’s and the lowercase l’s and the 1’s all look the same.
To help people who are dyslexic be able to parse the letters and people with lower vision having an easier time to parse even in the large print format. So I think it’s mostly about minding good fonts. And within the book, we actually talk about what the accessible fonts are, and I listed off a couple of them there.
Joanna: What about italics?
Jeff: Use italics judiciously and as you’re supposed to.
Don’t do massive blocks of text in italic, for example. Like, don’t have a four page flashback that you’re doing in italic, for some reason.
Joanna: People do that. Or they put the whole prologue in italics. And I’m sorry, I literally can’t read it. Like, it’s obviously not just me, but I find italics incredibly hard to read. And it’s like, I just can’t read that. So I will put the book down or send it back or whatever.
Jeff: Yeah, you know, album names, TV shows, movies, those get italics because that’s just the proper way to designate them, but don’t do that with the whole prologue in italics. Use bold judiciously, and not whole big text blocks. Don’t do whole blocks or whole big, large piece of text in capital letters, for example.
Keep things left justified. I think sometimes people want to use the justified so it has the same endpoints left and right, but the variation that you can get between the words can be disruptive for some people.
Don’t do a lot of centered texts, big blocks of center text, because it’s more of a cognitive drain and can be more difficult to fully understand something if you’re having to move your eye to the beginning of where each of the lines happens to be.
Joanna: The more we get into this, the more you realize this is just a huge deal.
I mean, an audio obviously, this is primarily an audio podcast, having our books in audio format is something that we’ve been advocating a long time. But again, with the rise of AI narration, I think this will finally become something very accessible. I mean, that is the primary driving force, well, one of the driving forces behind it, is anyone should be able to listen to anything.
For me, like I often say this like, I don’t want to just listen to American men reading business books, for example. I would like to listen to British women or somebody else, and other people have other voices in their heads. So I think, again, the tools, because again, it’s not affordable for people to do audiobooks a lot of the time, but this is another way we’ll be able to use the tools to make things more accessible, I guess.
Jeff: I’m such an advocate of being, much like you are, as wide as you can be, with as many products as you can be. And I think those two things connect to accessibility. When you consider, for example, by and large, statistically, people who are disabled are underemployed, so they’re not employed to their full potential skill level, and they’re underpaid. And they’re underpaid, and they have other expenses to manage their health, potentially to get assistive technologies or other things to help them live their life. So they may not have the discretionary income that somebody else does.
Having your books available in the library, in print, in eBook, in audio, brings the accessibility of that book to them.
Because the library may be their primary source for books because they’re not going to spend their discretionary funds, even on a KU membership, or an audiobook membership to get credits, because those can be pricey.
And certainly, AI audiobooks do fill a price point because you’re going to be able to offer those at a lower cost to the libraries, to individuals, rather than the more spendy, I think a standard audiobook price these days, not counting a credit, is at least in the $20 range, if not a little bit higher.
Then the subscriptions to Audible or Spotify or whatever, those also cost money that somebody may not have as a discretionary fund. So the more wide and the more price points, I think the better.
Joanna: Yes, and of course we can have our books in libraries, eBook, audio, and print as you said, that’s all available to us now. So there’s a lot we can do. And I hope that this interview has given people a lot of tips.
If people want to find the book and everything else you do, where can people find you online?
Jeff: So the book is at contentforeveryone.info.
And if you want to pick up the book from my store, you can grab it at contentforeveryone.info/purchase. It is of course available wide, currently eBook and standard print and large print paperback, with an audiobook yet to come. My writing you can find at JeffAdamsWrites.com and podcast at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Jeff. That was great.
Jeff: Yeah, thank you so much.
The post Content For Everyone: Accessibility For Authors With Jeff Adams first appeared on The Creative Penn.
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Author: Joanna Penn