My Self-Publishing Adventure, Day 5… or 6… or… Whatever

Sorry I’ve been MIA the last few days. I have a very good excuse, though. See, I’ve been finishing up the proof preparations for The Crows’ Nest! I’m now waiting on approval, after which I will get my actual proof, approve it, and my book will be ready for everyone to read! SO excited!

Still, it’s been a long and tedious processes. Here are just a few things I have learned about self-publishing within the last few days alone:

1 – E-Book vs. Print-On-Demand Prep

I knew two things when I started this whole adventure. One, I REALLY wanted a paper book I could hold in my hands and read wherever I wanted to. I also wanted that for my readers, especially my base of young readers, many of whom don’t have access to an e-reader and/or prefer paper as I do. And two, I had to do an e-book as well since everyone expects it these days.

What I didn’t realize was how very, very different the two are to format and publish.

An e-book, for one, should have a clickable table of contents (or ToC as I have come to know it), while a paperback should have the traditional page numbered ToC. Now, this shouldn’t be a very difficult thing to do, since Word has an automated ToC generator complete with a choice of page numbers or links. However for an e-book they want you to NOT use that as it messes up some readers.  So for the e-book (which, I’ll reiterate, I didn’t want to do in the first place), I had to manually set all of the chapter links. Luckily I already knew how to link text within a document so it wasn’t too difficult (and yes, I did check to make sure the way they wanted me to do it was the same way I knew how). However, it was depressingly tedious as my book has 29 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. Oi.

Another big difference that made me very sad was illustrations. Jessica has put so much work into them, and I was so excited to format them into the manuscript, that I saved them for last. That was a good thing, too, as I found out RIGHT before I put them in that I couldn’t include them in the e-book. Well, I could, if I wanted to spend a million dollars on a professional copy editor or take the chance that they would be terribly messed up in the final e-book no matter what I did.

Yay.

So I left my beautiful illustrations out of the e-book. Also, my awesome chapter title font. That too. More and more reasons to hate e-books. Why do people like them again? Maybe they work better for grown-up books…

2 – Cover Formatting

Now, if you have done print on demand before, you probably just laughed painfully at my number two bullet point. If you didn’t, you’re Satan. Or you’re better at it than I am. Either way, I hate you. If you haven’t done print on demand yet maybe you want to skip this part as it might scare you away forever.

OK, so it’s not that bad. Maybe. Possibly.

See, I have a beautiful cover, which I have plastered all over this blogsite. The back cover, too, is pretty (though not as pretty as I wanted it to be; more on that in a bit). I was ecstatic about this, and, don’t get me wrong, still am. However having one’s own cover as opposed to using a (*coughgenericcough*) cover creator comes with a few issues that are annoying at best.

First of all, margins. Ahhhhh margins! These have been my bane for the last two days. When I first uploaded my beautiful cover into the cover formatter on CreateSpace, it cut all the edges off. I was maaaad! Then I was even more angry … at myself… for being a moron, when I realized why. See, there’s something in print publishing called “bleed”, which I have been aware of for years as I have published my own small press zine in the past (hence the “moron” comment above). Bleed is what they have to cut off of an image all the way around in order to make the printing go to the very edge of the paper. Therefore, one must have a border around one’s image that can be cut off, or else their image itself is cut off instead. So after flailing myself for a while, I edited my cover and put a small border around it so that when I reloaded it, the full cover image was visible. The border I put was a plain color that matched the overall color scheme of the image, so if they didn’t cut it all off it wouldn’t look wrong. That done, I was happy, and submitted it, just knowing that the publisher would be happy too.

They weren’t.

Apparently my cover was still too big and they were worried my author name would be cut off. At this point I was asking myself “how much do they cut anyway”. After all, I had already made the cover the exact size of my chosen format, so why were they wanting to make it even smaller? I was — and still am — a bit worried about that, as the final edit I made which they have (hopefully) accepted has a huge border around it so that my author name is .5″ from the edges, as they requested:

Still, the border will be cut so that it’s not as grossly huge as I had to make it in the final proof, and it’s still a good color to match the rest of the book so even if some does show it won’t look bad. But yeah, bleed is frustrating at best. Margins too.

Note to self: In Escape from Igh Schoo, make the author name a lot further from the bottom, mmkay?

Another issue I had was .dpi. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s short for “dots per inch” and relates to how many pixels are in a square inch of any given computer image. My original cover and back cover were 75 .dpi. This is standard for most images, especially those that load on web browsers as the greater the .dpi, the larger the file and therefore the harder to load. However, for print images it is the complete opposite. One wants their print images crisp and clear and beautiful on paper, therefore the maximum .dpi you can get away with and not crash your image editing software is a great idea. I was a bit worried that my cover would be fuzzy as it was, and I knew my back cover would be, since it was even somewhat fuzzy on the computer screen. However, I didn’t think I had much hope of changing that as I have lost the original (which Jessica has kindly not killed me for), so I couldn’t re-scan it at a higher .dpi anyway.

Enter CreateSpace again.

“By the way, you can’t even upoald an image file for your cover that’s smaller than 300 .dpi.”

Well, crap.

I don’t think I panicked about anything else quite as much as I panicked about this. And trust me, I’ve done a lot of panicking lately.

Mike (my patient, patient fiance’) and I searched all over the house for the original cover, as that was the only way I was going to be able to get it at the right .dpi without pixelizing it to complete worthlessness. No dice. I know I put it somewhere for safe keeping, which always translates into “even I can’t find it!” *Facepalm.* So after Mike finally gave up and went to bed, I stayed up and worked on the inside illustrations, hoping beyond hope that I would figure out a way to still use the beautiful cover Jessica worked so hard on.

Enter Facebook and Jessica’s main squeeze, her husband Jeff. Jessica was sleeping (newly pregnant with her first, YAY), but Jeff was up, and when I posted that I was horribly frustrated, he asked what was going on. I told him, he e-mailed me the original scan that Jessica still had on her computer, and I thanked him, hoping that it would be at least 300 .dpi. It wasn’t. It was 75 .dpi. I almost gave up then and there, but decided to try and up it in Photoshop to 300 .dpi, without much hope of success.

It worked!

The image blew up to 300 .dpi beautifully! A crisp, clear image that was ten times better than even my 75 .dpi one! I was stoked, and thanked Jeff profusely.

And will thank him again now. THANK YOU JEFF!

And thank Jessica, too, for saving that scan. I’m such a scatterbrain sometimes. Maybe she should keep the originals from now on. Oi.

That said, I was only able to salvage the front image, not the back one which was already almost too fuzzy to use as it was. Luckily the back image isn’t nearly as important as the front, and I had an adorable picture of Echo that I had colored and wanted to use anyway. So I scanned some marble paper, tinted it orange, added Echo and a beautiful plague mask Jessica had done for the inside illustrations, created a “note” from Mom to add as well, and viola! A perfect, crisp 300 .dpi back image that will print out great! Not as detailed as the original one I wanted to use, but it’ll work perfectly anyway.

I kind of want to thank CreateSpace for making that a condition, as if it wasn’t I would have ended up with a must uglier cover. So… yeah. Pain in the butt, but worth it.

3 – Inside Page Formatting

I’ll just start this one with “oi” and move on from there.

Here goes… Once more we have a difference between POD and E-Book publishing. In an E-book you can make your pages the traditional 8.5 x 11 as they are resized digitally to fit whatever reader is being used anyway. Simple, and almost makes up for the lack of illustrations and font. Almost. However POD is a lot more specific on this, a fact that I didn’t realize until this morning… and one that I really should have. Pfft.

See, if you’re wanting to print a 5×9 book your text shouldn’t spread across an 8.5 x 11 surface. What happens if it does? Surprise! Half your text is cut off. *Facepalm* (I’ve done that a lot these past few days.) Luckily for me CreateSpace brought this to my attention before printing the proof and wasting both our time and my money. So I resized the pages. Easy as pie, right? Only when I did that, all the illustrations moved and my page count more than doubled, making my ToC (as mentioned above), entirely obsolete.

Yay.

One good thing about this change was I realized I had worked my butt off on writing and editing a book longer than a hundred pages (which for me was a major sigh of relief). Unfortunately, it also meant I had to raise the price. Pfft. Oh, well. I guess $11.99 is still a pretty good price for a piece of great literature. 🙂

I need to invent a self-back-patter, methinks.

ANYway, so then I had to put the chapter headings back at the top of their pages, re-center all the illustrations, and redo the ToC (which wasn’t too terrible as for the POD I can use Word’s automated feature – yay).

I’m thinking that redundancy is a symptom of being a writer that we can’t escape.

Another major issue I had with the inside formatting was entirely created by the e-book, and had nothing to do with the POD at all. OK, so part of it was my issue, too. Whatever.

Styles and formatting.

See, I never used S&F in my life, preferring to italicize, bold, center, etceteras with the good old “ctrl+” keystroke. After all when I’m in the zone, working on a new story, I don’t want to have to stop and click a bunch of techy mumbo-jumbo, right?

Well, turns out that would have saved me a lot of time. As in, two full days without sleep time.

In order to format an e-book in a way that will transfer into any digital reader, you have to use Styles and Formatting, not ctrl+ or Word’s toolbar buttons. Of this I was not aware. Sadly for me, I use a lot of bolded and italicized text in my books to create a feeling of being there and hearing the words come out at you. Great tactic for kids’ books. Not so great for formatting an e-book. At least, not so great if you don’t use S&F in the first place. To break it down into layman’s terms:

I had to go over my entire manuscript and redo every single text change I made.

Yes, it was… fun. *Eye twitch*

That said I now know what to do from the beginning in Escape from Igh Schoo, and actually, once you get the hang of it, it makes everything much easier as a whole.

4 – Illustration Formatting

Lastly, I had a few issues with my illustrations. Jessica did a wonderful job on them, but what looks great on an original and/or on a computer screen might not look so great when printed into a book. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First of all, background. When you scan an image into the computer, the background might look white, but it isn’t. This can sometimes be seen when you place it in a document and sometimes not, depending on how light the background is. But no matter if you can see it or not, it still isn’t white, and shouldn’t be printed on a white paper until some editing is done, unless you want splotches of off-white everywhere around your pretty picture. This takes a few steps, depending on whether your paper color choice with the publisher is white or cream. I chose cream at first, then went to white. More on that in a minute.

If your choice is cream, you have to delete the entire background of the image and render it as a .gif so that it goes transparent and doesn’t look like it’s suspended in cream space or, at the very least, needs a border. I chose not to do this because not only is it tedious with as many illustrations as I have, but rendering an image as a .gif can have unwanted results when saved in a .pdf file, which CreateSpace wants your files to be. I did a few .gifs originally, which looked great in Word, but when I opened it up in Adobe they looked like they had a frightening case of whitepox. Bad. So yeah, I decided to skip the cream paper alltogether and go with white, which is a lot safer and easier… if not as pretty.

For white paper, you just need to color the background of your image white. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, since, as I mentioned before, you can’t always tell the difference between white and your illustrations off-white, so you’re bound to miss a few spots. Some people like to color in the background darker first or darken the whole image so that they know what they’re coloring. This might be a good idea, though I myself don’t do it since I’m lazy. I just stand up and look at the image from a different angle; the monitor sees what you can’t, and shows it to you if you look at it right.

So, that’s why I’ve been neglecting you lately. I hope this blog made up for it, and saved some of you some of the pain I’ve been through. But it will SO be worth it!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

ETA: My brilliant fiance’ just reminded me that there’s no such thing as white ink. I have to do yet another *facepalm* here. So yeah, if you color your image background entirely white, it will still work for cream paper as well.

I’m going to go… rest… now.

One Response to “My Self-Publishing Adventure, Day 5… or 6… or… Whatever”

  1. […] when publishers and agents want a writer to promote themselves, and as I have said before it takes tenacity and professionalism to […]

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