Working from home has presented its own benefits and problems.
Benefit – my commute is from my bedroom to the study.
Problem – My study is now my work area.
Back in the day, before the wu-flu, Work was Work and Home was Home. Sure, I’d be on call some weeks, but there was still a geographical distinction between the two. On the bike, ride on the road for an hour, get to the big, grey building, do the thing, talk to the people, eat the lunch, do more of the thing, ride on the road again. Home, sweet home, was waiting for me.
Now, not so much. Something has changed.
When I was first working as a freelancer, I found out that sectioning off a room by closing a door was beneficial, though inadequate. A door makes a difference, to be sure, but that was before children, and children, like pets, have a knack for opening the damn things and busting the whole illusion wide open. Next thing you know, the one bleeds into the other and your Work is your Home and your Home is your Work.
Hork. Wome. <Shudder>
What to do? What to do? I’ve got a massive novel coming up, and I need to concentrate. I need to rid myself of the distractions, the ringing phone, the annoying refrigerator noises, the cat, the ‘oh, can you just-‘…
What to do, indeed. So there’s a table out the front, on the patio, tucked around the side:
It catches the afternoon sun. The plants attract all manner of insects. The birds come and have a drink from the water barrel a little over the way. Cars race past, kids ride on bikes, nannas walk the streets. And you know what? It’s awesome!
Sure, I have to vacuum up the cat hair before I sit down. Sure, I have to clean the dust off the surface, otherwise the laptop is crunchy underneath. Sure, I have to slap on Aeroguard and light citronella candles to prevent the mozzies from chewing my legs to a pulp, but damn, it’s a really good place to write.
Dead set, I reckon since I’ve started out there, I’m getting 2000 words in a session, easy. The other, other day it was 5k. Totally chuffed. I reckon I’ll get this Darkness from Below finished in no time.
Let that be a lesson to you. If you can’t close a door, open one, and go outside.
I’ve used the same general layout for the Paranormology series – Two thirds picture at the top, one third writing at the bottom. The top is of the haunted building. The bottom contains the title and author upon a close up of some of the material making up the structure.
The Smashwords guidelines specify a minimum width of 1400 pixels, with a height greater than the width. I use 1400 x 2278. For the lower section, I’ve chosen a piece of wall with some cracks and flaking paint:
After that, I’ll add in the title and the author, along with a flourish to separate the two. I used the font Augustus because it was narrow and crisp. I’ve made a duplicate of the writing layer to have a slight coloured rim around the lettering.
Now that’s alright by itself, but the brickwork needed to be contrasted a tad more with the writing, so I added a glow to it, reduced the contrast and added in a purple and yellow wash. I then put a shroud on the outside and bordering the two images, to give it a slightly darker look.
I threw in some faint plasma for a swirling, mystic look and finally added some snow at the bottom panel to tie it all in. The result:
If you have a search on the web for ‘create a damn audiobook’, you will inevitably stumble across ACX, Amazon’s Audiobook Creation eXchange. You read up on how it all works.
Looks like it functions as a collective of authors, narrators and producers, ready to put together a bunch of audiobooks. More than this, there are options, man, options! I’m a fan of options. Not too many, because then you get overwhelmed, but I like to be able to choose what suits me.
As a narrator, for example, you can sign yourself up and get a gig doing the reading side of things. As an author, you can put your book up to be read. Sounds pretty good so far. But what if, as an author, I want to narrate it myself? Sure thing, that’s fine, too.
Great. Let’s go with this. How does the royalty side of things work? Well, there are three options – either pay outright for a narrator to read my book, share the royalties of the book with the narrator, or do it myself. Easy.
I like the idea that I can collaborate with someone to do the narrating. Some of my larger books, see, would be a struggle for me, so I wouldn’t mind sharing the royalties at all. It’s one of those win-win situations.
So I go through the motions, sign up, look at the different options, figure out how I’m going to do it, and there’s a decent page on how to encode the sound files. There’s also the necessary part of reading out the title and author and narrator (they’re very particular about this) and the closing statement (must contain ‘The End’) and things like that. All good, I can handle this just fine.
I’ve gone over my files, encoded them properly, made them mono rather than stereo, checked the size, formats, added the top and tail, checked the amplification… all the chapters there? Yup. All sound right? Yup. What about the credits? Yup. It’s all looking good. Then… disaster.
In one of the little forms I need to fill in, I select from a drop-down that I’m from Australia. Uh, why is there a red box showing? What does that say? Oh, wow, really? ‘Unfortunately, at this time, ACX is only servicing citizens of the UK and the USA.’
I live in neither.
There I was, dangling high and dry like an octopus on a clothesline, wondering if I’d just blown all that work for nothing. All the building of the booth and the microphone and the mistakes and blunders, was it all for nought?
“No,” I think, “That’s ridiculous. There has to be another way.” Another way… Can I find another way?
Funnily enough, I did. And it’s called ‘Findaway‘.
A quick update on the whole ‘getting things from Amazon US into Australia because I can’t buy my own book to check if it’s actually properly configured’ thing.
I don’t remember just how much of the story I’ve gotten through, but from my hazy memory, the last point I was at was somewhere around making the purchase.
As a recap, KDP allows the author to purchase ‘author copies’ of their books – they aren’t for resale, but you can purchase them to make sure the end product is as you’d like. That’s kind of cool because, unlike Lulu, KDP doesn’t force you to buy it at retail. Instead it offers the author copy at cost price, which is an incentive to do the last, final check.
Anyways, I had issues where I couldn’t get the items from Amazon Australia because of something to do with the GST, so I purchased from Amazon US, and had the items shipped to MyUS, which is a US forwarding service based in Florida with all dem gators (And a I wish you all the best, Florida, for the impending storm!).
Well I waited. And waited. Then I got an email a few days later from Amazon saying that my payment was declined. Strange, but it’s not the first time. I tried a different card and waited and waited, then got another email saying the payment was declined. Weird. What’s going on? So I tried using PayPal but, nope, PayPal and Amazon don’t like each other, what with the whole online market rivalry thing between eBay and Amazon.
I also got another email from Amazon warning me that if I didn’t finalise the order, it would be dismissed from my cart and I’d have to start it all again. Bum.
SO I added another card and crossed my toes and fingers and nostrils (very tough job, that) and waited, and presto! It worked! My stuff was despatched. Alrighty, now that should be it, right?
Nup. The package eventually arrived at MyUS, and I got an email, but when I went to look for it, it wasn’t there. I had a number, it had tracking, but it wasn’t coming up in the list. More than this, the automatic payment (from PayPal) was apparently declined. Say what? Yup, once again, payment was declined. What was the payment, anyway? SOMEWHERE IN THE ORDER OF $100!
Are you serious? Really? How can it cost $100 to send 4kg from the US to AUS? Mumble, bloody grumble. Seriously, ok, fine, I’ve dipped my toes in the water, I may as well jump in and get eaten by the sharks. I tried again with PayPal, no dice. I tried once more, using a different card, still nothing.
I used their chat widget and spoke to some guy, ready to just say ‘keep the damn package, this is all just too hard.’ Well, I must save Ivan, the service guy, helped me out there, and he tried to do the payment and, again, no deal, because apparently PayPal had already sent the payment. Say what? Yup. Paypal had already made the payment.
So he escalated it to the developers or something and told me to wait a day. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Another day, another email, and it looks like payment has been taken, and MyUS has shipped on the order. Wait. Waiiiit. They’ve taken the payment twice. So now I’m nearly $200 in the hole and sick of the whole thing.
In the end, it took a week to get the payment refunded, about a day before the goods actually arrived. They arrived? Yes, yes they did. After an exhausting excursion into the world of logistics, I’m now a bit wiser and my wallet is a lot lighter.
The deadline to get Portsmouth Avenue Ghost up on pre-release was the 21st of November. I hit that deadline. Great. Yay me. Well, I didn’t hit it as much as I flopped messily against it, exhausted, frustrated and strung-out. With everything else that’s going on, the point of hitting the ‘upload’ button on Smashwords felt like an afterthought.
Who made that deadline, anyway? What’s the point of it? Why bother putting myself through the wringer just to hit some arbitrary date scrawled on a whiteboard? Doesn’t that turn writing into a chore?
Let me answer those one by one: I made the deadline. I made a date for the first draft. Then, when I reached that, I made a date for the second, then the third and also for the cover. Finally I made the deadline for the pre-release.
The point is that by making dates and tracking my progress, I force my focus onto getting that task done. I then prioritise writing over, say, playing video games or watching television. The priority game also comes into play when I’ve got other creative tasks on the menu, like making You Tube videos or drawing or painting or crafting.
Sounds good, right? Keeping myself on track, avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination and distraction. It’s more than that, though. There’s this thing called Reality.
Most decisions are beyond me. It’s often not a matter of ‘I can do this, or I can do that’, rather it’s ‘I must do this and I must do that’. See the difference?
The real question is why do I threaten my health and sanity just to reach some uninteresting date imposed by no one other than myself? It’s quite simple, really. I have commitments. I have to work, no questions. I have to take care of my family, no questions. I have to deal with emergencies and chores and errands and last-minute things. There’s no choice about that.
If I want anything of my own to be accomplished, then I have to afford it a status of ‘has to be done’, otherwise it can’t compete against the rest.
And, yes, it does turn writing into a chore. If I was writing for myself or for a friend, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m writing for a bunch of people I’ve never even met. I’m putting my name to a book that can be read by some guy on the other side of the world and he expects that what he gets passes a basic standard, and, more than that, expects it to be entertaining or informative. He won’t be as forgiving as a friend or relative. My credibility is directly linked to his enjoyment of it.
You’re damn right it’s a chore. It’s bloody hard work!
Imagine you’re making a batch of home-brew beer. There’s the cleaning and the sterilising, and the washing and the cooking, checking up on it, then the bottling and capping and storing it all under the house and checking again at intervals. It’s hard work, for sure, and one could easily pop down to the store and buy a slab, but that’s not the point, is it?
Deep down we want to create something. We want to put ourselves into what we do, express ourselves creatively, make something from nothing. That’s being human. Not all creative endeavours benefit others, of course, but those that do must be taken seriously.
A sketch on a napkin or a ditty in one’s head remain just as they are until they get turned into something ‘real’, in that they get taken seriously. The ditty gets engineered into a song. The sketch gets worked into a painting. Time and effort, lots of both, must be spent making something from nothing, creating things that never existed before we applied what God gifted us. Otherwise those little bursts of creativity stay on that scrunched up napkin and eventually get forgotten about.
Believe me, it’s all too easy to pretend that it doesn’t matter. You can think, “Ah, I’ll miss it by a day. Big deal.” It is a big deal. I’ve missed many deadlines and, each time, I kidded myself that there was nothing more that could have been done.
Each time there was something I could have done. Without exception, every time I looked back, with honest eyes, and understood that I had left things too late, wasted time at the beginning of my project, spent too much effort doing trivial tasks. I could have done more and I could have done it better. Criticising myself retrospectively (another useful tool) means that, now, I reach my deadlines.
Deadlines are a front-line weapon against Entropy. They are an essential tool to make stuff real. Use them honestly and they’ll keep you honest.
And is set to splash its way all across your e-reader? Tedrick!
That’s right, everyone’s favourite octopus detective is due for release tomorrow, 1st of June!
OMG! I’ll be holding my own little celebration, but I can’t celebrate for too long, no sir. There are too many things to do. I’m still getting AMS to play ball, and then there’s the hardcopy to finalise, and distributions. Man, it almost makes me wish I had multiple limbs! Sorry, Ted, I know you’re still smarting about your missing arm.
You can find Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef at the Amazon store here, for the price of a cup of coffee. And once I’ve passed the required number of days, I’ll publish to Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Google Play. Or you can download the mobi or pdf and import that into your reader – I’ve heard that works.
Thanks for sticking with me on this ride. I’ll continue with the hardcopy KDP journey in a day or two, once I’ve shaken off the darkwater hangover.
Left you hanging on the uploading of the manuscript. My apologies. Had to get foreign character printing fixed on Epson printers. Long story, don’t ask.
This is where your hard work shaping the cover will pay off. You’ve made the front and the back cover, in the correct dimensions, so all that’s left to do is upload those two images.
Here, you’ll find Lulu’s cover creator. It’s fairly intuitive, although a tad clunky. Hey, it does the job. You’ll see that there are a few features, like Background and Themes. Ignore them if you have your title and author in the cover image. They’re good if you haven’t included these, and are just uploading a background image in the cover.
But you have, right? Cool. So, on the right pane, there’s the “Add Images” button in orange? Click it. Find your pictures and upload.
If your network connection is anything like mine, go and have a coffee while you wait. The maximum file size is 10MB, so if you’ve trimmed your pics to the right size, they’ll be good to go. Once they’ve uploaded, click Done and they’ll appear on the sidebar. This is a picture of a rather cool bird in the Melbourne Zoo.
And this is where the prefill gets ugly. If you’ve put your title as part of the image, click on the text box with your title and author and delete the text in the fields.
I don’t think you can delete the fields entirely, unless you go to Themes and pick ‘image only’, but I don’t bother. Clearing the text suffices.
Notice, too, that the barcode of the ISBN is already overlaid (The one in the picture is not a real ISBN). That’s where it’s going to live, so if your back cover ain’t right, fix it and re-upload.
Tidy up and Blurb it up!
Clearing the text in the front page text boxes is fine, but you’ll still have those camera images hanging around. Don’t worry about them. They are there if you’ve picked a theme that has multiple picture areas. Anyway, they won’t show up in the final cut. If they really bug you, click on the Theme tab and choose a front page theme with no picture inserts.
On the back cover (on the left), you’ve got a ready made text box. Use this for your blurb if you haven’t included it in the image, otherwise leave the field blank.
Click on the ‘Preview’ button on the bottom right, and you’ll be taken to the preview screen.
Not bad, not bad. The little dashed lines are the ‘trim‘ lines, so anything outside of them will be lost. Remember that. Note that this still isn’t the finished product. If you’re happy with the overall job, hit “Make Print-Ready Cover”. This will transfer all of the information into one big PDF, and you’ll get to review that in the next step.
Which reminds me: If you’re not satisfied with the manuscript or the cover at any stage, even AFTER you’ve published, you can go back and change it. Just know that Lulu insists that you check your book carefully to make any necessary changes BEFORE you publish.