The Quality of the Merchandise

Forgot to mention yesterday about the quality of the print of the books that arrived.

I’ll start with Tedrick. I got Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef and Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves delivered so I can give a final check to the quality of the print. I have to say, I’m impressed. The stock used was a cream paper, nice and easy on the eyeballs, with a good sized font and proper looking margins.

I’m always concerned with the gutter, to make sure that when the book is opened, the words don’t get lost somewhere down in the spine. The guidelines of the KDP template help out there a lot and they point out, quite clearly, if words are going to be squished in the gutter.

The margins, too, are spacious and roomy, enough for fingers to hold without getting in the way. Where the print falls down, in my opinion, is on the cover. I’ve noticed a distinct difference with the brightness of the colours on the monitor versus those on print. The books seem to have their colours muted somewhat, like the ‘volume got turned down’.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the same image, it’s not altered at all, but the realisation into the physical world leaves a little something back in the digital world. I’m sure there’s a term for this.

The Adaptation book is a whopper. It’s printed on white paper with 9.5 point font, 0.5 points below the recommended minimum. That was the absolute largest I could use without blowing the pages out past the maximum of 800. I also used a custom font that squished the words up a fraction more. Each chapter title also uses a custom font to match the title cover.

This was a bit annoying because it means embedding the font into the final PDF. If I didn’t do that, the font would default to something else, and I’d gain an extra few pages and push past the limit. Embedded the font ain’t so bad – it makes the PDF larger, of course, but that makes it longer upload.

The cover came out better than I expected. The charcoal of the carbon-fibre comes up good against the cyan and orange. The back holds a likeness of yours truly in a little circle. The print quality is nice and the matt cover has a definite feel to it.

The only thing that annoys me is the slim margins and small font size. I would have preferred to go to, say, a thousand pages with a thicker margin and 11 point font but, unfortunately, the Laws of Physics only extend so far.

My US? No thanks.

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.

I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

Whoopsy – I totally missed it.

Checklists are awesome. Whenever I’m working on a project, I make a checklist. I take the time to fill it out, put down all the things to do. Bigger tasks get broken into smaller tasks, with their own box of course, and I get a sense of accomplishment ticking them off.

It’s not only the feeling of progression that helps me along – it’s a genuine reminder of exactly what needs to be done. If I’m interrupted at any stage, which is more often than I’d like to admit, then I can revert back to my list and find out where I was at. I’ve tried relying on my memory. Doesn’t work. I struggle to remember what I did yesterday let alone what I was doing last week.

Considering book-work is in terms of months and even years, checklists are crucial.

The problem with them is that they only work if they are followed. You can see where this is going. When I published my last title, Portsmouth Avenue Ghost, I got everything done, on time, and was pretty chuffed with the end result. Only thing is, it wasn’t the end.

First draught – check. Second – check. Third, Run Through and Final? Check. Cover – check. All the way to publishing it to Kindle and Google and Smashwords. Gravy.

What did I miss, then? The rotten hard-copy, of course! Sheesh!

Doh Homer Simpson Quotes On Quotestopics - Homer Simpson D ...

I’ll head over to Lulu and get cracking on this now. If all goes smoothly, it should be up in a couple of weeks. It will mean that Tedrick gets put on ice for a few days, poor guy, but if I don’t do it now, fast-forward to November and watch me pull my hair out.

Nah. I don’t need to be any more like Homer.

KDP – The End Result

After doing all the setup and tweaking and uploading and tweaking again, I got to the point where I could actually submit the book for publishing.

As I’ve already explained, while CreateSpace does allow Author copies, Amazon does not. No big deal, let’s just order the damn book already and make sure it looks as it should.

Postage to Australia is a bit on the hefty side so I ordered a couple of copies, clicked on the PayPal button, forked over the cash and sat back.

And waited.

Not that long, it turns out. The estimate was about three to four weeks, but the book arrived in two. I’m guessing they err on the side of caution, and it’s a bit of a bonus when you get that big, fat package in the mail and you know what it is, even though it’s early. Oh, the excitement!

So how did it go? Did it work out? See for yourself:

TedrickGritswellHardcopy

Ta-da! Not bad, not bad. I quite like the matte texture of the cover. That’s a nice option. I’m used to a glossy one, but I think the feel comes out alright although the darks are very dark indeed. It’s always the way – how things appear on the screen is not a true indication of how they’ll come out when printed, and that’s true of every book I’ve printed.

You can see this more clearly on the rear, where there’s a lot of dark:

TedrickRear.jpg

And the positioning of the ISBN comes out trumps as well. Chuffed with that. The spine looks like this:

IMG_20170704_130713.jpg

It doesn’t come up too clearly in the shot, but the front bleeds about a millimeter or two onto the spine. Nothing drastic, but it does demonstrate that you cannot have absolutes in your printing – always assume that the cover might shift a little this way or that, and don’t stick anything sensitive onto the edges.

Internally:

TedrickInside.jpg

Yup, that’s cool. I like the choice of cream over blanch white, it feels better and the print isn’t so hard on the eyeballs. I’m glad I fiddled with the margins so much. You can see that the distance fro the spine to the text is comfortable, not squished into the binding, and the distance from the outer to the edge is also comfortable.

The ISBN and front matter is all good. I don’t mind the table of contents, that’s fine. There is an extra page or two at the back (not shown here) with “Made in the USA, San Bernadino, CA.” Which is interesting. I think Lulu out-sources its printing to be closer to the point of delivery, whereas – guessing here and please correct me if I’m wrong – Amazon would have its own presses.

In future, I might consider putting page numbers at the bottom, leaving the chapter heading at the top. We’ll see.

So that’s that! The process is similar in many ways to how Lulu does things, with certain differences involved, mostly around the uploading and proofing side of things. KDP is not heavily restrictive in the way it does things and there are some smarts that help you out along the way.

If you’ve got any questions, just drop me a line.

Happy writing!Mini Jeztyr Logo

KDP – The Cover Pt II

Last post I uploaded the front cover to the KDP creator. I had blundered in that the DPI or dots per inch setting was at a default of 72, rather than the required 300. Changing the DPI to 300, re-exporting to PDF and then uploading resulted in the following:

KDP2.PNG

Check through the list on the right. The markup within the table of contents was removed, without affecting the table, so that’s fine. Also, it asks you double check the Author, ISBN and Title. Good idea. Do that. Character for character.

Hey, there’s even a 3D view:

KDP3.PNG

Woohoo! Looks pretty good. The automatic whatsit that Amazon has going stopped complaining about the size of the PDF since it now closely matched the dimensions of the book itself.

You can look through the pages, and I would strongly encourage you to. Why? Because the PDF you uploaded will not be what gets used. Observe:

KDP4.PNG

If you look closely, the border closer to the spine is greater than the border against the edge. I used a 1cm border in the PDF, Amazon has automatically added in an extra padding on the spine. This is a good thing, since it will mean the words aren’t squished into the paper-fold.

I can’t guarantee it, but after playing with it for a bit (doing a few uploads to get it ‘just right’), I think that the engine is smart enough to recognise page changes and update the table of contents accordingly. Even so, check that each chapter in the TOC matches the actual page for the Chapter. It’s a small task that will save you having to apologise to your readers for a dodgy TOC.

Once I was happy with it, I hit the ‘Approve’ button. Click

Ahh.

So life is grand, right? I’ve uploaded the manuscript, I’ve uploaded the front cover as a PDF, it’s looking pretty much how I want it, all I need to do now is order a proof.

What’s a Proof?

Electronic eBooks are cool because, hey, what you see is what you get. You can pop your ePub or PDF or mobi file onto your favourite reader and have a look-see to make sure it’s all fine and dandy like cotton candy. Of course, different readers with different dimensions will display things differently, but you can rest easily knowing that the software does a best effort to make stuff look and read properly.

Not so with printed books. Paper ain’t that advanced.

And while PDFs are fantastic for viewing something as a bunch of pages, the conversion to a hardcopy means extra padding on the inside of each page, a few extra pages added for the actual printing house and physical constraints applied because of the thickness of paper, the stock used, etc.

In other words, once you’ve done all the work uploading your masterpiece, you need to order a proof to make sure that it – it being the actual book what gets pumped out by the presses and will land into the laps of your audience – looks and feels and even smells like you want it.

Yes, smells. There actually is a difference in smells between books. I’m not sure if it’s the cover or the paper or a combination or just something in the manufacturing process, but there certainly is a smell associated with a new book.

Lulu strongly encourages ordering a proof. They will not allow you to use Global Reach without you having ordered and actually looked at a copy of your book. For this, they will let you order it at cost price.

I personally make a habit of buying at least two so I can keep one and give one away as a present.

What about Amazon? No. You cannot purchase a proof, even though you own the book.

Say what?

Let me clarify: There is no facility for ordering a proof at cost price. You will pay the full price of your book.

But… but I made the damn thing!

I know, I know. Believe me, I know. It’s yours. You did it. You made it. Why do you have to sell it to yourself?

It turns out Create Space, by itself, does allow author copies. And while Amazon uses Create Space to manage your hardcopies, it does not allow you to purchase author copies.

So what happens if you wanted to print off, say, 1,000 copies and distribute them yourself in a vanity-publishing style venture? You’re up for either ordering the 1,000 copies at full price or temporarily discounting the book to cost, ordering, then raising the price back up. Either way, it’s ugly.

This is a two-sided story. Personally I believe that author copies should be allowed, and encouraged, and even enforced like Lulu does. I can see, though, that purchasing your own book at full price does affect the ranking of the book, and rightly so. A purchase is a purchase, regardless of who made the original purchase.

And before you ask, no, I’m not an expert on how Amazon does the rankings. I’m sure it’s time based and it’s also categorically based – that is, you have different rankings for different categories – but as for how the numbers get calcumalated, I can only say that more sales -> better rank.

Also, depending on the royalty rate, you’ll get some of the money you spent back. Icky, I know, but maybe it’s Amazon’s way of avoiding rank-diddling by someone with a hefty cashroll. Eh. Dunno.

So, after all of that, I picked up my credit card, and ordered my own book. You won’t believe what happened next!

Nah, you prolly will.

Mini Jeztyr Logo