What a journey! There’s always a sense of sadness when I come to the end of writing a book. That’s not the only emotion, mind you. There’s fear, lots of that. Fear that it isn’t enough. Fear that there are spelling mistakes and grammatical farts all the way through. Fear that the characters aren’t defined enough, or too much, or that I’ve pushed too hard in the wrong direction and the audience just isn’t going to like it. Fear. Squid-loads.
There’s also a growing anticipation, something like excitement, only it’s a slow burn. Like a forest fire burning beneath the soil burn. The ground is hot, it’s hard to sleep, my heart palpitates and skips every now and then. Of course, that could easily be the coffee or the gin, or the coffee mixed with gin. Or good ol’ fear, because that never really goes away. But it is exciting and it is something to look forward to and it’s one of those times when I can push a button, upload the files to be published and sit back and allow myself a smile. Sure is a lot of excitement in there.
What else is there, what else? There’s exhaustion, yup. And trepidation or anxiousness or nervousness, however you want to describe it. Embarrassment? Oh, yeah, there’s that. You probably wouldn’t think it, but it’s there. Heck, someone merely reads out the title and my cheeks flare and my mind to starts swimming about and my mouth goes even more babbly than usual. Thick skin? Me? Hardly. Maybe calloused is a better word.
Iris of the Shadows is finished, ready to face the big, wide, scary world. There’s nothing left but to start the process of publishing – there’s the blurb, the synopsis, and the front cover to do, along with figuring out where it sits on a book-shelf. There’s also the page layout for Lulu, the shortcuts for Smashwords, the promoting and pre-launch and, oh, so much more to do!
But, over all of this, there’s a sense of sadness. The writing has come to an end. There’s no more, not unless I want to slaughter the story and cram more chapters into it and bloat the crud out of it. It has grown, been pruned, grown more, had accidents and chunks taken out of it. It’s time to see what it can do, time to test whether all the effort was worth it or not. Is there really anything more I can do? No, like a child turning of age, the book has to get its own home, find a job, get married and have its own kids. Or, at the very least, start helping with the laundry and maybe cook a meal once a week.
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.
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!
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.
Head-down-bum-up. That’s the story of the past year, and, for the past month, it has been head-downer-bum-even-more-upper. The pace only gets faster the closer one gets to finishing.
To tell you the truth, I’m knackered.
I’m stoked to see it up. I’m stoked to have hit the target I set for myself. I’m stoked that the hardest part is behind me.
Wait, you mean there’s more?
Well, yeah. There’s always more. Now that it’s Portsmouth Avenue Ghost is up for pre-release, I need to convert it and set it up on Amazon, and then convert it again (and the cover) to post to Lulu. In addition, I need to order a copy and ensure that it’s correct in my Kobo reader, do the ISBN, give it a final check and then repeat that for the Lulu side of things.
And then I need to adjust the Paranormology series page, image and make a post there, too, and update the links as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes receive the distribution.
It doesn’t end just because I’ve done the upload.
On top of that, I’m not 100% happy with the cover, so I’ll need to get some tweaking done before the release.
Still, it’s up. It’s up, and I’m going to have a break for a day to rezone. In the meantime, enjoy! You can find the book at:
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.
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:
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:
And the positioning of the ISBN comes out trumps as well. Chuffed with that. The spine looks like this:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
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.
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!
In the previous post, I spoke about how to get the cover to play ball. By downloading the template you will save yourself a lot of trouble, but how does one use it?
I like GIMP. A lot. I know there are other graphics programs that do a lot of stuff easily but GIMP has just been my go-to and probably always will be. Hats off to the developers.
Anyway, to use the template, open it in GIMP.
You’ll notice on the right hand side there’s the “Layers” pane. I added my front, spine and rear layers underneath. By adjusting the transparency of the top-most layer (the template) I can see how I fit in the guidelines at any time:
To turn off the top layer altogether, when I’m working on things directly, click the eyeball next to the layer. Also use this for when you’re exporting your final image.
Note the rear: I’ve kept the blurb clear of the barcode area because KDP, like Lulu, will automatically stick a barcode on that spot. Can you change it? No. Why not? Because it’s a standard spot and there’s really no reason to have it customisable. It’s like software engineering, really. Yes, it probably could be customisable, and we could put a whole lot of man-hours to getting the darn thing to be on the other side, or rotated, or put on the top, or the spine. We could do that, yes. Or – OR – we could not, and recognise that it’s not really an issue and state very simply that that’s where the barcode goes and apply the developers to better, more important tasks.
Sorry. One of the most annoying phrases as an engineer I hear is, “Can we make it customisable?” Rant over. Moving right along. Where was I?
Ah, yes, the template. So you’ll see, straight away, that the eBook cover is not going to work. It doesn’t have a spine. It doesn’t have a rear. You’ll need to knock those up. I used a picture of Eel Grove for the rear, because it’s a dark image and sits well against the light blurb.
For the spine, I whipped up an underwater theme, graduating from the light to waves to the dark reef-bed. The text had to be rotated to run down the spine, and I added a slight drop-shadow to help with the contrast.
When it was all done and I was chuffed with how it looked, I exported it. KDP wants it as a PDF. Gimpy can do this, no sweat, but the resulting PDF file is 17 MB. For you spring chickens, that ain’t such a thing, but I remember the time when our harddrive was 40MB all up, and the speed of a modem of 1200 bps.
Anyhow, I uploaded it to KDP and sat back.
Oh. Poop. What have I done? The preview window on the KDP form looks… terrible. It’s like it’s.. it’s… it’s the tiniest bit on the bottom of the spine.
That’s what it looked like.
What has gone wrong? I’ll tell you. There’s a thing called DPI, or Dots Per Inch. Don’t worry too much about the details, but when I saved the image to PDF, it saved the data in a rather stretched format.
Back to Gimpy-boy (Yes, I call it Gimpy-boy):
Open up the Print Resolution dialog and the mystery is revealed. See that width / height? That’s because, translating pixels to ‘dots’ on a page means that I’ve made my picture stupidly large. Aha!
I adjusted the X and Y resolution from 72 DPI to 300 DPI and the width and height went to 9.25″ x 12.88″.
But the book is only 6 x 9, right? Yes, true, but we’re working off the template and we need to include trim and all of that. Anyway, 9.25″ is hella closer than 38″! Phew!
OK, so export to PDF again, re-upload and cross all digits and tentacles…
In the previous post I told you how I decided to try out KDP’s Create Space for the paperback version of Tedrick Gritswell.
In this episode, I’ll walk you through the uploading of the manuscript because it needs some examination, then start on the cover.
Once I had the physical output determined:
I formatted my table of contents and added in the ISBN as per Lulu’s instructions – it’s a simple enough template to follow, and I’m not about to deviate. Then I uploaded it.
Well, wasn’t that fun? I will argue that Lulu’s uploading mechanism is much cleaner and easier – you feel ‘safe’ as you go along. I will also argue that Amazon’s engine is quite advanced and did a lot of processing to make sure that my manuscript fit into its guidelines.
We can see some different approaches here: To be approved for GlobalReach, the onus is on you to make sure your book is in the right format, has the right dimensions, has the right ISBN and author and copyright, has the right pagination and table of contents. There are good resources of how to go about that, including my previous posts, so it’s not such a bad thing. It also means that you, as the publisher, are responsible for getting it right and they make sure you purchase a proof for you to check over before you can set your book free to the world.
KDP, on the other hand, takes a different approach. You upload your manuscript and it gets processed by a bunch of verifiers and validators, custom engines that grab your PDF by their dog-eared corners and shake them about, making sure its up to standard. Not that you’ll see what’s going on, but it does give prompts.
When mine came out the other end, there were many errors that were picked up, including the size of the document. The cool thing was, the engine did its best to modify my manuscript to conform to the required dimensions because, yup, I’d forgotten to set the dimensions of my page before exporting to PDF!
Why does this matter? Because by changing the size, I change the layout and flow, and the pages will, as a result, not be the same. And it seemed to get that. I’d like to try it again just to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it actually updated the page numbers and the table of contents for me. So a big tick here for Amazon on that front.
It makes sense, if you think about it. If they had to manually review all of the manuscripts coming up for quality and design issues, it would take about a day before someone hit the ‘F-It’ key and got a programmer to knock up an engine to weed out the most obvious issues before they reached a human. Nice.
Where it falls a little flat, though, is when I revised my manuscript, changed the dimensions to 6″ by 9″ and re-exported. The Auto-whatsit decided to over compensate and the inside margins of the book were too big. It took many iterations of trial and error to get it ‘just right’, which I did in the end. I think.
And that’s the other killer – currently KDP doesn’t offer the ability to purchase a proof at publishing prices. Lulu insists upon ordering one to make sure the end product is exactly what it needs to be, but there is no such facility on KDP. So I had to order my proofs as a normal purchase.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the cover.
Similar to Lulu, KDP gives you the option to DIY or to use their templates. I’ve found the templates fairly straight forward, but this time around I wanted to try the DIY approach.
To do this you can download a PDF or PNG with the dimensions of the front, spine and rear cover. Depending on the size of your book, you’ll get a different file, but the idea is that you have the width and height, along with a spine whose size depends on the number of pages and the paper weight. Mine looks like this (PDF): 6x9_Cream_270
As you can see, it’s broken into parts. You’ve got the front cover on the right, the rear on the left – which includes space for the ISBN barcode – and the spine itself.
Do you have to make your own barcode or include it as part of the rear-image? No, not at all. It will be auto-generated when you upload it. More on that later.
The important thing to notice here is the whole loosey-goosey nature of the cover. You have red areas, black dotted lines and broad white areas. Why not just a rectangle? Because books are imprecise. The stock is not the same from place to place. They are produced on whopping great big machines with whirling parts and clampy bits and things that go brrrrrrp! and each of those processes has tolerances.
When ordering proofs of my other books, I’ve noticed that, depending on where they are printed, the colour, cut, folding and finish is different. As such, you will need to allow for the guidelines they’ve given you. Yes, there is a good chance that anything in the red-zone before the black line will be visible, but don’t count on it. If it’s important, keep it in the white zone.
Also worth noting: If you’re a stickler for having things dead-centre, then prepare to pull your hair out. That buffer and trim at the right means that you will need to compensate your centreline on the front cover to be a squigion to the left. The same rule applies for the vertical direction. Don’t assume that you can grab your eBook version and slap it on the top.
Be prepared to fiddle, is all I’m saying. After you upload, examine the finished product carefully because it won’t be exactly as you had it.
Is that all? No, not really. There’s a fair bit more to go, actually. More in the next post.
In the interest of comparison with Lulu, I’m going to be documenting my experience with Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space for making the hardcopy version of my book.
Thankfully, Amazon supplies ISBNs. If you’re curious about how the whole ISBN thing works, have a read. I’m not about to go forking out big bucks for a number, so I’ll get a free one, thank you very much.
Tick the box and away you go. The ISBN is issues and it’s supposed to go… where? Good question. Thankfully, my experience with Lulu shows that it needs to be on the second page, after the title page, of your book, under the copyright notice.
I’m going to stick to this format, because it works. Speaking of format…
KDP doesn’t give you a visual guide for how the book will turn out. I guess it doesn’t really need to
The options chosen by default sound reasonable enough, but if you’re interested, like I was, in the other options, you can hover over the blue text and get hints. For the trim size, which is very important to get right, I needed to know what the book would look like in the end. Following the link in the hover-over, you get a table like this:
Whoa. Ok. Cool. You know what? Let’s just stick with 6″ x 9″ for now, yeah? If that’s the most popular, then why buck the trend?
Along with the dimensions, there’s also the paper type (cream, white) and the ink type (black, colour). I think I’ll go cream and black, please. One sugar. Ta.
Now, while we’re on the topic of formatting, I need to get the ebook manuscript and tidy it up, because, like Lulu, the upload to KDP recommends PDF. Makes sense. So, in OpenOffice, I need to set the page size and the margins:
Note the width and height are the same as those specified by KDP? Important point, that. I’ve also set the margin at 2cm to give a comfortable reading experience.
After this, I need to add in page numbers and chapters. I won’t reiterate that, since you can see how I did that here.
So far, we’re in similar waters, so that’s helpful. Upload to the KDP and let it do its thing.
Next comes the bit with the cover. Ooh, now with this, we can only upload a print-ready PDF. Lulu’s cover creator makes it pretty easy to do front, rear and spine, this might be a little more involved.
What day is it? The 23rd of December? Why that must mean…
Adaptation – Part 6 is out!
That’s right! The conclusion to the Adaptation series is finally out and up for your reading pleasure, on Amazon and iTunes and Barnes & Noble and Kobo and Google Play and, of course, direct from Smashwords. All the links, plus some interesting info about the final, can be found here.
Lulu? Yes, it actually is up on Lulu, but the GlobalREACH hasn’t been activated yet. Why not? Because I made the mistake of thinking that shipping (for confirmation) would be fast at Christmas time. No disrespect to the guys at Lulu, that was totally my bad.
Once the copy has been approved by yours truly, it will be distributed and available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in paperback, but until then you can actually buy it direct from Lulu.
Many thanks to everyone who has helped me through this. Now it’s time for a bit of a break. All work and no play makes Jez a dull boy.