Manifesting the Ghost

They hide behind corners, slipping away as you turn your head and stare at the spot where you could have sworn something was. They crawl through the roof spaces, making soft scuffles as they dance over the insulation and under the wiring. They flit about at night above your head, just out of reach, disappearing in the morning light only to reappear in the next evening.

They are always there, always snapping at your brain, whispering as loudly as they can, vying with each other for a few seconds of your attention. You can entertain them or ignore them, it doesn’t matter, they will persist, for there is nowhere else for them to be, nothing else for them to do.

Then you pick one. You sneak up on it while it shies away, corner it. Sometimes you are scared of what you see, what you feel. It’s a blasphemy, a curse. It’s hideous. It’s ugly. It’s downright sinful. Other times you find a curious, almost enlightening sense of wonder. There’s something different about this one. You hold onto it, teasing it, ignoring the others that hiss jealously. This one, you think, wanted to be caught because it’s special.

You don’t know why it is special, it just is, and you know it. You couldn’t pick it up and show it to anyone and ask them, because as soon as you did so, it would melt away in your hands and you’d be left with nothing but shadows. How many have gotten away like this? How many are so swift as to erase themselves altogether, never to be seen again.

They can come back, though. Not often, but they do return. Like an old friend, you feel emboldened to dispense with the usual superficial nonsense and let it do the same. It envelopes you, moves through you, becomes you. It shares secrets and steals yours. Such familiarity is dangerous, dangerous yet necessary. Once you have it in your power, or the other way around, you can bring it into this world.

There’s the necessary groundwork. Rituals, incantations, sacrifices – oh, so many sacrifices! You do it in the dark, in quiet nooks where no one disturbs you, late at night, cheered on and jeered at by the others. You emerge, each morning, with bloodshot eyes and raspy voice, stumbling and weak. Yet you persist, because you have a purpose and you must finish it. Even if it all turns to dust, you must finish it.

But why? Why go through the pain? To what end? To the end of so many human pursuits – to create. To make something where there was nothing. To share with others a discovery, a riddle, a joke. To do, to be, and let it, too, do and be. For to ignore it would be akin to murder, only that which never lived can never truly die. By symmetry, perhaps that which has died may yet live?

And once you have brought it forth, you are responsible for its welfare, for it did not ask to be in this world, that was all you and you must be prepared for everything it will do, everything it will be. So your destinies are entwined from that point onward. Don’t be scared, it’s yours to command, within reason. That is the reward for the price you pay.

Stumpy Gets a Front Cover

Tedrick is on his way! I’ve uploaded the final draft at Smashwords, Kindle and Google Play now, and I’ve set the preorder date as the 13th of August, 2019. So that means that, as of now, Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves is up Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google and iTunes. That gives me a bit of time to iron out all the kinks.

Kinks? What possible kinks? The physical copy, that’s always a drainer. Then there’s the final-final check of the formatting and like. Then there’s the front cover. It’s just a matter of getting an image, slapping a title and author in comic sans and that’s job done, right?

Yeah. Nah. You see, the requirements of each platform is different. There are minimum sizes, recommended sizes, form factors, resolutions, margins and bleed. All of that. Which is why the keener eyed among you (probably of octopus stock) can spot that the digital cover and the hardcopy cover are, in fact, different.

Smashwords requires a minimum width of 1400 pixels, with the height ‘greater’ than the width. A bit loose. Amazon wants an ‘ideal’ 1:1.6 ratio, with a minimum of 1000 pixels, with a preferred width of 2500 odd. Google doesn’t really care, so long as the file is under 20MB. The hard copy depends upon the physical dimensions of the book, plus a margin and bleed. All in all it’s a tricky dance.

As such, the image needs to be painted bigger than normal. I went for a 1600 x 1800 dimension. I kind of missed the memo on Amazon’s ‘ideal’ stuff. Never mind, the process is still the same and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Using Corel Painter and my trusty Wacom tablet, I began with a sketch. In this episode, Tedrick isn’t so sure of himself, and there’s a bit where he’s hiding out from a vicious predator. I toyed with having the darkness of the Abyss stretching out before him, before scrapping that and wedging him in a crevice on the Reef. Above is shining and colourful, with happy fish flitting about and brain coral in pink clumps. Below is dirty and dark, menacing. Stumpy’s clinging on, somewhere in the middle.

One thing I really like about Corel is that you can have a play, see what you like, see what works, then undo it if you’ve muffed it, or slap on another layer to see what happens. I haven’t played with the full range of brushes available. There’s a ‘Real Watercolour’ I’m keen to try out, but I’ll have to wait for the next one, I guess. I’ve got more work ahead of me to get this book in order.

I’m off to get my squids in a row, wish me luck.

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!

Image result for d'oh

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 more like Homer.

ISBNs and All That Jazz

When you publish your eBook, you can assign an ISBN to it. You know that butt ugly barcode that’s sitting on the back of a book? That’s the one. In digital format, you don’t need to worry about having a 13 digit set of numbers spoiling the view. After all, it’s just ones and zeroes, right?

In hard-copy format, it’s important to get it right.

Once you’ve got an ISBN, you it gets registered in a magical bucket in cloud-land denoting the title of your book and author and publisher and date. There are rules around them, and they cost money to get from Bowker, and they have a certain format and all of that. As an indie, I don’t particularly care too much for the details. All I know is:

a) I have to have one if I want to formally publish my title and

b) I have to have one if my book is going to live in a library or get distributed

Which are both things that I would like very much to do.

I can just use my eBook one, right?

No. You cannot. If you’ve gone to the Bowker website and purchased your own, that’s fine, and you can use that IF it hasn’t been tied to another book, even the ‘digital’ format of your book.

In essence, if it’s hard-copy, it’s not the same book as your digital copy. It’s a different, and therefore requires a different ISBN.

Publishers buy ISBNs in bulk, and get significant volume discounts, so they don’t mind the cost too much. Me? I can’t afford the price of a single ISBN for each book, so I use the free option available. That’s right: Smashwords and Lulu offer ISBNs to their authors for free.

What’s the catch? Well, you are still the author. You still own the book. You maintain all rights to it. What gets set is that SW or Lulu get put as the publisher. If you have a publishing house, or you want to become one, then a free ISBN is not what you’re after.

Do I have to have one?

No. You don’t. Smashwords will happily publish your book, but you cannot distribute it via iTunes or Kobo… they want an ISBN. It makes life easier. Which is fair.

The same goes for Lulu. You can make your book, print it, and have people buy from Lulu directly, but it cannot be included in libraries or pushed to all distributors.

Long story short: If you’re serious about publishing your book, you want an ISBN.

OK, I want an ISBN.

For Lulu, it’s important to have your ISBN before you upload your manuscript. Why? Because you need to follow format rules in order to be accepted for global distribution, and three of those concern the ISBN:

  1. You must include the ISBN on the first page in from your title page
  2. You must include the ISBN as a barcode on the back cover.
  3. The ISBNs included MUST match those of the book (goes without saying, but, you know)

Lulu will offer, as part of the book setup portion, your choice of free or BYO. Personally, as an independent author, I’m up for anything that makes it easier to publish, so I hit the free option. Then, within a second, you’ve got it. This number will be tied to your book. Copy it, paste it into the first page of your book (straight after the title) and you’re set.

To repeat: Get your book ready to be uploaded to Lulu first, then start you Lulu project, get your ISBN, put that into your book, then export it and upload it.

That’s rule #1 out of the way. We’ll get to barcodes and requirements for printing and distribution in the next few posts.Mini Jeztyr Logo

eBook to Hardcopy – Lulu

The Print On Demand option is very attractive for indie authors. We’re not rolling in dough. We haven’t got the patience or time to go running after a publisher or go chatting to distributors to please purchase these titles. We don’t care too much for storing boxes and boxes of our goods in the hope that, one day, we might offload them.

Enter Lulu

Yes, there are many operators out there, including Amazon, who offer Print on Demand and distribution through the major channels. Why Lulu? I found it professional, easy to use and the pricing of everything is up-front and honest.

You can get an estimate on the cost by the number of pages, and, based on the size of the book, you can figure out finer details like the spine width and overall dimensions.

How easy?

That easy. Select your book type, the size, put in the number of pages for a rough guide and you’re hot to trot! You don’t need to know the exact number of pages at this point, since this will be calculated when you upload the contents of the book. That’s later on.

Bulk orders are interesting. You’ll notice that for one, the base price is $8.25 per book. At the time of writing, if one orders a bulk lot of 30, the cost per book goes down to $7.60, that’s nothing to sneeze at. And for a run of 1200, the cost is down to $6 per unit.

Format

One thing to note is that only a few formats can be used if you want to distribute through other channels like Amazon and B&N. They are the ones with the little green tick.

A5 and square go through all channels but the Paranormology Series has been set up for the 10.79cm x 17.46cm (Pocketbook) which can be handled by Lulu and Amazon (feelsgoodman), but not by Barnes and Noble (sadpanda). This is a real shame, because the Pocketbook size is really convenient for novellas.

The other another important note is that the form factor is note the same between sizes. If you’ve got your front cover for your ebook in a particular dimension, you may need to go back and redesign / crop / bend / twist to get it to fit to the book’s dimensions.

Do you see that little button on the second panel that says, “Download Template”? That’s your friend. We’ll look at that in the next post along with uploading the content, ISBNs , and pricing.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Format, Distribution, Promotion…

Publishing Jolimont Street Ghost should have been a ‘crack a beer and take a week or two off moment’. After all, the hard stuff is done. Writing and editing and proofing and all of that stuff. Done. Front cover and page dimensions and blank space checks. Done. Converting and publishing and getting it approved. Done.

Then what?

Then comes the next part, the bit you really, really wish you could forget about. Jolimont Street Ghost was pushed up in digital format (a little early, but let’s not dwell) and, thanks to Smashwords’ awesome Channel system, it gets distributed to a lot of major players like iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo, along with newer ones like Scribd and Overdrive and Txtr.

Is there a glaring omission to this list? Amazon? One needs to do that oneself. That’s not a failing of Smashwords, rather that’s an annoying fact of Amazon. I won’t go into my usual rant, suffice to say it takes a bit more work to take what you’ve already done and distribute it elsewhere. Google Play? Same deal.

So to distribute it via the ‘other guys’, it’s a matter of copy-pasting a lot of the meta-data, title, series, author, ISBN, etc. and going through the motions on their sites, uploading in the correct formats – epub, png and pdf for Google, mobi and jpg for Amazon – and then submitting for their scrutinisation.

Other issues

The genre issue is a funny one. Seems everyone has their own way of doing it and, while there appear to be standards, not everyone uses them.

For example, with Paranormology, I believe it sits somewhere in a “Ghost” genre, rather than “Horror”, but that isn’t always available at all distributors. OK, so “Science Fiction” is too broad, “Paranormal” exists in one standard but not another. Sheesh! At this point it’s a best-effort approach, near enough is good enough, move on.

Tags. This is another point that has me confuddled and bewused. Some distributors like single words, others like phrases, some have unlimited tags, others a maximum. Don’t put the title in the tag, but try to keep tags similar to books of the same type… Yeah, again, I hit the Sheesh! button and give it a best effort once more.

Anything else?

Of course. This is just what needs to be done to get it up and out. After that, you need to download it all again in the various formats, to make sure the formatting ain’t up the wall. You see, converting your manuscript to ePub and Mobi and PDF and RTF can leave weird spacings or blank pages or dropped fonts, all of which looks unprofessional and is distracting to the reader.

My advice is to follow the Smashwords’ submission guidelines. Their converter is very decent and works like a charm so long as you stick to the guidelines. Sure, you can always re-submit if you need to but, trust me, you don’t want to.

After all, there’s a headless beer slowly getting warmer over there…Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Struggle of the Artist – Doubt

Imagine you are standing on a wooden stage. There is a big, thick curtain in front. On one side is a massive, nattering, rumbling crowd. On the other side is you, listening to the noise coming from the other side, stomach churning, twisting into knots.

There are lines of scuffed tape on the floor for where to stand, a couple of faceless people are twiddling this and that to the side, the heat from the overhead light is searing. You’re sweating. You’re biting your lip. The music starts.

The curtains lift.

SelfDoubt

Belief

And there you are. Ashamedly exposed, nowhere to hide, in front of an unforgiving crowd. For a moment you are blinded by the spotlight. You know not to squint but you do anyway. There are faces out there, not that you can pick any out. Even though you cannot see them, you can imagine that they are glaring at you, waiting for you to get your act on, ready to pounce if you mess it up.

You are exposed on stage in front of this crowd because you chose to be there. You, as an artist, believed that you had something worthwhile to share with everyone. That belief held you up all the way through and now, now you’re here, ready to show everyone.

Only you left your belief back in the change room.

Doubt

When belief is gone, doubt takes its place. Self-Doubt, the mighty demon, is always ready to tear down any misconceptions you had about your creations: It’s too simple, it’s too complex, they won’t get it, it is incomplete, there are mistakes.

The crowd will not forgive you. You will be ridiculed. Your name will be mud. You might as well walk away now before you go and make it worse.

How many creations are never shared with the world because of this anxiety?

It’s not trivial. Heck, writing a book was one thing. Publishing it was something else. The sweats took hold. My stomach danced a tango. For the next week after hitting the ‘publish’ button I was a wreck. I lost what little sleep was available to me. I couldn’t concentrate at work. Why?

By publishing, I had, in effect, stood out on stage while the curtains opened, baring myself to the world. This is me, I made that, and I sincerely hope you like it.

Biting the Bullet

Part of the artist’s struggle is maintaining the belief in themselves, fighting off the self-doubt, continuing on despite the looming possibilities of ridicule and shame.

The weird thing is that all the creative work is done. It’s the smallest step of getting it out there that is the the hardest to surmount. It’s pressing that button to post it to Soundcloud, or Smashwords, or to send it to a publisher. There is so much significance built into pressing a bloody mouse button.

In many ways its like asking a girl out, or going for a raise, or proposing marriage. If you, reading this, are an artist um-ing and ah-ing, or making excuses not to publish, then understand that you’re not alone. Also know that the feeling of failure is nothing compared to the feeling of unrealised dreams.

Maintain the belief that made you do it all in the first place. If it helps, get everything all ready to go, and get someone else to click the button for you.

Go on! Suspend your doubt for a second and, when you do, quickly click that ‘publish’ button. Stand up to Self-Doubt. Stand proudly on the stage. Show everyone what you did. Otherwise you’ll be left behind a closed curtain, wondering what applause sounds like.Mini Jeztyr Logo