When it comes to making physical books, I’ve been a fan of Lulu’s printing service for a while. All of Paranormology is on there, along with The Bullet and Atlas, Broken. I like their terms and the Global Distribution options they provide, and the fact that it’s not so huge as a behemoth like, say, Amazon.
That said, I did use Amazon’s KDP for Tedrick Gritswell Makes Waves and it, too, wasn’t such a bad experience. Both provided the size and form factor that I was after. Not surprising, considering 6″ x 9″ is a standard size. Both provide matt and glossy finish options, both provide ISBNs and different types of paper. I guess the reason I went with Amazon this time around is because I was uploading the eBook version there and there was a button that said, “Start your Paperback”. So I pressed it.
Lame, I know, but when it’s down to the wire for choice, and there’s no clear distinction between the two, I guess the first one to come along will probably be victor. So what was the process, already?
First, I converted the eBook to ‘book format’. This involved setting the appropriate dimensions for the page. 6″ x 9″ isn’t a standard size in Libre Office, so the millimetre conversion is 15.24mm x 22.86mm. This I set for the first page, left page and right pages.
I added headers with the page numbers to the left and right pages. For the left, I aligned the page number to the left and the chapter title to the middle. For the right, the page number is aligned to the right. Then I adjusted the margins to allow a 20mm gutter at the spine for each page – important, for when the book is printed, you lose at least half a centimetre where the spine is. That’s actually a good point to bring up there. KDP, when you upload an preview the manuscript, will supply guides in the PDF to show the printing zone and readability zone, and warn you if you’ve forgotten to leave room in there.
In a similar vein, I had to create a front cover at 5550 pixels tall by 7767 pixels wide. Sound weird? It kind of makes sense. A bit of math show why – 5550 pixels / 9″ = 616.66 pixels per inch. If you print at a resolution of 600 dots per inch, that would be 5400, but you need an extra bleed for printing errors and alignment. Going horizontally is similar, only you need to include an amount to account for the spine, and the width of the spine is dependent upon the number of pages inside the book. The more pages, the bigger the spine. This means that, even if you did the same thing as me, your dimensions would be different if you didn’t have the same number of pages.
Sound complicated? It is. But there’s good news. If you supply the number of pages, KDP will give you a PNG and PDF of a template with the dimensions, along with the guides for printable area and margins. Make good use of this – it helps a lot. In GIMP, create an image using the template, and keep that layer on top of everything, setting the transparency to about 20%, so you can adjust the layers underneath and see how they line up with the final product. It also gives you a spot where the barcode is going to live, so you can avoid putting text or images in that area.
The end result is quite huge, but that’s to be expected. The manuscript and covers need to be exported to PDFs and uploaded to KDP for processing. Once that’s done, the rest is pretty much plain sailing. Author, title, series, blurb, pricing, distribution, yadda yadda yadda.
For some reason, though, I can’t find a way to mark this as a pre-order. The next button along says ‘Publish’ which, I’m worried, would then send this for distribution el pronto. Note: I just did this, right then, to see what would happen and, yeah, it sends it off for publishing. I’ll let it be, but that’s a bit annoying that I’ve got my paperback out before the official launch of either the eBook or the audiobook. Live and learn, I guess.