Category Archives: Print design and layout

MacUpdate: If ain’t broke, dammit…

Caslon 540

Caslon 540, close but no cigar…

DON’T FIX IT, Dear Apple!

So I was finally forced to update the operating systems on my aged MacBook Pro and iMac to “Yosemite” (is it really necessary to give the software annoyingly cutesy names?), the highest level of Apple’s operating system the machines will accept.

This was a major hassle that required me to pay about $300 to hire a tech to come figure out how to do it, install a new hard drive on the laptop, and absorb several hours of my time in the process.

So now these wonderful (no irony) machines are “updated” to the extent possible. If I want to keep up with the times (which I do not, especially), next I need to buy new computers. Like I have nothing else to do with my money…profoundly limited in the post-layoff era.

Okay, so I’m proofreading, online, the content of a book I’ve uploaded to the PoD supplier. I used the most recent PDF I had on hand, which presumably is about as good as I’d gotten it before I became distracted by the 14 weeks of respiratory ills.

Naturally, I find a minor glitch: a series of elllipsis points breaks at the end of a line. Videlicet:

Blah blah blah.
. . .

Shee-ut. I need to fix that in the Wyrd document, then save to PDF and upload the corrected PDF. The book’s layout is done in a Wyrd template purchased from Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates enterprise. I like these templates, because they come with the margins correctly installed for your desired trim size, the heads and subheads and body copy and all their iterations set in stone using Word’s “Styles” function, and overall they’re easy to use and yield a pleasing product.

When I open the most recent Word iteration of this book — this 468-page book — I find that every word I set in italic is now set bold-face italic!

Holy sh!t. And WTF? I don’t know what’s caused this, but I figure…okay, I can fix it with a search and replace:

Search > format font > boldface italic
Replace with > format font > italic

I try this. It doesn’t work. Word does not see these characters as boldface italic. Word sees them as plain italic.

I try manually changing the things. And guess what? I CAN’T change any of these distortions to plain italic. Or even to plain roman. The best I can do is change them to boldface. And I don’t want the damn things b.f. I want them effing italic.

To cut a long and frustrating story short, eventually what I and Friedlander’s designer discover is that somehow the conversion to effing Yosemite has corrupted the template’s font on the MacBook and the MacBook only. If I open the file on the iMac, it looks OK. Even a PDF made on the MacBook and sent to the designer looks OK on his computer. WTF?

He suggests we should delete the font from my MacBook and replace it with a new set of fonts, which he sends over.

I google “how to delete a font Mac OS X 10.11.4” and find you have to get into something called a Font Book, but no clue is given as to what “Font Book” is or where to find it. I call Apple Support. The tech who responds also has never heard of a “Font Book.” Finally we discover it, not surprisingly, in Applications.

I delete the font from “Font Book,” reboot, and, following instructions, install the new version of the designer’s font, which is called “Alegreya.” It’s in the Times family. It’s nothing special, but it’s inoffensive and it has a kind of airiness that works for some kinds of books.

When I reboot again and open the files…you got it! All italic is rendered as boldface italic.

So, you ask, why don’t I just do all my work henceforth on the iMac? That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Except the reason I’m sitting here in an overstuffed living-room chair with my feet propped up is that my back went out several years ago and I can no longer sit in a desk chair. No. Not in any desk chair (believe me: I’ve tried. Expensively!) So that turns the iMac into an expensive video-streaming device. There’s no way I can sit in front of a desk long enough to render an entire book into print-ready copy.

While Friedlander’s designer is sweltering over this problem, I begin to realize that I’m going to have to change the font in this template. And to do it in the 468-page writing text, which, goddamn it, has an index that goddamn it I’ve already had to do over once and I absolutely  positively do NOT want to recompile from scratch again because again the goddamn pagination gets changed.

Holy ess aitch aye.

The problem is that of course these fonts have variable widths, like any serif font in the Times family. This means that different designs yield different line lengths. So if you were to type a line in Alegreya and a line in, say, Callisto MT, you would find they come out in different lengths. Like this:

Alegrey&CallistoMT

Over the course of 468 pages — actually, over the course of something like 10 or 20 pages — this would change line lengths, change paragraph lengths, change chapter lengths, and screw up the pagination that has been so time-consumingly recorded in the index.

While I’m waiting for the designer to come up with a new idea, if he can, I go through every serif font in goddamn OS 10.11.4 — there are a LOT of them. Along the way, I discover that Big Caslon — Big Caslon, can you imagine? — is overall about the same size as Alegreya, except for the numerals.

BigCaslon

It’s close. In fact, it’s SO close that when you change the style for the body copy from Alegreya 11 pt to Big Caslon 11 pt (which you see in the second lines here), you come out with the same number of pages. It looks like the wraps from page to page are consistent, and so if the index is screwed up, it’s probably not so much that anybody is gonna notice. Upper-case is larger in Caslon, but you could fix that by searching format > font > upper case 11 pt and replacing with format > font > small caps 12 pt. As it turned out, though, this was not necessary.

Big Caslon. Who’d’ve thunk it? Well. If it’s good enough for the Harvard Crimson, it’s good enough for Plain & Simple Press. I guess.

Can anybody remember when writers wrote? When we did not have to screw around with amateur typesetting and amateur printing and amateur publishing and amateur marketing and amateur fulfillment? When you wrote an article or a book and you forked it over to an editor and you were done except for maybe a little proofreading or demands that you answer some question that came up in fact-checking?

Damn. I do hate this Brave New World.

Image: Caslon 540 (which no, is not Big Caslon, but…), James Puckett – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Publishing Polka: Gearing back up

The publishing empire has gone quiet for the past few weeks. Between the holiday hecticity and the first seriously annoying cold I’ve had in two or three years, a fair amount of momentum has been lost. But now we’re beginning to gear back up.

Racy Books: The latest story in The Travelers’ Tales went online yesterday. It’s kind of a funny little story about an antiques dealer who meets a painter in the course of his business…and finds a new occupation.

Presentation6 LoResTwo more stories are upcoming in that series. Then we have several free-standing stories hanging fire, which we’ll be publishing in February and March.

One of the liveliest “Roberta Stuart” writers — she’s responsible for most of Roberta’s tales — has learned to use Calibre and figured out how to convert our .mobi files into ePub books pretty smoothly. She believes they look good. My iPad is refusing to let my MacMail stay open and will not access my gmail accounts, so I haven’t been able to examine our first efforts “in the wild,” as it were. But as soon as we’re sure the conversion looks good, we’ll start mounting the Racy Books on AllRomanceEbooks and possibly on Smashwords. Or possibly on Nook alone…we’re still studying that.

Plain & Simple Books: We’ve moved to a new PoD vendor, Author2Market, with whom so far I’ve been very pleased. Their price is much better than the outfit we’ve been working with, and they’re located in town, so I can run down to their plant to pick up books. This will be good.

A2M also will help with fulfillment by shipping direct to your customers. Not only that, but they’ll make you a mailing label with your logo on it! 😀

Dark Kindle LoResThe diet/cookbook is in production (again!), and the new page proofs should be ready the first part of next week. We’ve already presold four hard copies, and I’ve had almost nothing to say about it to anything. The thing is practically selling itself. Tomorrow I’ll take the page proofs to a scribblers’ meeting, where I hope to peddle a few more of the things.

fire book 2aiThe middle of this month, I’ll post the third and last collection of Fire-Rider stories, also a production of Plain & Simple Press. That assumes I have time to put the package together, which may not be the case. If I can’t find time to compile the thing, it’ll have to wait until February.

Fire-Rider is one of two loci for a new marketing campaign we have under way. I’ve hired a marketing agent, who is launching a Facebook Ads campaign to try to get some attention to that saga of speculative fiction.

Sagas, though, seem to be a dime a dozen, and so I’m not holding my breath until we all get rich. It would just be nice to come up with enough to pay the writers and the marketing lady.

Also in the marketing department, we plan to purchase a lot more ad space at SmartBitches/Trashy Books. Probably December wasn’t the ideal month to experiment with an ad campaign, Christmas being…whatever it is. However, we did learn that SBTB generates a healthy number of impressions. Clicks on ads: less so, but a helluva lot better than we’ve been doing through Twitter.

Do clicks on ads convert to sales? Not evident. We’re still not headed for the Riviera to live on the proceeds of our pornographic publishing empire. But we did a little better than we did last month.

Meanwhile, as usual nothing will do but what every client I’ve ever had — and a few new ones to boot — descend on me in the middle of

a) the holidays
b) a house guest/temporary roommate moving in for six or eight weeks
b) a cold or flu that has hung on for over two weeks
c) enough self-assigned work to keep me busy for the next three months.

So the copyediting business is thundering away — not altogether to the disadvantage of the publishing enterprise. One of the clients, a prolific writer who has had an interesting life, is completing a memoir whose interest he thinks will be limited mostly to friends and family. He’d like to publish the thing through Plain & Simple Press.

Very nice! Not only do I get paid for editing a 300-page manuscript, but Plain &  Simple Press gets to add to its list. He has several other books in progress, so if we manage to keep him happy, it looks like we’ll be in business awhile longer.

The present magnum opus, when poured into one of my layout templates, came to 535 pages…and that was without the images. Holy sh!t.

Our scholarly journal’s editors dumped an entire issue’s worth of copy on us last Monday, asking if we couldn’t please turn it around in a week.

Well. No.

My associate editor, on whom I usually foist this material, happens to edit the largest journal of organizational management on the planet. Some of its editorial is run through Oxford, whose email system was hacked shortly before Christmas. The Brits, as those of you who’ve ever spent time in England will know, take their vacation time seriously. Nary a thing was to be done for the crisis until after the first. By that time, she had some 2,000 frantic messages waiting for her.

I’d managed to get through one article — copyediting it but not doing the mark-up, a chore I truly hate — by the time Honored Client walked in the door. You may be sure the guy who pays sixty bucks an hour will be privileged over the outfit that pays a flat rate for an entire semiannual journal.

Moving on, the child of another old client surfaced, hoping to get some advice on a couple of college admissions essays. Adorable! Young people are so full of energy and ginger. Very promising…let’s hope she goes a long way.

One of the mathematicians e-mailed: can we translate his Chinglish into academicese? And do it by Friday? Oh, sure… Foisted that on a subcontractor; haven’t heard a word back.

And what can I tell you about writing, editing, and publishing?

Get a job as a Walmart greeter, dears. You’ll make a better living at it. And not work as hard.

😀

 

 

Print on Demand: Get Your PDF Right

I was disappointed when my dearly beloved print-on-demand guy announced he wouldn’t print a hard copy of our first collection of Racy Books for Racy Readers because he considered it to be pornography.

That was fine, but it left me in a bind (heh!): I’d planned to take a couple of copies to a trade shindig that’s coming up on December 5, just to show off what we’re doing. The stash of books for the display would include the collected Family at the Holidays stories, plus one or two Fire-Rider collections, Slave Labor, and the cookbook.

Slave Labor and the How I Lost 40 Pounds cookbook already exist in hard copy. My guy printed a single copy of Fire-Rider: The Saga Begins and did an adequate job of it…not great, but good enough.

So I needed to find a new PoD vendor, one who was not too nicey-nice about what he runs through his computers. First search yielded another press that said it wouldn’t print “pornography.” But a Google search for print on demand erotica brought up a number of printers, including one right here in town. Not only do they print romantic erotica, they even have a little online bookstore from which they’ll peddle it for you.

😀

Pretty clearly the technology they use is the same or similar to the first guy’s. The platform where you submit your content and cover art is similar. In both cases, you format your book in Word or InDesign to desired trim size, generate a PDF, and post that to the printer’s site. This is very easy.

Except…when I uploaded the Family at the Holidays copy, the system balked: it read the page size as 11 x 9! The trim size is 5.5 x 8.5 inches. And the first guy’s system had no problem recognizing that.

After some tergiversations — I had to go back to Friedlander’s crew, who designed the template, to figure out the problem — I finally got it up online.

The issue is that my Mac doesn’t have Adobe Acrobat and after my recent experience with Adobe (in which they ripped me off to the tune of $90) I’m not anxious to buy anymore software from them. Why was Wyrd for Mac not producing an adequate PDF?

Well, it goes like this:

If you enter section breaks instead of page breaks, you need to format each section separately to reflect the correct page size!

Why would you use section breaks in hard-copy layout? For two reasons:

  1. A section break lets you paginate the front matter in Roman numerals and the body copy in Arabic numerals, as is customary.
  2. You want the first page of each chapter to begin on a recto (odd-numbered) page. Entering Section Break (Odd Page) on the last page of each chapter insures that will happen.

To do this in Wyrd, go to Format > Document (not File > Page Setup). Select Margins > Page Setup > Paper Size. In the dropdown menu next to “Paper Size,” select “custom sizes.” In Wyrd for Mac, in the pane that comes up you’ll see a box with nothing in it and boxes for paper size & the like grayed out: it appears you can’t enter any values to set the page size.

Papersize

To create a custom page size, click on the little arrow on the lefthand side of the button right below the box. A new paper size title will come up (you can call it what you will) and the boxes on that page then become life. STET the “left,” “top,” “right,” and “bottom” figures (assuming you’re using a template with the margins already defined) and enter the width and height of your trim size. Click OK.

Now you have a “Custom Size” you can apply to every section in your layout. Go through the Word document and do that manually for each section. Then save as Word and save again as a PDF.

Et voila!

Fool-proof? Probably not. But it worked this time. When I went back and uploaded the rejiggered PDF, it was accepted without a hiccup.

We’ll see how it worked when we see the page proofs. But I have good hopes.

I couldn’t use the one book he did print off (before he discovered what he was printing), because as I mentioned the other day, the cover graphics needed some adjustment. Those fixes are now made, and I think it’s gonna look pretty good:

FAMILY pkg cover LoRes

No bar code on this, because we don’t intend to sell the hard copy at retail. If we ever do, though, it’s easy enough to generate a bar code from the ISBN and stick it on the back cover.

So I’m looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. If it’s successful, I may sell hard copies of the collections through Camptown Races Press and Plain & Simple Press. Or what the heck: maybe right here!

🙁

Publishing on Amazon: What I’ve Learned So Far

Thinking of self-publishing on Amazon? Here's what I've learned.The first two books I put online, Slave Labor and 30 Pounds/4 Months, were frank sandbox projects. While I thought some folks might buy 30 Pounds (diet books are popular, particularly when coupled with recipes), I harbored no illusions about the Slave Labor rant. My main purpose in publishing these two works was to learn how to publish ebooks on Amazon and how to arrange a print-on-demand version.

Those really were learning experiences. But the 18 short Fire-Rider serializations you can see on our “Books” page also served the same purpose, if not so deliberately.

People will buy some obscure titles!

Fire-Rider was online for only nine days, and somebody had already bought it. Two readers bought the cookbook, and strangely, Slave Labor continues to sell one or two copies per reporting period. Slave Labor was plugged only at The Adjunct Project, a very obscure website, indeed.

You can publish to Amazon directly from a Word file, without having to convert to ePub or .mobi format, provided…

  1. you have a well designed Word template and use its styles function consistently; and
  2. your format is extremely simple, with no tables, graphs, zingers, doodlebugs, or whatnots; and
  3. you understand that what you see in Word is not what you see in Kindle.

If your book’s layout is any more complex than chapter headings and plain-vanilla text, conversion from .docx format will  require some sophisticated coding exeprtise.

In that case you either need to convert to a Kindle format in a program such as Calibre (extremely techie) or hire someone like Ken Johnson, Your eBook Builder.

If you think you’re going to sell print-on-demand books to be fulfilled through Amazon, you’ll need to buy bar codes matched up to your ISBN through Bowker.*

Amazon will not handle your print-on-demand masterpiece without a barcode.

* UPDATE: You can generate a free bar code for your ISBN here: http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

You need an ISBN to get your book listed in Books in Print.

An ISBN, which you buy through Bowker*, is used identify each book that is published, and each edition of the same book. ISBN also identifies the publisher of the book. It is the standard ID number used to identify books by booksellers, libraries, book wholesalers and distributors.

*See the update, right above.

Amazon can be very difficult to deal with.

For every book, you will spend a half-hour to 45 minutes filling out forms.

Instructions are obscure.

Anything out of the ordinary (such as the use of a pseudonym or a book that doesn’t fit into a specific hole) confounds the system.

Amazon’s handiest Kindle previewer is worthless. Download their more sophisticated viewer to proofread your e-book.

After you have uploaded your file to Amazon’s publishing software, you will be given the opportunity to proofread the result in an online Kindle viewer in the Cloud. Don’t use this: what you see is not what your reader will get.

Instead, download a resident Kindle viewer — Amazon also offers this option at the same point in the process. Download and install the Kindle viewer, and use that to proof your document. Bear in mind that even this viewer doesn’t necessarily show what all readers will see on all devices, which can include cell phones, tablets, Kindle devices, laptops, and desktops.

If you’re going to publish books on Kindle and Nook as part of your business model, you had better be amply capitalized, since you’ll be hiring lots of help.

Among others, I now contract to two writers, a web guru, a graphic designer, my assistant editor, a social media consultant, and that eBook builder.

If you have a well-designed Word template and you apply its styles consistently, preparing a print-on-demand layout is MUCH easier than preparing a book for publication on Kindle.

Several outfits sell Word templates for print-on-demand production. CreateSpace, of course, will build your PoD book for you. However, this is done overseas on a mass-production basis and you have rather little control over the results.

But since no one expects a print-on-demand book to display the perfection of a professional page designer, you can get away with using a template if your layout is fairly simple — that is, if it doesn’t contain a lot of photographs, tables, and graphs.

I’ve found that Joel Friedlander’s book design templates work exceptionally well, both for simple e-book layout and for plain-vanilla print-on-demand books. Such templates come with standardized Word “styles” set up to coordinate heads, subheads, and body copy, and with correct margins and gutters. Several of Friedlander’s templates switch-hit: they can be used for e-book design as well as for PoD.

By and large, because what you see on your Word, Scrivener, or Pages screen IS what you’ll get in the print version, a template makes PoD much easier to accomplish than e-book design can be. Any image will present difficulties in designing an e-book, and trying to get fancy with heads, subheads, fonts, lists, pull-outs and the like can make quite a mess of an e-book. If your book is even slightly more complex than plain gray space with a few chapter headings and one level of subhead, you really should hire an e-book designer to get it right.

Writing Enterprise: Nose permanently attached to grindstone

Actually, I believe my nose has grown onto the grindstone, sort of like a tree trunk growing around an object in its way. Progress is being made on the new Racy Writing enterprise, but as usual everything has to crash on my head at once, so I can’t focus on the specific tasks at hand without distraction.

The last freshman comp course I will ever have to teach (I sincerely hope!) is now over and grades are posted. No one flunked, thank God, and only two got D’s. So that’s a mercy, and it’s also one distraction permanently off the table.

A week or ten days ago, I compiled a list of Über-To-Do’s needed to change heading for The Copyeditor’s Desk and its imprint, Plain & Simple Press. Tacking this particular ship into the wind is quite an undertaking. I figured if I could do three of the following per day, in a week or so I’d be ready to devote most of my time to writing and publishing short racy squibs.

Move the Blogging Empire, which consists of a lot of sites, from my web guru/friend’s server to WestHost.

Said friend does a wonderful job of wrangling websites, but he’s a young dad of four who recently landed his Dream Job in the corporate world.  Bizarrely, though, Dream Jobs require you to work, and since this guy isn’ta slouch, you can be sure every living, breathing moment of his life when he’s not caring for his family is spent working. So he folded most of his small IT business when he jumped on the commuter train. He kept a couple of his old clients, including moi, but it soon became apparent that he was going to need some time to have a life.

Another blogging friend referred me to her back-end Web guru. At this time we’ve moved the passel of websites to the self-hosting server. In the next few days, the new guy will reorganize the sites (well.. re- is not operative for something that’s grown up like topsy: he’ll organize them into something rational.

Writers Plain & Simple remains alive, despite WordPress.com threatening to close it down. We will move it over to WestHost and make it a subdomain of plainandsimplepress.com, the site for my S-corp’s Plain & Simple Press imprint. Watch this site, and please…try not to get lost! 😀

Assign remaining ISBNs to upcoming books.

Mooted. You have to have the cover art to do that, and I still haven’t been able to get the artist off the dime. He says he’s done about half of the covers for the Fire-Rider series.

Purchase another 100 ISBNs.

Done. All upcoming books now have informally “assigned” ISBNs, which at least I can enter on the copyright pages. Officially inscribing them with Bowker will have to wait until (yesh…) the artwork surfaces.

Set up Excel spreadsheet to track ISBN purchases and assignments.

Done.

I really need a database. Access didn’t come with the version of MS Office I bought for the Macs. And come to think of it, I don’t even know if Access will run in the Mac environment. In any event, it’s been so long since I’ve used Access, the re-learning curve would be excessively high…so for the nonce I’ll have to make do with Excel and Quickbooks.

Experiment again with using PowerPoint to create cover art for e-books. Check out that link: King’s covers don’t look staggeringly awesome, but they’re sure as heck good enough for genre fiction. And believe me, folks who buy the kind of stuff Camptown Races Press will publish are not buying it for the covers. 😉

To do, pending download of some stock art.

Actually, in the past I’ve tried following the guy’s how-to steps with an ordinary photo and found that it’s easy to do. Remains to be seen whether I can faze the result past Amazon and Nook. But…huh…if he can do it, so can I. By golly.

Buy a month’s subscription to Shutterstock and download as many images as allowed.

Pending.

Before I actually pay for a subscription, I wanted to find and compile lists of images fitting as many categories as I imagine the naughty novelettes will require over the next six months to a year:

Biker stories
Ghost sex stories
Traveler stories
Banner images for websites
Generic sexy images
M/M
W/W
Threesomes of various combinations
Racial configurations of various combinations

Create an Excel workbook with spreadsheets to keep track of stock art and public domain images

Done.

Did I mention that I need a database?

Study the user manuals for the Friedlander templates used to compile the stories in hand. Study the user manual for Calibre. Figure out how to use Calibre to convert from Word to Kindle and ePub formats.

Done, sort of.

Today I will try these on the cookbook and hope to get the thing online, around the ongoing hassles of trying to straighten up the sites on WestHost, which as we scribble are consuming more and more time.

Because the diet/cookbook has a lot of lists, formatting it may be difficult, and so I don’t want to just hand it over to Amazon to do the conversion. If I can’t do it myself, then I’ll hire my ebook guy to do it…but of course, that means it will be weeks (if ever) before it goes online.

The novelettes and the Fire-Rider serials have virtually no elaborate formatting: no subheads, no lists, no tables, no images. So I think those can simply be uploaded to Amazon along with their cover images.

Learn specs for Kindle and Nook covers.

Done.

Learn how to upload content to Nook.

Done.

Write proposal and cover letter for Boob Book.

Done

Find a half-dozen agents or markets for Boob Book. Send proposal to the first of those.

Done.

Learn how to upload files to Snowflake Press for print-on-demand; do so for Slave Labor and order ten copies.

Under way. To be completed today, I hope. Maybe.

Learn how to sell hard-copy books on Amazon and do the fulfillment in-house, not through fulfillment by Amazon.

Later!

Publish the diet/cookbook in e-book format on Amazon.

Pending: whenever I figure out how to get it formatted propertly.

Establish an account and publish Slave Labor and the How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months on Nook.

Later!!

To accomplish most of these little tasks in a week or so has required me to start at around 5 in the morning and work all the way through, without stopping except for a few snacks and to cope with things that can’t be put off, until I can’t work anymore, which is about 8 or 9 p.m.

And that, my friends, is what’s entailed in quitting your day job.

Crazed Client + CreateSpace + Crashed Computer = No Work Done

ugh ugh UGGHHH what a gawdawful day!

Up at 5 a.m. Clean the palm tree crud and duck droppings out of the pool before the thermometer tops 105. Water the plants before the sun can fry them. Feed the dogs. Bolt down slice of watermelon. Park in front of the computer before 7 o’clock.

Planned to finish writing Chapter 2 of the Boob Book. That done, I’ll have the introduction, two chapters, and two decent appendices, enough to support a proposal, which I intend to send to a couple of my past publishers. One of those publishers is likely to pay an advance large enough to free me from a year of teaching drudgery. And that will open the door not only to writing a socially redeeming book but to kicking off a totally unredeeming bidness that is likely to support me into my dotage.

Speaking of the which, my accountant & friend and I were meeting for happy hour this afternoon, both of us having exceeded our respective drudgery allowances some time back. Developments that arose yesterday — two people offering to write spicey novelettes for my company, on contract; another offering to serve as project manager, plus an offer to do e-book formatting at a batch rate — meant we would need to talk business as well as drink off the stresses of the past few weeks. And I would need something to talk business about.

So, I put off book writing to revise the S-corp’s present business plan and compose a strategic plan. Four pages worth.

Finally I return to the  Boob Book and start to write. There’s a page of To-Do notes to print. When I hit command-P…oh, yes. EFFING Word freezes again.

I hate Word.

Apple’s accursed spinning mandala goes on and on and on and on and on and on and I go off and do some other chores and come back eight or ten minutes later and find the accursed spinning mandala twirling on and on and on and on and Force QUIT! FORCE QUIT WORD, DAMMIT.

Word crashes. Reboot. Notice the wireless connection is unstable. Trying to print the unsaved To-Do notes freezes Word again.

FORCE QUIT!!! Now I figure I’d better shut down all the programs and reboot.

The whole system hangs.

It will not unhang.

A bunch of things I’m working on — and that I’ve done a ton of work on — are hung with it. They’re not saved to DropBox because I’ve been busy working on them. They’re saved to the hard disk. If the aging laptop crashes, hours and HOURS of work are going to crash with it.

I throw on my clothes, grab the machine with its eternally spinning mandala, and haul it to the Apple store, hoping they can clue me to how to make it stop without losing everything I’ve done for the past several days. Which is a lot.

They can’t. The woman I speak to is actually rude.

Next computer is going to be a cheap PC. What’s the point of spending top dollar on a Mac if you can’t get customer service? I’m done with Apple.

Outside the store I sit on a park bench under a mister, a pathetic effort to make the outdoor mall environment tolerable for the baked customers. Finally figure since everything is probably gone, I might as well turn the machine off. Turn it back on.

Incredibly, it reboots.

Some data is lost, but most of the files are recoverable, largely because the MacBook is set to save every five minutes, thanks to years of experience with Word’s crashing proclivities.

I’m relieved but furious.

Back home, more and more time remains to be spent spent sorting out the crashed files, backing up to DropBox, and generally farting around.

But…

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away… A client and dear friend was going into melt-down mode. Had been, since yesterday.

Yesterday he sent a dozen emails and left two voice messages. He’s been trying to produce a second edition of a book he uses as a marketing tool for his chiropractic practice. CreateSpace and Ingram/Spark keep rejecting his application. They tell him he hasn’t filled in tax and address data. He says he has filled in these parts. There is, of course, no human there to ask for an explanation. Only repeated, circular, machine-generated demands.

But while I’ve been enjoying the better part of a year of surgery, design and production for this second edition has been going on without me. A local graphic designer and author’s shepherd has been doing the project, leaving me pretty much out of the loop. So…I have no idea what he’s talking about. Nor do I have a clue what to do to help.

He sends me screenshots of the rejected forms. I can’t access them without his username and password. He sends the same; I still can’t get in. Not that there’s much I could do about it: what on earth would I know about his tax data? Oh well.

He’s at a conference. He gives presentations at such conferences. So one might say he’s a bit preoccupied. But in short order he has a series of seminars to give, and he wants copies of the new books. By this morning he’s getting frantic.

Arriving home from the infuriating, frustrating encounter with the Apple Bit*h, I find two more frantic calls from him. Try to return his calls: no answer.

At this point, I think, “Why on earth are you going with CreateSpace and Ingram when there’s a perfectly fine PoD printer here? The only reason to print through Ingram/Spark is to get access to international distribution to bookstores. The only reason to print with CreateSpace is to sell hard copies through Amazon.

“But…but…almost all your hard-copy sales happen at conferences and seminars. Most people buying the book through Amazon are perfectly content to get it on their Kindles. There’s no reason your admin can’t fulfill hard-copy orders from Amazon.”

This thought communicated to him by e-mail, he eventually returns and allows that he’s had it with trying to deal with these two outfits.

So I call the local printer and ascertain that if we’ll get the local designer to send the PDFs and artwork over, he can probably have his first print run in hand within two weeks.

By e-mail, I report this to Beloved Client and Incommunicado Designers.

This consumes a significant amount of the day. By the time I’m done, it’s almost 2 o’clock in the freaking afternoon. I’m starved and I need a drink.

Fry up a decent meal, pour a bourbon and water.  By the time I finish eating, it’s time to paint my face and get ready to meet Accountant Friend.

The ENTIRE DAY was shot, what with all this screwing around. I got one, count it, one paragraph written.

Diet/Cookbook Almost Ready to Go!

HAY cook book3 3-16-2015How do you like the cover design for How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months…without Hardly Trying?

It needs a little adjustment for the PoD version, but I think it’s fine for the e-book. The byline needs to be a little larger, I think. The subtitle looks microscopic in this WordPress post-drafting mode and presumably will need an electron microscope to be visible in a thumbnail.

HAY cook book3 3-16-2015Oh heck. Let’s try that in WP… Ohhh WordPress WordPress on the laptop, which font is tiniest of them all?

Hmmm… We’ll be asking for a couple of adjustments on that thing. But the artwork’s kinda cool, isn’t it? Original stuff from multi-award-winning artist and former art director of Arizona Highways Gary Bennett. Apple…apple a day…get it? 😀

For the interior copy I used the “Pulp” design in a Word template from Book Design Templates. As I remarked awhile back, “Pulp” is one of several two-way templates that allow you, with just one upload of your copy, to convert from Wyrd to e-book formats and also to do a print-on-design layout.

It worked reasonably well. The cookbook is pretty complex because of all the lists, but once you figure out the styles (which could use a little better organizing IMHO), the template goes a long way toward ensuring consistency in all your design elements.

However, things are never so simple as you think. Preparing a manuscript for e-book and print incarnations requires a fair amount of fiddling around: the basic design needs are not the same. For example, in a print book you’d like chapters to open on recto (odd-numbered) pages. For an e-book, that not only is unnecessary, it’s undesirable.

Thirty Pounds in Four Months has two sections: one consisting of four chapters describing how I managed to lose one-fifth of my body weight (and drop the elevated blood pressure into the “normal” range) without starving myself and without beating myself up at the gym, and one that offers over 125 recipes. Setting every one of those recipes on a recto page would have required hundreds of Wyrd commands that would have to be inserted when I went to create a hard-copy layout (or undone if I started with the PoD layout).

So, I decided to lay out the first section in the traditional hard-copy manner but let the recipes appear on whatever page they would naturally fall on — this, by the way, is what “Pulp” was designed to do in the first place. Said scheme then requires me to do the PoD version first, save it to disk, and then go back and delete only the three odd-page section breaks in Section 1 for the e-book’s purposes.

That is much easier than deleting 130 or 140 of the things!

The result looks OK, I think. Certainly good enough for government work.

But I think I’ll spring for a full multi-use license for the “Focus” design that I used to lay out Slave Labor (which will be ready for the printer as soon as the hard-copy cover is done! wahoo!). At the time I purchased a single-use license, I was in pure experimental mode — had no idea how this was going to work and didn’t want to spend any more than necessary.

Now that I see how they work, though, I think I really like “Focus.” Even though its typeface and design will create more pages in any given hard-copy book, it’s really very attractive AND — big, very big! — it’s more streamlined and simpler to use. The template’s “styles” are easier to find and more intuitive to select, and the effect is quite handsome.

Most of the books I get up to self-publishing are likely to sell best as e-books. The ability to print a few on demand for the occasional buyer who craves to feel pages under the fingers will be good, but I don’t think I’ll need so many of them that a dollar or so difference in price will matter much.

The entire Fire-Rider series and the next book that’s in hand will be produced as serial electronic “bookoids” through Amazon. I may produce a hard-copy “collector’s edition” that I could give away for free to people who buy X number of e-books (enough to cover the cost of printing), or to those who have bought the whole series. Those who would like to have just a hard-copy version, then, would have to pay the freight for printing plus enough for me to turn a little profit. Or I might give it away to those who buy XX numbers of the next book’s serials.

Which is to say…I hope to use the PoD version as a marketing tool.

Last night I installed the content of the first Fire-Rider serial in “Focus,” just to see what would happen. It was extremely easy.

There’ll be 18 of those. I figure to do a “Save As” for each serial, but meanwhile have a larger file for the PoD version into which I paste the formatted material out of each serial’s file into the longer PoD file. Then when all is said and done, I can get into the file for PoD, adjust the formatting, have a wrap-around cover done, et voilà!

The Book Design Templates folks allow you to upgrade from single to multi-use, so that’s what I’m going to do with “Focus.”

So, I’m excited about it. Is this enterprise gonna make any money for me? I’ll be surprised. But thrilled beyond measure if it does — cannot tell you how much I never want to slog through another turgid scholarly work or another awful freshman comp essay. Probably the best way to make money through self-publishing is by writing porn…and that this point, I am not above that!

Two Book Design Templates: “Pulp” vs “Focus”

So the hard-copy version of Slave Labor is now laid laid out in Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Template called “Focus.” The result is pleasing enough and was not too difficult to achieve.

These tools really are just Word templates tricked out with margins and gutters appropriate to the trim size of your choice, with fonts for body copy and heads, alternating recto/verso running headers, and a set of “styles” commands that allow you easily to format body copy, the various heading levels, and details like italic and boldface.

Most of the templates allow you to create an e-book or a hard-copy (print-on-demand) version. To do both, you evidently import and format your copy twice, once to create the appropriate e-book formatting and once to do the hard-copy layout.

A few, however, are programmed so that you can switch back and forth, with the same layout, and extrude the e-book and the PoD layout. Once you’ve imported your MS and applied the appropriate Word “styles,” so the makers say, you can produce both an e-book version and a PDF for print in one swell foop.

Since I’ll want to do some of the upcoming gilded volumes in both formats, I decided to buy one of those. “Pulp,” on sale at a ridiculously low introductory price (none of these things will break the bank to start with…), looked like a good choice. After I’ve emitted all of Fire-Rider in e-book serials, I may (or may not) produce a print “collector’s edition” that will gather all the copy and artwork in one place. Pulp mimics a dime novel, with a small typeface and narrow margins that minimize the number of pages you have to print — good for Fire-Rider, whose length is best described as “epic.”

So I got this thing and decided to start with the diet/cookbook, using it as a kind of secondary-level “sandbox” project to expand what I’ve learned in self-publishing Slave Labor. This is a single book that I’d like to sell in both formats, since it seems highly unlikely to me that anyone would want to use their iPad, Kindle, or phone to follow a recipe in a messy kitchen. But…some people claim they do. WhatEVER.

By quittin’ time last night, I’d installed the four chapters on dieting and the first two recipes in cookbook section.

This provides an opportunity to compare the two templates — or, more accurately, the two types of templates.

Of the pair, I’d say I prefer working in “Focus,” the “premium” variety that allows you to do both an e-book and a print layout but apparently requires entering and formatting the copy separately. Its “styles” are easier to work with and better organized, and the layout for hard copy is much more appealing.

However, if you expect to do a lot of books and emit them in both formats, “Pulp” may be a better choice, despite some significant drawbacks. Time, after all, is money; the ability to enter copy once and have it suffice for both purposes represents a considerable advantage in that department.

Focus appears to create a much nicer print-ready product. The fonts (Cambria for chapter titles and Alegreya for subheads and body copy) are handsome and the layout is attractive. It’s also quite easy to use — assuming you have a very high level of proficiency with Wyrd. As usual, one has to deal with all the Wyrdnesses that come with that program, but the designers have done a good job of customizing the template to minimize formatting hassles. The styles are intelligently named, and they’re simple and intuitive to use.

The main grutch I would have is probably a Word 2008/Mac problem rather than a direct issue with the template: when you insert a section break (odd page) where a chapter ends on a recto page, the program does not consistently insert a break in such a way as to let you begin the next chapter on the next recto. So, to get from the resulting verso page to the desired recto page, you have to insert a page break as well as a section break. This doesn’t matter much in a PDF. But…hold that thought for a minute…

I have yet to see what a printer will think of the result, but we’ll know as soon as my designer converts Slave Labor‘s e-book cover to a 5.5 x 8.5 wrap-around.

Chapter opening on recto page, Focus“Focus” chapter opening, recto page
(Click on images for a better view.)

Focus 2 pages“Focus” two-page spread, showing margin, gutters, A-level head, bulleted block, running header

Moving on to Pulp: the 10-point Gandhi serif typeface prints out OK — it’s reasonably readable when translated to the page. But on a MacBook screen, it’s a pain.

For a print layout, one would ideally like to see the pages two at time, verso on the left side and recto on the right. Zooming to 150% will accomplish that. Increasing the zoom much above 150% will allow you to see only one page at a time. But even at 150%, the type when seen on a MacBook is pretty small and cramped. It’s not impossible to read, but it’s potentially eyestrain-inducing.

The styles are a little harder to use in Pulp than in Focus. There are a lot of them, and they don’t seem to be organized well. I found myself searching interminably for this, that or the other frequently used style, trying to figure out what it might be called. On Word’s 2008 version for the ribbon-aversive Mac user, it’s much easier to use Format > Style > Styles than to dork with the Styles drop-down menu. Even still, at some points I had to create the occasional new style to accommodate the book’s needs.

Admittedly, the template is designed for fiction, and I’m trying to make it work for a piece of nonfiction. Still. {grump}

One notable style that I had to fiddle with was for footnotes, which I had to use in the “diet” section of this book, by way of supporting some of the claims I allege. The footnote style wants to set type larger than the body style. That. is. exceptionally. annoying.

But okaayyy…if you know how to use Wyrd, it’s easy enough (sort of) to create a new body style for footnotes. But…if you have to build your own styles, why pay someone else to do it? {grump, crab} If you create a style for a graf with no indent based on the regular paragraph style (which should’ve been included, btw), you can use that for the footnote style, but of course it comes out the same size as the body style. For my purposes, that’s fine, but if the book were more formal, one might like footnotes to be set in slightly smaller type.

The template comes with at least two body styles. It’s unclear which you’re supposed to use. I selected the one labeled (normal), guessing that “normal” was…well, normal for this template. There’s also two variants of something called “balloon text.” Don’t know what that is and am not sure I want to know. Whatever it is, in my file it produces 8-point Tahoma. Gandhi is a serif typeface, so…what the point is escapes me.

Pulp defaults to lay out pages consecutively, whether or not you’re opening a new chapter or section. Thus chapters’ opening pages occur at random on recto or verso pages.

This does not thrill me.

Pulp chapter opening“Pulp” chapter opening, recto page

Pulp 2 pages“Pulp” two-page spread, showing margins, gutters, A-level subheads, footnote, running header

For an e-book, of course, you would not want to force section breaks for the purpose of starting a chapter on a recto page, because…well, there ARE no recto or verso pages in an e-book. You insert breaks to force the chapter title to appear on a new digital “page” (we might call that a pageoid), but these are all identical.

Identically ugly, we of the digitally unbaptized might suggest…but what can one say?

For my taste…ugh. I don’t care for a book layout that opens a new chapter on a verso page, in the manner of a magazine or a newspaper. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just inelegant.

But to make that happen, in Pulp as well as in Focus, you have to insert section breaks. And the apparent random workings of section break (odd page) seen in “Focus” hold true in this template. For e-book purposes, a lot of extra section and page breaks are going to be mightily superfluous. Yea verily, we could say they will dork up your e-pageoids!

Pretty clearly, if you want a print layout with a less cheesy flavor, you’re going to have to create the e-book first and then go back and insert section breaks to force the desired layout for print.

This will not double your total time spent on a given book project. But it surely will interfere with the scheme to do two formats in the time it would ordinarily take you to do one.

Given that some of Book Design Templates’s premium products are much handsomer than Pulp, it may be worth spending the extra time to input and format copy twice in a different design.

Maybe not, too. It would depend on how many books you’re cranking at any given time. I intend to crank a lot between now and the end of 2015. I think Pulp will do quite nicely for Fire-Rider, given the novel’s unseemly length. The small type and tight leading will save on printing costs, and of course the typeface makes no never-mind for e-books.

But for the other books? Well. The romance/soft-core porn numbers, which I hope to churn out in gay (heh…sometimes) abandon, probably need appear only in ebook fashion. Pulp will do just fine for those, except for the relative difficulty of using it. Focus is so much easier to use, though, that I may spring for an upgrade allowing me to use that template for an infinite number of bookoids. Also, I probably could use it for certain clients’ books — at least one current customer hopes to self-publish, and it would be convenient to be able to offer a rudimentary formatting service.

The Copyeditor’s Desk does have a subcontractor who formats e-books, but at this time he has so many clients of his own it’s hard to get the man’s attention. And he doesn’t do print layout. (Plain & Simple Press is the micropublishing imprint of The Copyeditor’s Desk.) Two graphic designers who subcontract to us both do very fine print layout…at very fine prices. Obviously I’d rather foist the work on them. But given a choice between doing the work myself at a lower (get-what-you-pay-for) rate and losing a client who won’t pay professional rates for graphic design, I just might take the former.

By the way, if you’re interested in using one of these templates for your own book project, remember to set Word to save every five minutes! Wyrd is given to sudden catastrophic lose-ALL-your-data crashes, especially if you’re working with tables or with anything at all elaborate or exotic. That’s why we call it “Wyrd.”

weird; comparative adjective: weirder; superlative adjective: weirdest

  1. suggesting something supernatural; uncanny.
    “the weird crying of a seal”

    Old English wyrd ‘destiny,’ of Germanic origin. The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny,’ and was used especially in the Weird Sisters, originally referring to the Fates, later the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth ; the latter use gave rise to the sense ‘unearthly’ (early 19th century).