Recently, having surpassed our short-term publishing goal, we decided to slow our production pace by about 50%, partly to allow the writing team to focus on longer, more interesting stories and partly to give me a break from the 14-hour days. Interestingly, the result has been that more projects of higher quality have blossomed.
Soon to appear, for example, will be a revised and much improved version of the ill-fated diet/cookbook, whose first incarnation was titled How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months.
The new version is renamed. Its new title is 30 Pounds: 4 months. Here’s a draft of the cover, still very much under construction:
I’m not nuts about this design. What’s really desired is one of my friend La Maya’s gorgeous original oil paintings, rights to which I wish to purchase… She’s out of the country just now, but will return next week. At that time I hope to strike a deal with her. Possibly, for example, she’d be willing to share this one.
How I Lost was the first book I posted to Amazon all by my little self. The very first Plain & Simple Press effusion, Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education, was formatted and posted by a professional e-book formatter, and it came out looking very nice. After I discovered, however, that one can upload to Kindle direct from Word, nothing would do but what I had to try it myself.
Naturally, I picked the single most difficult, complicated book we’ve emitted through Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races Press combined. Not only is it plenty long, it has a complicated set of heads and subheads, almost every recipe contains a list, and at one point (no longer!) it was illustrated with graphs and jpegs.
With a little fooling around, How I Lost loaded right up into the Amazon store, and from what I could tell, it looked OK. When I reviewed it in Amazon’s previewer function, it appeared tidy enough: the paragraphs seemed regular, the heads and subheads appeared to be consistent throughout, the table of contents seemed to work well enough, the lists of ingredients in the recipes looked like…well, lists. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
So I sat back and waited for the vast wealth to roll into the Money Bin.
What rolled in was a squawk of rage from a dismayed reader. The fonts, she said, were all over the place, illogical and unpredictable. Heads and subheads were cattywampus; so were the ingredients lists. And by the way, she really, really, really hated the writing style!
Not everyone can love you. And by this time, I’d learned that on Amazon your competitors will often take aim at a new book and post reviews blasting it. So I wasn’t very concerned. Besides, after forty years in the writing biz, I do have a stainless-steel ego. Just spell the name right, Duckie!
When I had time — some weeks later — I downloaded a copy to the iPad and opened it.
I was horrified! It looked nothing like what I thought I had posted. The reader was right: the book was a dreadful mish-mash. Fonts that I never knew existed popped up at irregular and illogical intervals — no rhyme nor reason to why some words would appear in italic, some boldface, some roman, some huge, some damn near submicroscopic. The only consistent rule was that all tables and images needed a magnifying glass to be viewed.
By then I’d put up about 35 bookoids and real books on Amazon, and, practice making something closer to perfect, I’d learned a few things. Relevant to this fiasco: what you see in Amazon’s on-line “Preview” tool is decidedly not what you get.
Amazon invites you to peek at your uploaded document with its “Preview” tool but neglects to tell you the result will bear no resemblance to what your readers see in a Kindle reader.
To view an even vaguely accurate rendition, you have to download Amazon’s Kindle reader software into your computer, fire it up, and then download your posted document into that.
And as I read the copy, I realized that yes…it was pretty bloggish. Many of the recipes had been tossed together for Funny about Money and bloviated with copious hot air.
So, I took it down from Amazon, making it unavailable to readers.
We slowed our production schedule almost a month ago, but it’s taken this long to catch up with all the pressing tasks I couldn’t get done while trying to keep up with the unrealistic work demand. Now that the dust has settled, though, I hope to return the cookbook to the market within the next couple of weeks.
In addition to getting rid of all the jpegs and the re-flowing the entire 255 pages of fine print into a clean new Joel Friedlander template, I cleaned up a fair amount of the copy. The tone is still very casual, but the most bloggy passages were cut. It’s about ready to re-post in its new incarnation, but while I wait for La Maya to return and decide whether she’ll share a painting, I probably will go over it again in search of more hot air to delete.
So, watch this space: a grand new cookbook is coming your way! Sensible weight-loss advice included.