Update to my previous post

Today, instead of writing, I went ahead and reformatted a couple of books that have new covers, because those paperbacks need to be updated to match. I wasn’t going to do this yet, but as soon as I said I wasn’t going to do it, the idea was in my head and I couldn’t resist.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long—my new style sets are really consistent, for a change—until I started tweaking stuff. Then of course it took a lot longer. I formatted 2 paperbacks in about 4 to 5 hours. But even with all the tweaking, that’s nothing like the time I used to spend creating my paperbacks.

Since I’ve been working on so many paperbacks at once this time, it was really easy to get my style sets consistent. And since I had recently reformatted my master files for these two books, I had the books set up just right to work with my fresh new paperback style sets. I changed my style set, adjusted my title pages for a consistent look within each series, and printed to PDF.

Still, I was dealing with some perfectionism and a lot of little gotchas. I swear I had to print to PDF about 10 times each for each book before I was done because of little things I forgot to check or fix beforehand.

Anyway, I’m done now with the paperbacks until I have time to work on those covers and I’m going to write, even if only for half an hour or so.

I’ll say goodnight now, and plan to post my progress tomorrow. I have books that really must be written, and dammit, I really want to write them. Time to start doing that!

Procrastination as a productivity booster

So I posted about wanting to write every day and the very next day I finally start those paperbacks I’ve been putting off for half a year.

Funny how procrastinating on one thing can lead to a boost in productivity on another. My guilt over not writing pushed me to work hard on the formatting and kept me working until it was done.

I became a little obsessed with them to be frank. But I finished the formatting last night and now I need only to finish up the paperback covers to go with those newly formatted books.

I’d still like to reformat my older books, but writing needs to take priority now.

I also spent yesterday preparing my tax return. I just about finished it. :) I’ll confirm my numbers when the 1099s come in but I’m confident in my record keeping and am glad to have this out of the way early this year!

Today I intend to start letting myself write every day.

I want to write every day

How can I say this and it not be a goal for the year, for the month, for my life? I don’t know, but I have and it isn’t. It’s a statement of fact. I want to be the kind of writer who writes every day. It’s not a challenge and I’m not making it into an experiment. I’m just throwing it out there so that I can hear myself say it because it’s true.

I want to write every day.

Stalling

I started a post, didn’t want to finish it, then started another and didn’t know what to say. At this point, I realize I’m stalling. There are stories to be written and I need to write them.

How I format paperbacks in Word

Despite needing to write today, I’m fighting with myself to get started, so I’ve decided to take advantage and put myself to work doing something else: formatting paperbacks!

So this is my plan for today: I want to try to get as many of the paperbacks I’ve been needing to format as possible done by lunch. In fact, that’s my challenge for today!

I like to use Microsoft Word to format my paperbacks. The thing is, I tried Adobe InDesign and I just don’t like working with it. The learning curve is steep, and although there are tutorials, I know Word, I like Word, and I’m comfortable with it. And I’m pretty happy with how my paperbacks have turned out over the years, so that’s what I’m going to stick with.

First I have to commit to the size I want for my paperbacks. That’s going to be easy for the pen name series because I used 5.5 x 8.5 and I loved it. (If you follow the link, be sure to set zoom to 100%.) For all my other paperbacks, I format for the 5 x 8 paperback size.

I do want to reformat my previous paperbacks to the 5.5 x 8.5 size too, but first I’m going to test it with my shortest novel to see if I can make it look good and still reach a page length that will allow a spine, because there is a limit under which CreateSpace will not allow you to put spine text on a book. First I’ll focus on margins and leading, then I’ll pad with some ads for the follow up books if I have to, using the advertisements in some published books from my bookshelves as a model, or a chapter or two excerpt of the next book. I want that spine text. A book just doesn’t look professional without it.

Reformatting the rest of the books will probably have to wait, but I can go ahead and put the new books in the larger format if I decide the test book looks good. Things will be inconsistent for a while, but if I commit to the new size, I’ll make an effort to get the older books reformatted ASAP.

Here’s the deal:

I do not have templates for this. I’ve discovered that copying and pasting by chapter takes too long. Anything else, and I end up with strange formatting issues I have to fix. For example, when I copy and paste the entire document into the template, my section breaks cause some pages to revert to 8.5 x 11 and then I have to fix that.

If I save an intermediate version, strip the section breaks, then put them back in once I’m in the template, well, that takes time and is as tedious as anything else, so why bother?

Here’s what I do instead.

I save a copy of my master file.

I adjust the page setup, including margins, section starts, and paper size.

I change the document’s style set to my paperback style set. I try to stay consistent across every book with my styles, because this part doesn’t work so well if I don’t. My master document is set to use my ebook style set. The change to the paperback style set applies justification, font sizes, line spacing (leading), and other formats I need specific to what I want for my paperbacks. This means I don’t have to do a lot of settings adjustments for my chapter text. It all happens automatically as soon as I change the style set. It also means I don’t have to remember what all those little tweaks are and that’s good too.

I turn on hyphenation.

I add headers, alternating the page number, my author name, and the book title for odd and even pages. I don’t use footers.

I adjust the settings to eliminate headers on blank pages and the first page of every chapter.

I double check that the headers are correct for every chapter! This is important because I recently discovered I missed a chapter in one of my (published) books and for one chapter, and one chapter only, the header has a different book’s title in it. :o (It’ll make for an interesting first edition if I ever get famous enough to have people looking for them, right?) But that’s something I need to correct, and I’m planning to do that when I reformat.

I add the flourishes to the chapter headings, scene breaks, and first lines.

At this point, I’m almost done.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I worried excessively about widows and orphans because I preferred even page spreads (the same number of lines on facing pages) and I spent days making minor adjustments on every page to force the text to flow in a way that eliminated them. But after a few years of this and a hard look at the cost versus profit of doing these paperbacks, I decided I was going to give that up. Now I have widows and orphans turned on in Word for my chapter paragraphs in my paperback style set. I do end up with some pages having fewer lines than others but it’s a reasonable trade off for the time saved and the money earned from these books. And picky as I am, I honestly don’t find that it’s that noticeable at all.

I double and triple check everything, tweak as necessary, and then I’m done.

I print to a PDF file.

I don’t save to a PDF because Word can’t embed Open Type fonts into PDFs.

Then I look everything over again.

I upload to CreateSpace, confirm the number of pages, and start on my paperback cover. :)

***Well. This challenge didn’t go well. I worked all day on one paperback, and spent the rest of the day wallowing in indecision as I tried to make myself commit to a font size reduction to make my paperbacks more affordable and a trim size change for the same reason.

I finally decided to embrace the font size change, because I’m just going from 12 to 11.5. Despite how agonizing it feels to give up the generous size as a cost saving measure, I realize on a rational level that it’s not that big a deal. The font size is still significantly larger than most of the books on my shelves and is a reasonable size.

As for the trim size? I can’t do it. I’ve decided not to change. The pen name books will stay 5.5 x 8.5 while the other books will stay 5 x 8. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but not today. In all honesty, it’s because I kind of like this size best when I’m holding the books. On the other hand, it’s also a damn lot of work and I’m just not ready to tackle it. Too many books to redo!

Now, I’m moving on.

I’m giving this up for the night and writing tomorrow. I’ll pick up the paperbacks again only after I’ve made some significant progress on my book.

Turns out I was not ready for writing today after all

I spent part of the day renaming files and changing my mind repeatedly about a couple of my file naming conventions.

I couldn’t decide if I was happy with the lower case and hyphens for my image names or not. In the end, I went with not, and renamed all my image files with the same case I’m using for the rest. I actually did this a couple of times—back and forth.

I also couldn’t decide if I wanted to name my old files “old1” “old2” or “ver1” “ver2” and then I couldn’t decide if I liked using “Cover” in my cover image file names. I decided not.

Basically, just a bunch of second guessing of stuff that doesn’t matter at all.

I have a sneaking suspicion that perfectionism has found a way to slip in and I’m going to have to do something about it.

During the process of navigating through every folder in my writing directory, I came across some fiction I wrote back in 1994–1996.

Oh my. I wasn’t sure if I’d improved that much as a writer, but this particular book proved it. If I could go back in time and tell myself anything to help speed up my development, I’d tell 19–21 year old me to use more contractions. :o

Also, it’s literally one of the first times I’ve read something I’ve written and can’t remember even a teeny tiny bit having written it. I mean, nothing is coming back to me about this, except for the odd fact that apparently I named my kid after two of my characters from this book—the hero and the heroine’s dead brother. Poor kid. :o

My chapters were ridiculously short. But I can see that I was learning. The writing gets a little better as the chapters go along. Little being a relative term in this context, for sure. ;)

Here’s a screenshot of a bit of one of the stories.

I thought those old versions of that particular book had been lost, but apparently I’ve been bringing them along with me in my writing folder with every migration to a new computer.

They’re buried deep, but they’re there.

After that bit of nostalgia, I found myself sorting and deleting email and trying to come up with a better system for handling my archives. I spent a lot of time on that and all I really decided was that there wasn’t a better system. I deleted some junk, saved a few files and deleted some non-junk, and got the number of emails in my email archive below 5,000. :) That’s over multiple accounts, with my primary account making up about half that with 2,273 emails according to Thunderbird.

(I have many email addresses and I refuse to consolidate them all. I’ve tried that and I didn’t like it one bit. I need to compartmentalize to be comfortable.)

I also started reading a new book today.

The thing is, I knew as it was happening that what I was doing was a mistake. I just couldn’t stop myself. Frankly, it felt a little compulsive.

On the other hand, I feel like maybe I’m done now. I hope so. I really don’t want to rename any more files. It’s making me crazy.

Tomorrow, I won’t let this happen. But today? There’s no way to deny it. I failed to be a writer today.

The last writing streak ended yesterday

I ended yesterday with zero words written for the day. I had a full day away from home and I just didn’t have the energy to get started. I actually consciously looked at my writing streak in my daily word count log, said, “Neh,” and closed the computer.

Wondering what that big number is in the image? That’s my cumulative word count since I started tracking in 2012.

Anyway, on to make today the beginning of a new streak. I both want and need to make some significant progress today on this book I’m working on.

Today is the first day this year that both of my kids are back in school. I have no reason to put off getting back into this book and fixing the problems it’s giving me. I’m ready.

Random thoughts: File naming conventions

First, a new column for the blog, if you can call anything here columns: Random thoughts.

Second, I had one. :D

It led me to researching the accepted wisdom for naming files. I have a very confused set of file name conventions I just haven’t been happy with for a while.

Almost everything I’ve read over the years says to avoid spaces in file names, so a while back I started naming folders and files like this:

c:\Writing\MySeries\MyBookTitle\MyBookTitle.docx

I did that not just because of having read a lot of advice saying to avoid spaces. I also had an instance where a file on my computer wouldn’t delete. I had to use the command prompt to get rid of it, and oh boy, was that a headache. So I don’t use spaces in file names in most instances anymore.

Some folders are like this though:

c:\Writing\MySeries\MyBookTitle\cover

In fact, all the subfolders inside my book folders are lowercase and use _ for spaces like_this, but all the folders outside those book folders are LikeThis or Like This.

I hate it.

It’s not very readable, and it’s definitely not consistent, although it is more readable than my first iteration:

c:\writing\myseries\mybooktitle\mybooktitle.docx

It was a nightmare with filenames like:

myseriesbookcovertemplate5x8.xcf

So I continually find myself looking for a better way, and yet internet searches never turn up anything I find particularly useful.

At some point, I read something that said to avoid hyphens because of cross OS compatibility. Underscores were the winner, but I can’t remember why, and so I started using _ whenever I needed a space.

I still don’t like spaces in file names because of the internet issue. And they’re ugly. Seeing %20 mixed into a long file name makes that filename look ridiculous and difficult to read.

So mostly I tried to stick with PascalCase.

PascalCase was a new term to me when I came across it. I thought I was using camel case, but apparently thisIsCamelCase, because it uses a lowercase first character.

Today I came across loads of people recommending ‐ instead of _ as a space replacement. So I’m back to wondering why hyphens aren’t a good idea in file names, because I still don’t remember why underscores were the winner, only I didn’t run across anyone talking about that issue this time around so I still don’t know!

And really, I think they’re mostly talking about filenames and folder names for the web, and that doesn’t matter much to me except in a very few specific instances (like book cover file names).

One reason I don’t like the dash as much as the underscore is because the dash isn’t as easy for me parse out as a space in a column of file names. But an underscore, if used in a hyperlink with an underline, is unreadable. You won’t even know it’s there sometimes.

:o

Really, this whole this is just one big annoying mess.

However, I have finally settled on a file naming convention this time, one that I’m pretty happy with, despite everything (and after two days of letting this obsession occupy brain space). Although to be honest it doesn’t solve the readability problem of PascalCase.

Maybe you don’t have trouble reading it, but I sure do!

Anyway, here’s what I came up with:

Stop using [ ] and other special characters in file names

Use hyphen instead of space when needed

MyFile-2016-01-09.txt

Dates like 20160109 are impossible for me to read, so I don’t use them.

Stick to title case for most things with no spaces

MyBookTitleNotes.docx
MySeries
MyBookTitlePbCover.xcf

When using 1–9, use 01–09

01-MyBookTitle

MyBookTitle root directory

MyBookTitle.docx
MyBookTitleMeta.docx
MyBookTitleNotes.txt

Folders (when needed)

backups
cover
ebooks
paperback
research

Folders are lowercase because they’re less distracting that way.

I know this is inconsistent with my other folders, but I actually do find them less distracting when they’re lowercase and they’re all one word names, and these particular folders are inside folders where I have to differentiate between a lot of similarly named files. I just won’t use two word file names here. If it ever does become necessary, I’ll just use a hyphen.

Files inside these folders

\cover\

MyBookTitleCover.xcf
MyBookTitlePbCover.xcf
my-book-title-1000.jpg

For jpg, png, gif, tif, use all lowercase, no space, no underscore, since these files are more likely to be used online.

\ebooks\

MyBookTitle.jutoh
MyBookTitle.epub

\paperback\

MyBookTitlePb.docx
MyBookTitlePb.pdf
MyBookTitlePbCover.pdf

Add a version number to the old file when replacing it so that it doesn’t overwrite old file in \backups\ folder if it is moved there later

MyBookTitlePb.docx (current)
MyBookTitlePb1.docx (oldest)
MyBookTitlePb2.docx (second oldest)

And that’s it. I did some cleanup to rename the files and my directories now look a lot better and everything is much more consistent. Now I’m satisfied, at least for a while. :D

Oh, and if you’re wondering how I changed all these names quickly and easily, I used a bulk renaming utility for the majority of the work. They’re very handy to have around!

Let me say that although I feel very satisfied with the changes I’ve made, I’m completely aware of the fact that spending two days on this was two days too many.

It’s procrastination, plain and simple, most likely to deal with the writer’s block I’ve got going on, and the only way to solve that is to get this obsession out of my system. Honestly, I almost believe these episodes are a way for my subconscious to keep my conscious thoughts occupied so it can work out whatever issues are going on with my writing. :)

Here’s hoping I’m correct about that and that when I finally put this obsession to bed, I’ll be ready to get past the current part in my book that has me completely stumped.

Never stop learning: A Successful Release Strategy for Authors video series

JA Huss is releasing a video series (A Successful Release Strategy for Authors) on her blog in the Marketing Tips Monday category.

I’m not much for doing active marketing and promotions but that doesn’t mean I don’t read/watch/listen to people talk about that stuff. I love to learn new things, even if I don’t always put those things into practice.

The series has just started, and you can follow this link to watch the introduction. I really enjoyed the intro video and I’m looking forward to the rest.

My sales graph looks nothing like hers. Lots more spikiness to mine and nowhere near the sales. Like, seriously. I’m making a living, but my living is in the southern U.S. and you know how cheap it is down here.

But someday.

Then again, probably not. The size of the market/niche my books are in isn’t that big (a subgenre of a subgenre of a genre) and I don’t want to branch out into a bigger one.

There’s also the fact that I’m just not the kind of writer who can write books people consistently fall in love with. I mean, I write some books that people love, and that keeps me fed, but there are massive differences in how much love each of my series  and books get.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the link. Go out and learn something! :)

Changing a book cover on a paperback: New edition or not?

This post has been updated with an addendum. Turns out I was wrong.

I understand that technically I do not have to create a new edition of a paperback at CreateSpace just for a book cover change. But I’ve been mulling over my options and I’ve decided I should.

Here’s why: Resales.

If the book cover is different on more recently purchased copies of the book, anyone trying to list the old book for sale used is going to be listing a different product, because the book cover is an important part of the paperback.

When I buy a book, I expect it to come with the cover shown on the product detail page. If it were to arrive looking like a different book, I’d be pissed, because that’s not the book I thought I was buying. Covers matter to me and I’m sure they matter to a lot of people—especially people who collect paperbacks.

Therefore, I feel obligated to issue a new edition since I’m replacing the cover on the book in question. It only makes sense really.

The next question becomes do I leave the old edition for sale until the new edition makes it to Amazon and the other stores, or do I take it off the market as soon as I upload or approve my files?

I think I’m going to wait. No point in having the book off the market longer than necessary, right? Maybe I’ll even leave it up for a short while in case anyone wants to pick up the copy with the old cover before it disappears. (Okay, that’s probably not going to happen, but it’s fun pretending.)

Now, off to actually finish the new edition of that paperback. I’ve already corrected one lone typo and added some info to the front matter, but I still need to finish the actual new paperback cover design.

Addendum: As soon as I hit the Edition field in CreateSpace’s setup process for a new project, I started to have second thoughts.

That led me to a little more research, where I found this:

How do I tell one edition from another?

A new cover does not indicate a new edition as long as the publisher has not changed. What usually indicates a change in edition (providing the publisher has not changed,) is the change in the content of the book. This most often occurs with non-fiction books, especially textbooks.

So, now I’m thinking a new cover does not make a new edition, despite the issue with resales.

Then I continued, and found what Bowker had to say (Bowker issues ISBNs in the United States):

If changing the cover of a book, does a new ISBN have to be assigned?

US practice is if the book is just out or the idea is to give a marketing boost to the product, then no, a new ISBN should not be assigned. However, if the change in cover substantially changes the product (ie., would lead to customer complaints), then a new ISBN should be used.

I would complain if the cover was different, but I guess buying used copies, it’s just a chance you take.

Finally, I found some information in the Amazon KDP Support forums that makes a lot of sense after having read the previous two items. I can’t find a permanent link to the actual reply so here’s a link to the full thread and here are the relevant quotes:

I’m wanting to do a second edition of my novel…. There are minimal changes to the text (literally, MAYBE two words were corrected); the real reason for the second edition is that I have a completely new cover I’m wanting to use that will better fit my series…. [W]hat do I do in order to have my listing reflect the new cover and new edition without losing my reviews? Or is it unnecessary to make such a big deal out of a “second edition” when the cover is the only thing being updated?

The reply:

I would call that (as trad publishers do) a “reprint” and not a second edition. A second edition means significant content changes. Some of the publishers I work for have it down to a percentage requirement–such as, 40% of this book must change in the second edition. That’s the highest percentage I’ve seen; lowest was 20%. Changing the cover image does not, in my mind, warrant calling it a second edition. Second printing, if you’re printing–not that that really makes any sense in POD, of course. But with trad publishers who print up batches of something at one time, if they catch a few errors that they do wish to correct, but aren’t ready for a second edition, the email we get says “Let’s save this in a file for reprints” or “We’ll catch it in reprints.”

On that note, because there really are only very minor text changes to the book (one typo corrected and a few lines of updated front matter), I’m going to update the first edition with the new file and cover image and not create a second.

As for some other books I’ll be updating soon, they’ll have to be new editions, because the trim size will change and CreateSpace won’t let you do that as an update.