And that answers that question about my paperback covers at CreateSpace

Got this just a short while ago:

Congratulations!

Your interior and cover files for xxxxxxxxxxxxx, #xxxxxxxx meet our technical requirements for printing.

The next step in the publishing process is to proof your book:

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GET STARTED:

Which I assume means the embedded fonts in the paperback cover are A-okay.  There was no additional message about corrections made for me, on my behalf, or anything like that, so this answers the question of whether or not the PDF cover files would be accepted by CreateSpace with fonts embedded instead of being flattened into the image. Should’ve guessed, really, but I just wasn’t sure.

I’ll be ordering a proof to check this out and compare the quality of print to the covers I didn’t embed fonts for (sending only a flattened image PDF to CreateSpace), and scouring over the digital proof from CreateSpace. If the quality of the text appears better, I’ll definitely be doing this extra step from now on. If it isn’t any better, then I’ll just use GIMP, and only add Elements into the mix when I need to use a font that brings out that unfortunate GIMP text rendering (?) bug.

Also, I discovered something with this round of paperback creation. I’ve consistently had a problem with my PDF cover as exported from GIMP having a transparency that CreateSpace fixes for me. I’ve not had that problem this time. The difference? This time when GIMP popped up the little message during the PDF export, I unchecked all the little boxes for things GIMP was offering to do for me during the export. And now, no transparency warnings from CreateSpace for the three covers I exported directly to PDF from GIMP. Pretty happy to have figured that out. I was exporting a completely flattened image to PDF so there shouldn’t have ever been any transparency anyway, but obviously something GIMP was doing during the export on my behalf was creating it.

New text justification bug in GIMP is bugging me

I think I’ve found a bug in GIMP’s text justification feature. I thought about reporting the bug, but I do not have an account and don’t want an account and don’t have a spare email address where I’d enjoy getting spammed even if I did. The create a new account page warns of that possibility and I chose to take that warning seriously. (Updates below.)

So I’m just putting it out here because I’m frustrated. I spent all day yesterday trying to fix an issue with an installed font that I used for a book cover that turns out isn’t usable in Word for my title page headings because of some bug. If I’d known at the time, I’d have never used the font in GIMP for the book cover.

Lesson learned: when using a new font I haven’t used in Word before, test it in Word. Save the file. Reopen. Is the font still there? If it isn’t, delete the font, because I don’t want to run into this problem again.

I’ve been buying more font licenses lately,  but I still have a pretty big selection of fonts from fontsquirrel and Google fonts on my system that had the right kind of licenses for what I do and I guess I should have expected to run into a problem like this eventually, but I didn’t. I honestly thought fonts just worked or they didn’t. I didn’t realize they could actually be buggy with only certain software. :o

But back to the GIMP bug. Here’s what’s happened. (Update: Definitely a bug. I’ve figured out why it’s happening and I am sure it’s a bug.)

Yesterday I noticed that some of my back cover copy was getting cut off on the right side when I justified the text. I scaled it down a bit from 12 pt to 11.7 pt and it fixed it. This was with Adobe Garamond Pro. Today I have a different book cover in the works and I’m using Adobe Caslon Pro. I tried the same trick when I noticed it was also getting cut off on the right side but scaling it down hasn’t worked to fix this one. I’ve tried every pixel/point size I can in the range I’d be comfortable having this text and it just won’t stop cutting off the very right edge of the fonts.

It’s very frustrating! I definitely haven’t noticed this previously and I updated a few weeks ago to the 2.8.20 version of GIMP. I’d go back to the older version but I truly don’t know if it would fix it, because I’m so behind on putting out my paperback books and I haven’t created one in more than a year until I started doing these.

I don’t know what version of GIMP this issue started in or if it’s been there all along and I just didn’t notice because I wasn’t using these fonts. :(

Maybe I should be doing my paperback covers in Scribus or Inkscape but I do a lot of tweaking of stuff and I don’t want to learn another program with a steep learning curve.

So I guess I’m going to be using a different font for this book cover’s back cover copy.

UGH!

FYI: I’d still recommend GIMP but this kind of thing does make me rethink whether or not it’s worth it to keep putting off converting to Photoshop. I just HATE subscription services. I’ll almost certainly deal and just find a way to work around this problem, but I have to ask myself why I’m being so damn stubborn about it. I do not know.

Update: I figured out why GIMP is cutting off a bit of the right edge of the fonts. It has to do with fonts that have edges that are supposed to fall outside of the margin, in the same way some punctuation is supposed to fall outside of the margins. For example, in my specific case for this text block I was trying to use, the first letter of the paragraph is a “J”. The scoop that makes the bottom of the letter should hang over the edge just a teeny tiny bit (it does in Word and in Scribus and in Photoshop elements. It doesn’t in GIMP. In GIMP, that little effect causes the entire block of text to shift a minute amount to the right, making all the edges of those final letters susceptible to being trimmed by that same minute amount because they’re falling outside the bounds of the text box. And because this is happening no matter the size of the text or the text box, there’s no way to counter it, other than using a different font.

For me, what it meant was that I created my cover in GIMP as usual, saved as a tiff file, opened it in Photoshop Elements 14 (which I had honestly nearly forgotten I had), and added the text for the back cover there. Saved as a PDF, and realized at that point that Elements saves the text as embedded instead of flattened, and decided I’d try that out.

(Scribus did the same. I did get it to work, finally, but it was a PITA, and I don’t like using it. That was when I remembered I had bought Elements last year when it was on sale and that it was on my computer, ready to be used if I wanted to.)

If embedding the fonts produces crisper text on the cover, I might do all future books this way even though it adds another program/step to my workflow.

On the other hand, I don’t know if Createspace will even accept this, because I’ve never submitted a completely non-flattened PDF before. I flatten everything in GIMP, text and all.

But the reason I decided to give this a shot was because I read a paragraph of a page today on the Createspace website that says to make sure your fonts are embedded in the pdf file for the cover. So obviously it’s an expected thing, right?

We shall see.

I am not going to finish those paperbacks today

Dang it. I’m not going to finish those paperbacks today. I got caught up with tweaking the look of the interior and spent too much time on the cover of one of them today (perfectionism is a trap), and here it is just about bedtime for me (oh, my tired eyes!) and I’ve submitted the files for only one paperback today.

So 2 down and 5 to go. Except I’ve realized that I still need to correct a book I found an error in a few weeks ago, so that means 6 to go. But that one doesn’t need a cover, just a few changes to the interior.

I’m very close to finishing a second tonight, and I think I’ll try to get it submitted before I call it a night. The other paperbacks are just going to have to wait. I want to do some writing tomorrow before I come back to them, maybe in the later afternoon. We’ll see.

I definitely want to wrap these up ASAP, because they’re one of the few things left that I need to do sooner rather than later, and when I’m done with them, I can truly focus for a while on just writing my books.

Paperbacks are taking longer than I had hoped

I finished one paperback today.

Meaning I have 6 to go.

:o

Here’s what went wrong. My paperback style set didn’t work. I’m not sure if I didn’t finish it, or what, but when I applied it to the document, only a few basic styles changed and the rest just kind of … broke. I don’t really know of a better way to explain it.

So instead of getting frustrated and trying to create a new style set (which was my first inclination), I just made manual adjustments to the styles, got everything the way I wanted it, and then saved over the old style set with the new ones.

It’ll either work or it won’t, but I got one paperback done today and that’s all I care about.

While I was doing all that, I used OneNote to create step-by-step list of what I need to do to make sure I don’t forget anything during the formatting.

Now, I’m calling it a night. I got up way to early again today and I’m too tired to stay up. :)

Nope, one more day

I got up too early this morning and I don’t want to write. I want to finish the project I sort of started yesterday but bailed on because it felt too damn tedious to continue. :D

Today I’m feeling much more up to finishing it, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Paperbacks, here I come.

I had planned to reduce the font size on my future paperbacks to 11.5 pt to make them less expensive, but I’m just not feeling it. I really think I’ll stick with the 12 pt. I like the 12 pt and I can’t imagine a reduced price of $1 is enough to make that much of a difference in sales.

I’d have to make some drastic adjustments to margins, leading, and font size to reduce the price more than that, or move to the larger 5.5 x 8.5 trim size, and I don’t like those ideas at all. In fact, I considered it a while back and decided I just didn’t want to change trim size. My pen name book has a 5.5 x 8.5 paperback that’s priced $3 less than my average for the books under my main pen name, and sales of it haven’t been notable at all.

The thing is, the paperbacks are a different market, but POD doesn’t compete well in that market anyway. So they’re mostly for people who like the books and want paper copies. Agonizing over formatting to get the lowest price at the sacrifice of what I want my books to look like just doesn’t feel like a good use of my time. :)

So I’m moving on, using the fonts, margins, leading, and trim sizes I like best, and not worrying about the price. Heck, half the time, Amazon reduces the price anyway. :D

CreateSpace cover template generator at Bookow

I meant to publish this a few days ago when I was in the midst of working on my paperbacks. I tested the Bookow CreateSpace cover template generator and I really like it.

The templates are similar to the CreateSpace templates, but they’re an exact fit for CreateSpace book covers. CreateSpace itself doesn’t generate templates that are an exact fit, so I have a spreadsheet that does it for me. CreateSpace’s own templates are done in batches of 10 pages, so they’re close, but not exact.

My spreadsheet came up with 3268.5 x 2475 as the dimensions I need for my cover. Rounded, that’s 3269 x 2475 at 300 ppi.

Bookow generated a template sized 3269 x 2475 for my book.

Spot on. :D

That was for the PNG file. The PDF file when opened in GIMP came up short after setting it to 300 ppi. However, that might be a quirk I just don’t know how to deal with, and I never use the PDF anyway, only the PNG, even from the CreateSpace generated templates. So there you go.

The Bookow page also has a few other resources on that page that are useful, including the ISBN-13 hyphenator, which I had fun with.

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.

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.

How I’m building my new pen name: Eighteen months (and two books) in

I have a pen name I’m hoping to build into a nice second earner. Some diversification if you want to call it that to keep me from relying on only one genre to keep me afloat and happy as a writer.

The only problem is that I’ve written so much slower than I had planned to write that the pen name has suffered—a lot.

My main focus has always been my main pen name, and I don’t ever see that changing. Those are the books I most want to write. I really want to write this pen name series too, but the drive just isn’t as strong as it is for some of my other series. And there’s the fact that the other series pay the bills, so I also have to take that into consideration.

Since I don’t do promotions* as a general rule, my promotion of choice has always been to write more books. It’s a great strategy if you have a series, and I have multiple series. Every time I release a new book in a series, I get sales of the previous books and some crossover sales of my other series too. So it works.

But you’ve got to release books!

I’ve released exactly two books for this pen name since I began this experiment back in June 2015. :o

I released book two a full year after book one. It looks like book three is going to be eight months behind book two. Releasing this slowly isn’t going to generate momentum. I know this, and my earnings for the series prove it.

On the other hand, I have earned some money on these two books even if it’s not a lot, and I’m quite happy about that. I do believe if I could speed up releases, the series might do all right in the long term.

So that’s something I’m hoping for in 2017. To write more of these books and see if it helps earnings. I love this series and I don’t want to have to ignore it just so I don’t go broke.

The details

I pulled the first book out of KDP select the moment I knew about when I’d be releasing the second book.

When I released the second book, it was DOA on Amazon. I was disappointed. I’d hoped for more.

Going wide with both books at once did generate some momentum on Apple and I sold a few copies there.

I really did intend to experiment with price on these books when I started this experiment but I just haven’t done it. I might still do it when I release book three.

The numbers

(I’ll have to consolidate all my reports of individual title sales into one, which I haven’t done yet, because it’s going to be so much work. I really never thought I’d need that much detail…)

*** I’m back! That took a long time! (Two entire days, to be exact.) I’m not breaking sales down by date, just by title, because anything more is just more trouble than it’s worth when working with so many different vendors.

*** In fact, adding up sales for the titles is more trouble than it’s worth—because I’m not really interested in those numbers even now that I’ve done it through the end of 2016. I don’t think I’ll update the spreadsheet going forward. I just don’t care about title sales. Nothing in the report surprised me. My brain has obviously been doing just fine consolidating the information I see in my sales reports and keeping me informed in a general sort of way about the profitability of my various series.

Sales of the pen name books for 2015 & 2016

Book One 984.29
Book Two 371.70
Series Total Earnings 1,355.98

There are a few numbers that aren’t in yet, but any changes to these numbers for the end part of 2016 will be minor.

As for expenses, all I have invested in these books are my time and skill, some stock art, and the domain fee for the pen name website.

Not sure I’ll bother with another update unless (until) the pen name takes off (a thought I haven’t given up on at all). I just need to write more to get there!

*I hate promoting. If it ever becomes 100% necessary to success, I guess my writing career is going to bite the dust, because I’m just not interested.