Less work, more fun with paperback formatting

I’m working on a paperback today. I plan to get back to writing today (was supposed to do that days and days ago, but you know how that goes!) but first I want to finish up the interior formatting for the last release I did.

It’s a little tricky because it’s the longest book I’ve done to date, and I chose a 5 x 8 size for this series a long time ago and don’t want to change that. I also don’t want to go too small on the fonts, so I suffer with higher prices for the books and don’t worry about it. :-)

The paperbacks are more for me anyway just because I like having them.

On that note, I’m playing around with some stuff and have finally figured something out that’s been hindering me from having a basic template file that I can paste my manuscript into for an even easier paperback creation.

If you use section breaks in your manuscript (I do), you must delete them before you copy and paste the text into the template.

If you don’t delete the section breaks, your page layout formatting carries over into the template, messing everything up. I’ve tried this many times over the years and never could understand why it happened. I should have tried searching a little more diligently for the answer but I had fallen into the habit of formatting my paperback from scratch every time instead. I mean, I always tried at least once to copy and paste the text, but I had always given up after that and got on with the formatting.

That’s no longer necessary, because once I deleted the section breaks, the formatting didn’t carry over and my template held onto its page layout formatting for the whole document. Excellent news for me! :-)

Also excellent news is that I don’t actually need those section breaks since I gave up uploading Word docs to vendors (except for Smashwords) a long time ago. I make an EPUB in Jutoh, which testing shows puts page breaks where I want them anyway.

So one less step in my formatting process for the next book/story.

I’m going to test Smashwords on this too, with my next book. I do not yet know for certain that my page breaks will appear where I want them even without me putting them in manually, but I’ll find out. (Apparently the TOC is supposed to tell Smashwords where to insert page breaks but I don’t know for certain it’ll happen for all the formats Smashwords generates.)

If the page breaks don’t appear, I can add the “page break before” option to the heading 1 style in Word and manually insert the one other page break I need (between the title page and the copyright page, which I do not put at the end of the book because I don’t like it there).

Finally, I’m also playing around with Libre Writer for this paperback. Already I’ve discovered one thing it does that Word does not that I like very much. Libre Writer has a book layout view, much like Adobe Reader does. Word does not.

What makes this so awesome is that I can see the spreads (left and right pages side by side) as they’ll appear in the book. Word doesn’t give me that view and it can be a pain sometimes to notice where the blank pages are supposed to be but maybe aren’t.

Anyway, back to the fun stuff. :-) I’ll have an interior for this paperback before lunch if all goes well. :-) (I might still be tweaking it at that point, for margins and then hyphenation issues, but that’s just because I’m picky.)

So that three hours? More like twenty

It feels like Saturday. No idea why.

I’m still feeling a little under the weather here, and I’ve had so much coffee and tea today that I’m also wired up like a piano. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve drank too much too close together, because when I add up the volume, I realize I’ve actually had less than yesterday or the day before.

I did finish the book cover. Or the multiple book covers, I should say. Instead of taking three hours, it took about twenty. If I trim out the time for breaks and stuff once I stopped using the timer, I’d still say it took fifteen or more. I did not take breaks yesterday or this morning until I was so desperate for one I couldn’t have made it another minute without one.

This is one of the hazards of hyperfocus. I don’t enjoy it and it wears me out in a way flow (or being “in the zone”) doesn’t. Don’t ask me if it’s real; all I know is it feels real to me. I almost never feel good about it once I realize what I’m doing, because in the end I give up feeling like I’m in control of myself and my actions.

Maybe continuing with the timers would have helped—I don’t really know—but by the last three sessions I was just clicking OK + Restart Timer and going again the minute it dinged.

I wrote cover copy today, and spent almost four hours on it. It’s like I’m going for records for everything with this book, but in all the wrong ways. Cover copy is usually something I’m pretty quick with. Not today. I still don’t have it right. I can feel it.

But, on to other things for a little while. I have a book to read and edit that I should get started on, and I haven’t written 500 words a day in a couple of days, either. Ugh. Not feeling up to it tonight at all. I might just go to bed early.

Designing a book cover and fighting perfectionism

I’m working on a cover design today. I’m really not good at managing my time when I do this so I’m experimenting today in the hopes of keeping the time down to something reasonable.

Usually I just dig in and start playing with backgrounds, trying to come up with a composite I like. Today, I’m setting my timers up to work for me.

I’m going to design in half hour blocks. I’ve picked that length for the blocks because six of them make three hours, and each one is short enough that if I’ve let myself fall into a black hole of perfectionism, I can stop it before it consumes my entire day.

I really don’t want this cover to take all day. I have a headache, I’m tired and maybe a little sick, and I want to feel productive today.

I don’t feel productive when I get stuck in a loop of tweaks that almost invariably takes me back to where I started. :-)

I’m going record what I did during each half hour block so I can see if there’s something I can learn from this experiment.

Now, to be frank, my last few covers have taken significantly longer than three hours to create, so I’m not cutting myself off at three hours, just seeing how close I can get to done in that amount of time.

It’s not a lie that constraints and boundaries can boost creativity. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times. I’m hoping it will help today. ;-)

I’ll be using GIMP today. Version 2.8.22. It’s open source and free. I generally use stock photography, which I’ll most definitely be using today, and most of it comes from Dreamstime, all properly licensed. (I keep the license information, and if you use stock, you should too, because sometimes the stock disappears from the site and it can be challenging to find the license information after that—speaking from experience!)

First, I’m starting from the base of my last cover, which already has the fonts I need and the alignments for the typography in it.

Second, I’m going to start looking for a background I like.

Third, I’ll do whatever I have to do to blend some stuff together and make it unique and pretty and (hopefully) pop off the screen without being garish.

Fourth, I’ll try to get the type to look nice.

Fifth, I’ll crop and save the sizes I need.

I’m not allotting any of these tasks to any particular time slot, just laying them out so I can see what I need to do. :-)

Now. Time for that first timer.

 

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.

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. :)

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.

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.

Smashwords is finally about to start paying monthly

Some good news from Smashwords to end the year:

Smashwords Plans for 2017

In broad strokes, below is what you can expect from Smashwords in the coming year.  If some of this looks familiar to our goals for 2016 (most of which we met), it’s because some of these items below will remain persistent themes for us for many years to come:

  • Faster payment cycles – January will be our last quarterly payment round, after which Smashwords is going monthly starting in February.  Yay!

Yay is right. I distribute to Apple through Smashwords, although the day might come when I’ll decide to buy a Mac and go direct (or Apple will finally get a clue and realize they should stop making it so difficult for authors to publish on their platform!) and I sell a few books through OverDrive and LibraryDirect and from the Smashwords’ store itself.

After the mess with All Romance Ebooks, I’ll be glad—ecstatic really—to finally be receiving monthly payouts from all the distributors/retailers I use.