The Judge of the Dead now just a few weeks away (touch wood)

Today I got CreateSpace to send me a proof of The Judge of the Dead. Supposedly it will arrive Wednesday. I doubt the cover will cut the mustard. More of that later. That’s now the only doubt I have over publishing on my intended date of 11 August. If I can pull the trigger before then it could be even earlier.

I did manage to get the cover done before the 4th July deadline but of course it wasn’t hassle-free, me not being an Adobe dude. I couldn’t work out how to export the cover as a single-page pdf; it kept saving it as 3 files: back cover, spine, front cover. Fortunately Bob Levine on the Adobe forums came to the rescue. There’s an option on one of the menus to save as a ‘spread’. I uploaded the file to CS and it was accepted. Job done.

A couple of people on the CreateSpace forums are similarly helpful, namely ‘Walton’ and ‘Lighthouse24’. They seem to operate as a deadly duo, fighting incompetence on every street corner in CreateSpace City. I had a horrendous time using the CreateSpace pre-formatted Word templates, which I’m sure had some kind of hidden section break messing up all the formatting. Anyway, eventually I abandoned the template, building up replicas using the same settings on blank documents, eventually producing my front matter (title page, copyright page, dedication, blank pages where appropriate e.g. to keep page 1 of the manuscript as a recto page, not verso). Word for Mac 2008 was creating multiple pdfs but Lighthouse24 came to the rescue, advising that multiple pdfs could be merged together using certain software. For me that meant Preview on my MacBook. Sure enough, with the help of one of those invaluable webpages you somehow just seem to sniff out (see link below – only useful for people running ‘big cats’ OSX on older Macs)…

http://macintoshhowto.com/pdf/how-to-merge-pdf-files-with-preview-in-leopard.html

…I managed to merge my front matter, back matter, and 331-page manuscript into a 338-page pdf ready for upload to CreateSpace. It was accepted. Job done. Not quite.

It’s reasonable to expect to go through one last time looking at punctuation, re-running spellcheck, that sort of thing, but when I started all this I never really expected to learn about type-setting. I had read a blog post from a woman who claimed to have gone through her manuscript and made little rewrites where there was too much space between words. I dismissed it at the time, thinking it was just nuts to be doing that, but when I came to my finalfinalfinalfinal read-through, I noticed that Word does vary the space between words as a result of justifying text to the left and right margins. Having already spent almost a week going through the MS expanding or condensing the spacing on pages and paragraphs by as little as 0.1 points, I was really not enamoured with the idea of doing another major exercise to combat wide gaps between words, but it is obvious at times (even more so when you are aware of the issue, like you are now) so I decided if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly…

I spent a couple of days fixing this up as best I could. There is a secret to it, and here it is…

A line of text is likely to have wider gaps the longer the first word is on the following line. For example, if the first word on the following line is ‘unambitious’, that’s an 11-character word that the first line can’t host without it rolling onto the next line. If the first line had space at the end for a 3- or 4-letter word, the gaps between words on that line might not look that bad, as Word only has to spread out the shortfall of 3 or 4 letters’ worth of space over the rest of the line. However, if the first line could have hosted a 9-letter word, say ‘ambitious’, but can’t fit in ‘unambitious’, that’s a lot of space to spread out over the rest of the line; the gaps between words will be pretty obvious.

I decided that I would review any line of text that began with a word 10 or more letters long, in conjunction with the preceding line. There is really no option but to rewrite sentences, so I did, substituting a longer word for a shorter, or vice versa, or rewrote phrases, or even entire sentences. When doing this is it is important not to change the number of lines in the paragraph, because that risks creating new widows and orphans, thus the prospect of having to go through the entire MS all over again doing another sweep for widows and orphans: a nightmare scenario. Anyway, I would say there were 1-4 rewrites per chapter, which over 25 chapters means less than 100 minor rewrites. It’s not too bad; it just feels like the tail wagging the dog, having to edit the manuscript due to type-setting issues. The blank spaces control which words I can write. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Looking at it positively, that’s up to 100 sentences that I had the chance to tighten up before the book hits the shelves. That’s the way to think about it.

Of course the >10-letter word cut-off means I didn’t catch the 9-letter worders, or the 8-letter ones, but there’s only so much you can realistically do. The type-setting might look a bit odd from time to time but it shouldn’t take over the writing process.

That still wasn’t the end. The fly in the ointment was that my CreateSpace manuscript was different to my ebook one. I had tried to adjust both in real-time by juxtaposing the two files, but inevitably I missed a few adjustments so had to go through the two files trying to identify where they were different.

Finally I ended up with two files containing exactly the same story, word for word, even if the formats are different depending on the requirements of CreateSpace or KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). I converted them to pdfs with my new pdf wizard’s spells, loaded them to the relevant Amazon websites, and got the thumbs up. My interior files are done. That’s it. No more.

My only concern now is the paperback cover. I had a message back from CS saying it could be printed, but that some part of the image was at a resolution of less than the recommended 300 dpi (dots per inch), thus it could be blurry or pixellated. Blurry should be fine, even possibly quite cool. Pixellated would be dreadful, and require re-designing the cover, at which point I would just scream and hand it over, with some money, to someone else to do. I’ve really had enough with messing around with graphic design programs. Not my bag.

I could do the big ‘cover reveal’ thing, get some marketing energy going, but I don’t want to jinx it. I’ll wait for the proof to come in the post. If the cover’s okay, it’ll be time to set the publishing date, set the price, make it available for pre-order, and start the fanfares. What I really want to start talking about on here is characters, plot, themes, the writing, not publishing mechanics and lists of problems encountered and how they were resolved. But I said months ago when I started this blog that it would be altruistic to an extent, logging the journey so that others that follow might have some materials to help them light their own way. That altruistic element has probably just come to an end. I feel like Doctor Frankenstein, spending months explaining how I built my monster. You’re probably not interested. You just want to see the bloody thing. Hopefully in the next 24 days I can unleash him on an unsuspecting world…

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EBook cover design – difficult, difficult, lemon difficult

I’ve spent bits of this week designing a cover for the e-version of The Judge of the Dead. This was – to borrow one of the funniest lines ever to grace British TV comedy, from The Thick of It – not easy peasy lemon squeezy but “difficult, difficult, lemon difficult”.

I decided to use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, which sounded simple enough, but due to incorrect advice about which versions my MacBook could handle, I wasted time trying to work out how I could download older ‘CS6’ releases when my machine handled the much newer ‘CC’, despite warnings to the contrary. That wasn’t all though. The download process messed up on a number of occasions, requiring online chat to Adobe’s helpdesk in India. Finally, after about 6 hours and half a dozen chat sessions, one of the staff offered to remote my machine and do it for me. And that was that: one frazzled day.

I had a look at some Adobe tutorials but none was quite what I was after so I went online to look for those handy little YouTube (and the like) videos that people put up.

The first useful one I came across was the following (published by Lynda.com):

That process relates to building the cover of a physical book though, so while I need to do this at some point, first I needed to produce a flat image for an ebook cover that would simply show as a thumbnail-sized (almost literally) image on Amazon.

Later I came across the following webpage, which was mostly incredibly helpful in producing a draft ebook cover (or two):

http://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-design-an-effective-ebook-cover-using-adobe-indesign–cms-23364

Obviously I needed to ignore some sections and adapt others but I did eventually get there in the end. The big problem I had was that I did/do not even have the basics of InDesign, so I had no idea how to re-find text boxes once I’d created them. This is achieved via the select tool, and very simple, once you know it exists. More hours wasted and hair torn out, and I’m pretty IT-intuitive as it goes.

I’ve missed out Terry White. Terry fronted up a video explaining how to do something or other, and while I’ve now forgotten what it was (always, always, bookmark!), I was impressed with his presentation skills and delivery so worth checking his name for anything to do with InDesign. He seems to front up some ‘how to’ vids for Adobe themselves, which is as good an endorsement as any.

I didn’t find Photoshop very useful. My first draft was achieved largely by messing about in iPhoto and then InDesign, in fact I may have bypassed Photoshop altogether. Same goes for the second draft using a different background.

My original wish was to use an image of a blastocyst, an embryonic stage organism (careful Sean, you may actually be in danger of talking about the story for a change), but I could not obtain rights to use the image I wanted without paying over £100. This would likely mean I would have to sell 100 books just to pay for the image, something I’m not prepared to embrace, so I resorted to a free one. This though was square and had too little background around the image, such that when I used the function that (ah, yes, I must have used Photoshop) attempts to recreate the background in a newly created area extending to a now book-shaped rectangular border, it worked but the result was quite blocky; something that is not really noticeable at thumbnail level but defo doesn’t work at life-sized 8in*5in.

Here is the first draft, included here for a laugh, basically (size near enough how it would appear if perusing Amazon):

JOTD cover scrnprt

The blastocyst image looks like a planet or asteroid or something, suggesting a Sci-Fi story; not what I want to achieve. I love the AppleGothic font for reading, and will use it for the text of the physical book if it is available through CreateSpace, but the font doesn’t translate well to book cover level so I knew I had to have a rethink.

Having trawled through loads of rubbish images connected to the two keywords in the title, ‘judge’ and ‘dead’, I decided to abandon theming my background, and to keep the design nice and neat and simple (the essence of good design?). But I still needed a background of some sort.

The obvious alternative to theming the title was to theme the author, so I zoomed up my dear old corduroy hat (now 18 years old, I’ll have to give it a copy of the key to the house and have the difficult ‘birds and bees’ conversation) as worn on my gravatar, and cropped a bit out, 8*5 dimension. This was to come back to haunt me in InDesign, when I tried to place it on my book cover template. The template has a bleed around the outside, so my 8*5 dim didn’t work. Eventually, after more hair pulled out (I’ve started on my armpits now) I realised I needed to go back to iPhoto/Photoshop and change the dimensions in there to take account of the bleed, before re-placing in InDesign. This worked.

Then it was time to revisit adding the title and author name. This had been simple enough first time around, but now I faced a new deadly foe: I typed in text, it was there for about a second, and then vanished. I spent hours trying to resolve this, to no avail, even after consulting Adobe gurus on the web. Eventually I deleted the ‘layer’ I was working on, built a new layer and the problem vanished, which is just as well as I had used up my vast array of expletives by that point and would have had to start inventing new ones.

The result, which I’m likely to go with, is attached (piping added by screenshot so won’t appear on Amazon):

hat cover jpg scrnsht

No it’s not fancy, but it’ll do. Really no idea why I should have to sell several hundred books just to pay a graphic designer’s bill, providing him/her with a fair chance of making more money from the book in a few hours than the author who has spent 3 or 4 years writing it. There is a lot of opinion out there insisting that a cover is really important. I never really paid much attention to opinion. I’m approaching this from the music angle. Most of the records I buy come in plain black or white sleeves; it doesn’t detract from the quality of the sound the producer has slaved over in the studio. I have never ever looked at a book cover and thought: Hey, maybe I’ll buy that. I can’t picture in my mind a single cover for any of the books on my bookshelf; that is how memorable covers are to me. The blurb though is another story. That is going to have to grab someone’s attention and make them reach for their credit card.

Really looking forward to publication being over and done with now, especially the cover(s) design stuff, which is going to get worse before it gets better as now I need to translate my thumbnail image into a front cover, back cover, and spine. Gonna be a fun-packed week ahead then. I’m running out of hair to pull out; trying to avoid getting down to the ones on top of my toes. That’s gotta hurt…