Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A self-publisher's progress

Today I submitted a 64-page chapbook to CreateSpace on behalf of Mesilla Valley Writers (MVW), which is here in New Mexico. It's my first such endeavor, and writers considering self-publishing might want to see how it goes. I'll be publishing a second chapbook very soon, and if all goes smoothly, a novel in the fall.

In previous years, MVW has published using a local print shop. We'd print a set number for a set price, and would always have unsold copies languishing in someone's garage. We decided to experiment with an online company this year because we avoid the upfront printing costs and we can buy exactly the quantity we want.

My first inclination was to go with, but they have an 84-page minimum; neither this chapbook nor the next one will meet that criterion. CreateSpace doesn't have that requirement, and their association with Amazon gave me the confidence to try them.

My software includes Word 2007 and Corel Paint Shop Pro X. No doubt other software would do just as well. Formatting the layout and page size in Word was straightforward, just changing it to the 6" x 9" dimensions planned for the book. The page count has to be a multiple of four for any printed book, so I arranged my material and illustrations accordingly. Of course, a few blank pages at the end would be no problem, but you do need to plan for it.

With CreateSpace and probably other such outfits, you have to upload your book in two separate PDFs, one for the contents and one for the cover. Word 2007 allows you to create a PDF of a word processing file, which you can then look at in Adobe. (If you don't have it, download the free Adobe 9 reader. You'll need it.) This is a good time to inspect the entire file for any formatting errors. Then you can upload the PDF to CreateSpace on their website. It's quite straightforward--you get a template into which you upload the file.

After that, I turned to the cover, which was a little more intimidating for me. My front cover graphic had to be 300 dpi and sized at 6 x 9. This was a little tricky getting just right, but mainly because of my inexperience. But it wasn't too bad. The CreateSpace instructions said to export the graphic into PDF. The trouble was, I couldn't see a way to do that using Paint Shop Pro. Maybe I just missed something.

But no matter. A number of free PDF-creating tools exist on the Web. I used, which worked beautifully. I just uploaded my graphic, and got a PDF in return. Very nice. Then it was a matter of uploading that into the cover template. You'll also need to create a back cover and the spine, which of course varies in thickness by page count. They
have a book tour video that shows the process. This is what took me the most time in the submission process, because it requires close attention to detail--and for me, a bit of trial and error. Here is the result:

That red border is not part of the cover; it's the trim area. Anything extending into the trim area will not be part of the cover. The yellow rectangle on the back cover is an area reserved for the ISBN, which CreateSpace puts in automatically.

And wouldn't you know it? After submitting, I realized I needed to make a small change in text. It turns out that all you have to do is resubmit the corrected file.

I'll post more about my experiences as time goes on. Hopefully, they may help someone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First the good news...

Lots of good things are going on with me lately, along with one rather nasty one. Today I finished the August issue of the Internet Review of Books. Lots of people have a hand in it, of course, but I actually put the web page up on the 15th of every month. Check it out! You'll like it.

More good news is that I'll be publishing chapbooks for the El Paso Writers' League and Mesilla Valley Writers this week. They're lots of work and fun, collaborating with friends to get the jobs completed. They'll both be published through Amazon's CreateSpace. More about them later this week.

And finally, When Pigs Fly has received a dandy new review on Amazon.

Coachmen Santara

Now the bad—cringe along with me, please—our Coachmen RV has bitten the dust, declared both unusable and unfixable by Camping World. The issue, we're told, is frame fatigue, meaning we could lose the entire back end of the vehicle—it could break off and kill someone—if we continue to use it. When we bought the vehicle it had 4,000 miles on it, and we have added another 16,000, which hardly should be enough to wear it out. There is a lot more detail, but we're going to Camping World tomorrow to remove our belongings from it, and then we're calling our insurance company. It's very distressing, because we love RV travel.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

When writers have ADD

Some blogger I am, not posting for three weeks. Lots of writing-related activity has been going on, though, which seems to be an excuse both for not blogging much and for gaining no traction whatsoever on my next novel. In fact, will there ever be another brand-new novel from my keyboard? Certainly not for a while, as one project after another pops up its alluring little head and gives me that come-hither look. A very good writer friend once described himself as a literary roundheels, by which he meant that every appealing idea that occurred to him made him want to stop what he was doing and cavort with something new. It was a self-effacing comment for someone who has published 10 mysteries with St. Martin's Press, but I understand his sentiment. Active projects on my plate include writing book reviews, maintaining the Internet Review of Books (IRB), participating in three writers' groups (president of one, chapbook editor for two, admin for an online group), flirting with writing poetry, finding and working with web development techies to develop a new and improved IRB website, eagerly searching for typos in other people's work, and putting together some short pieces for a writing contest, all while frequently stopping to check email and too infrequently checking other people's blogs. It's all fun at least 90 percent of the time, or I wouldn't do it. The trouble is that novel writing requires a long-term commitment that's inconsistent with this fragmentation of time, this self-imposed ADD.

There will be another novel, but it's already written, sitting on my hard drive since the previous millennium, when an agent was unable to place it. An artist will create a cover, and then off the novel will go to publication, probably through Lulu. It's serious, though, and most of my fiction in the last few years has been fairly light.

What about you? If you're writing a novel, do you clear the decks of distractions? Do you block out time, plunk your butt in the chair, and just write? That's the way to do it. Once upon a time, that used to be me. No longer, but I'm not complaining.