Day Twenty Eight: I Actually Wrote a Book

After sending an email to CreateSpace at 7:50 pm informing them my book hadn’t arrived as promised… It arrived at 7:58 pm.

Normally I would feel like a dork, but It’s my book… my baby (With a gustation period greater than that of an African Elephant, mind you). I’ve been waiting to hold a print copy in my hands, fan the pages, and smell that new-book-smell for the first time.

And here it is…

Proof Copy

And… the spine is off!

So… If you remember from the last post, CreateSpace rejected the original cover art because there wasn’t enough leeway on the spine. I adjusted it based off their recommendation, which was contradictory to their guidelines. And guess how much the spine is off by? Yep. The same exact distance they had me adjust it. I guess that just hit’s home the folks who wrote the manual know more than the quality control team.

A few choice curse-words, and several deep breaths later, I flipped through the pages. And you know what? It looks great. I love it. It’s a dream come true.

Man, I hope people like it…

Actually, just getting people to read it will be a challenge. And that will be my focus going forward. Well… after I correct the cover… again… that is.

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Day Twenty One – Twenty Four: Corrections and More Corrections

Where to begin?

I first heard back from KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and they approved the file, but when I downloaded a copy and tested it on a couple of devices (Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet) it didn’t look that great or consistent. After reading through a couple of sites, it seems the .mobi file type Amazon uses is a variant of ePub with some of the formatting choices removed. And on top of that, there are a two different iterations of .mobi, and your ebook will look different on different Kindle models.

A couple of the help sites, podcasts and books on Indie publishing recommend a book by Guido Henkel called the Zen of eBook Formatting: A Step-by-step Guide To Format eBooks for Kindle and EPUB. It’s a quick read, and breaks down how to create an ebook from the ground up using HTML and CSS. Basically an ebook is nothing more than a nicely wrapped web page. Wich, if you’ve never programmed (not even sure if that’s the right term for using HTML) in HTML, he walks you through step-by-step on how create a book this way. After two days, I have a great looking ebook. Unfortunately, in order to get the ebook to behave like an ebook, i.e. flip pages, load into e-reader apps, etc… you need to run it through a program called Calibre. The main thesis of the Zen of eBook Formatting is, “Garbage in Garbage out” so starting with a “pure” file will make the end product you produce nice and clean.

And you know what? The .mobi file looked great, and behaved well on the different devices. So did the ePub version. However, as soon as I loaded it into the Apple’s ibook store application, it kicked back a whole series of errors. After some digging I found a way to look at the source code Calibre was kicking out, and it added a ton of junk. I’m not even sure why. The area’s it added code to were insignificant.

Another day passed as I tried to figure our how to correct the coding in Calibre, and eventually gave up. I can spend weeks working on stuff like this and have nothing to show for it except a healthy dislike for coding. So I went back to my writing application, Scrivener, and exported the novel as an ePub file. It worked great. I can’t see the code, but since it looks good and Apple approved it, I don’t need to.

Honestly, I can’t speak more highly of Scrivener as the tool to use for writing.

Oh, and the cover art was approved with one change. The CreateSpace team said my spine was too big and it needed to have a small buffer on both sides, but they went ahead and corrected it for me. The image they sent was crazy. All they did was reduce the with, which compressed the text and looked ridiculous. As a result, I uploaded a new file with a solid back cover (same color as the spine) and gave a small margin on the leading edge. Hopefully this works, but I’m kind of suspect since I followed their guide to the “T”. This update was approved within a hour and I ordered a proof copy. It’s supposed to arrive on Monday.

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Day Nineteen: Off to Create Space

Just sent the file off to CreateSpace… Yay!

Then uploaded the digital version to Kindle Direct Publishing… Yay!

10 minutes later, found an error in what I sent to CreateSpace… Boo!

Okay, so no biggie. I have to get a proof copy of the printed book before It’s made available for purchase, and I’m sure I catch a couple things during the review. But still, it boggles the mind how many times I read through this manuscript and still miss errors. The good thing about being an Indie publisher is I can continually make changes and updates to the files and have them updated real-time.

Now, I’ll tackle ePub formatting for the iTunes book store while I wait the 24 hours for an approval from CreateSpace.

Here is an image of the cover I created for the book. Let me know what you think.

The Dragon Rustler book cover

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Day Eighteen: Getting Down To Business

This is actually “Part 3” of the CreateSpace thread, but the title was too long and this topic is more about the back office activities I did this week.

I often classify days as either a “Two-steps-forward”, or “One-step-back” kind of day. Today was one of those great “two step forward” days. I got so much done it was ridiculous.

It started off with me filling out the CreateSpace publishing form and wrestling with the decision to buy an ISBN or not. Just for reference, an ISBN is an International Standard Book Number, or in layman’s terms, a way to numerically classify books. For the most part, you don’t need to buy an ISBN, especially if you are publishing exclusively through Amazon. As a matter of fact, they kind of go out of their way to discourage you to not buy one.

… So I bought a block of ISBNs.

Why? Well, for one, I plan on publishing across multiple distribution platforms. And two, I get nervous when any company tells me something is not necessary. You see, by using the ISBN Amazon provides, Amazon becomes the Publisher of Record. Is this important? Some of the top Indie publishers disagree on this very point. And if you’re interested in this subject, do a quick Google search. There’s plenty to read on the matter. And right now, having Amazon as the Publisher of Record isn’t an issue. But if one thing is consistent in business, things change, and before you know it, they will, and all of a sudden what seemed trivial is now important.

But… in order to have an ISBN you need to list a Publisher of Record. You can go two routes here. List under your name as the author, or as a business. It seems like common sense that if you’re an Indie, it gives you a little more credibility if you publish under a business name. Now I won’t get into the pluses and minuses of which type of business to start. There are a billion resources on that. For me, the best option was a S-Corp.

But… in order to have a business, you need a name. Now this took me the longest part of the day. The first four thousand names were taken, so I finally looked at a map of Colorado for inspiration. Outside of Ft. Collins, there’s a mountain named, Thunder Mountain, which sounds cool. So I searched for Thunder Mountain Books, and hallelujah, it was available.

Some paperwork later, and I am an official C-Corp (You need to apply for S-Corp status after you organize as a C-Corp)

But… that’s not all. I was on a bureaucratic roll, why stop now. So I applied for a copyright. Now this isn’t really necessary. Just writing the book in the first place protects your work, but I like the little extra protection having an official copyright gives me. And in case your wondering, sending yourself the document in the mail doesn’t really add any level of protection, so save yourself the postage, and spend $35 on an official copyright.

So, all and all not a bad days work.

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Day Seventeen: Submitting to CreateSpace (Part 2)

After catching a couple of minor formatting errors, I decided to slow the whole process down a bit and make sure everything looks perfect. I’m not too satisfied with the formatting of the first line of each chapter. Originally I went with the first several words of each chapter in small-caps. This seems to be a new trend with popular middle-grade fiction. But after looking at some of my favorite books for inspiration, I found I really like a more traditional style.

1) Making the fist letter of each chapter large. While several middle grade books do this style, I think I like the cleaner lines of having the top of each letter even.

2) Small-caps. As mentioned above, this is a popular style now and works well with keeping styles consistent across ebook and print. But, I want the print books to look a little more … special.

3) Drop-cap. Drop-caps can be a great way to emphasize a new chapter. They can range from simple to very ornate. I like drop-caps, but they don’t translate to ebooks well.

So I decided to go with a hybrid drop-cap with small-caps for the first several words. I like the way this looks, and it is a very traditional publishing style. I can also use the small-caps as a bridge to keep the ebook style similar to the printed version.

drop-cap-example

Now, the fun part of converting all 46 chapters to this style…

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Day Sixteen: Submitting to CreateSpace (Part 1)

After working on the print file for a week now, it’s ready for submission to CreateSpace. Based on the advice by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch in their very helpful book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, I decided to do the layout in Adobe InDesign. I’ve worked on Adobe products for most of my adult life so I figure the switch to InDesign wouldn’t be that big of a challenge. Unfortunately, like most things in this journey, I grossly underestimated the time required. The learning curve for Adobe InDesign was very steep. After several attempts to get the document just right, I realize that I set it up incorrectly for a book with the dimensions of 5.5″ x 8.5″. But eventually after many YouTube videos and web searches I figured out the right way to do the overall process and layout. The next step will be to figure out exactly some of the styles I want to incorporate and then submit the document. So here goes nothing…

Update 09/16/2015: I didn’t send it out. See following posts.

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Day Eleven – Fourteen: Spending Time With Family

Between birthdays and a visit from my little brother (Ryan), this weekend was about family. I could go into a whole speech about work-life balance, but in reality sometimes you just need to walk away from work in order to be keep on top of your game. And right now, everything I am doing is all about detail.

On Monday, Ryan and I went for a hike on one of the trails at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. It’s amazing that a 17,000 acre park, with a large bison herd, exists just a couple of miles outside downtown Denver. As a matter of fact, this is the largest urban wildlife refuge in the United States. I’ve driven around it many times, but this was the first time I actually saw the herd.

Bison Herd

This was also the first time I actually walked around on one of the many trails. Three chapters of The Dragon Rustler take place here too.

Arsenal

So if you’re ever around Denver, and would like to see a bison herd and walk some nice trails, check out the Arsenal Refuge.

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Days Six – Nine: Getting My Social House In Order

This post is doubling down as a blog update and a implementation test. If all goes according to plan, as soon as I hit “Publish”, an update should hit my Facebook page and Twitter feed at the same time. So here’s hoping. After spending three days messing around with MailChimp (A mail list management application) trying to get it work, I could use a little technological good mojo flowing my way. But for now it works and looks pretty nice, so we’ll leave it at that until I have more time to mess around with all the details. So let me break down some of what I have done…

Mail List:
Every single book I read stressed the importance of having your own mailing list. The reasons seem fairly valid and straight forward:
1) You develop your own list of fans you can communicate to directly
2) With constant change in social media platforms, you never know when Facebook and Twitter will go the way of Myspace (the proverbial Dodo of social media)

They also stressed the importance of setting up the mail list as soon as possible, thus the pause from writing and the dash to get my writer’s platform (fancy talk for social media and website) up and running.

Overall there seemed to be two main applications everyone uses, AWeber and MailChimp. Most people use AWeber, and to be honest, I was considering it too, but MailChimp is free to start, so no out of pocket expense. Eventually, when my list gets over 2000 people, I may want to switch over to AWeber, only time will tell.

Social Media Integration:
Once again, start-up cost became a factor here. You can pay to have robust programs like Hootsuite manage your social media across all the major platforms, or you can use a simple WordPress plugin to send updates out to your Twitter and Facebook pages when you update a blog post. This seemed to be the best design for me, as I want to drive traffic to my webpage, and not try to fight for people’s attention with invitations to play “Monster Legends”. The only issue with this, so far, has been having to sign up as a developer with Facebook, Twitter and Google in order to get the APIs (code to get everything talking to each other). But once that was done, inputting the right information into the correct fields is fairly easy (knock on wood).

If you’re following along at home, I have WordPress running on my own hosted webpage, MailChimp as my mail list application, and a simple WordPress plugin called “NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster” sending out blog post updates to Twitter and Facebook. The mail lists and social media elements took me the better half of 3 days, but at zero cost to my bottom line, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Oh, and before I sign off for today, do me a huge favor and click on that little link over on the right that says “Subscribe Now”, or if you’re viewing this on a mobile site, click here. I have a goal to get 1,000 people signed up before I launch my book.

Thanks for reading,
Anthony

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Day Five: Update on Day Four

After spending a couple of hours last night working on the map, I realized there were a couple of issues going on. 

First, the image was too faint for the high DPI, which I fixed by bringing up the contrast and adding some shadows to create depth. 

And second, my printer sucks. I should have figured this one out earlier, live and learn I guess, but when I exported the image as a PDF it looked great. So with the internal formatting almost done, my intention is to print it at an office services center and do one last major proofread before uploading it to a print on demand service. I’ll hopefully catch any formatting issues at this stage before it goes to print. 

For reference, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and Adobe Photoshop to first draw the image, then to add text, contrast and shading. I probably could have done all of this in Sketchbook, but I’m more familiar with Photoshop. Below are the before and after images of the map.

The original was drawn in Adobe Illustrator as a placeholder image

The original was drawn in Adobe Illustrator as a placeholder image

The final version of the map was illustrated in SketchBook Pro and touched up in Adobe Photoshop

The final version of the map was illustrated in SketchBook Pro and touched up in Adobe Photoshop

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Day Four: Stuff That Takes Forever and Shouldn’t

Have you ever had one of those days where you think something is going to take a couple minutes to complete but in reality takes you hours? That was today. 
I wanted to spruce up the map for the interior of the book, so instead of having it as a vector line drawing, I decided to make it a sketch. Instead of this taking me my projected 45 minutes to an hour to complete, I ended up spending four hours. The main issue, and what took the longest, was figuring out how to get the map image into Adobe InDesign while maintaining a high print quality. Honest to God, this took me about two hours. And the bad thing is, I’m still not happy with the way it looks. So I’ll probably be up late tonight reading blogs, help sites and watching YouTube videos trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong.
If anyone has any ideas, please drop me a comment below. 

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