Formatting Woes

printing press
rotaebot via Creative Commons 2011

I’ve been on a months-long project to upgrade my books. Get the formatting consistent, make the promo material current. It’s been a good exercise. There’s a system in place where I can quickly update my Also By, promo, and newsletter pages. Just make the changes, paste them in, and upload. No need to even order a print proof. Only…

  • The Magic Root – The first book I updated. For ten days in December, it actually was The Marilynists. Moral of the story: Make sure you click the right damn file when uploading to Kindle, Createspace, and Draft2Digital.
  • Broken Skies – I get the new proof with a cover done by the lovely and talented MD Thalmann (That’s one way to do it.) This thing sailed through Createspace’s file review and came to me with a beautiful proof. Except…

    I  skimmed it to make sure the text lined up and the back matter pictures did not look horrible. Since I was at work, I approved the proof and took it home. And then my fiancee’s son began reading it. Matt has a brain disorder that affects his ability to read, sort of like dyslexia on steroids. Yet Matt spotted a glaring typo on page 1 that I and three beta readers missed. That and I had an extra blank page that threw off which side the chapters began. Oops.

  • Warped – Also sailed through. Only the print proof was misaligned with the header sitting almost on the top edge and a huge bottom margin. This confused me. My original files looked good, and Createspace’s digital proof looked good. After conferring with Createspace, we determined it was a mechanical error with the printer. They sent out a free replacement, which looked good. (And yes, I spot checked for typos and that errant blank page that can throw off chapter beginnings.)
  • Tishla – This one gave me fits. When you upload to Createspace, your cover is actually a quarter inch wider and taller than the cover will be to give it a bleed. Plunking down the images in a frame in Scribus, an open-source app I use to create full print covers, I’ve always had a white border around the edge. This is called a bleed, and it gives the print machine room to cut. Only this time, the reviewer rejected it. I pushed back. Why did all my other covers go through? After a couple of levels of support, I realized I lost the argument. MD Thalmann to the rescue. He had sent me the tiff files he used to make the covers for Tishla and Broken Skies. Not only was I able to adjust the cover text, but I could expand the front and back. So now, not only am I doing it right for once, but both books are now consistent.
  • The Children of Amargosa/Second Wave – These books are part of The Amargosa Trilogy. Now, all Amargosa books are part of the Compact Universe, but not all Compact Universe books are part of The Amargosa Trilogy. So the trilogy needs its own type face (not to mention some upgraded covers.) The titles needed their own typeface. I went with Impact, which my graphic designer friends found boring. However, once it was on the cover, it hearkened back to the nineties Star Trek novels. The challenge now is fixing the text so it shows up against a background with shifting colors and brightness. Children in particular will probably see a couple of updates before all is said and done.

It’s been a good exercise, but my plans to get it done in a week fell through. This actually started before Christmas. It’s now almost February. But at least I have a system in place.