Thursday, February 04, 2010

Whipping Out the Big Guns or...

The Ten Most Valuable Lessons I Learned Over the Past Year Preparing a Very Complicated Book Project for Submission to CreateSpace

My biggest fear over the past year has been that one day I would suddenly realize that I had shot myself in the foot this time, that I had simply bitten off more than I could chew, that Ker-Splash 2 would never make it to the boat show. (Photo courtesy Al Past.)

My mammoth book project entitled Ker-Splash 2: The High Performance Powerboat Book has been submitted to CS after a year of very intense preparation. When I say mammoth, I mean 400 7”x10” pages, 152,000 words, 135 photographs, three tables, and an extensive glossary, bibliography and index, and a 95 MB file size. When I say intense, I mean ten hours or more a day for most of the days from early ’09 until February 2010. If I can set up Ker-Splash 2 for CreateSpace, I can set up any book for that medium; however, I never intend to do it again. My next book is going to be half the size and without pictures! Of course Sean Connery said Never Say Never Again….

10. You can set up an ISBN at CS long before your book is ready. You can then go into Cover Creator and begin work on the cover. I developed several cover variations for K-2 before the text was even half completed. Make notes to yourself about each of the component choices you made in CC so you can go back and recreate it at any time. You need to do this because certain procedures, such as changing the format size of the book, will require you to start over in Cover Creator. Your ISBN stays with your book from then onward. If you had created more than one ISBN for more than one cover design, you can simply delete the unwanted ISBN as your project develops.

9. The file size limitation at CS is 100 MB. It took almost exactly two hours to upload my 95 MB book using a cable connection. This was a lot quicker than the all-nighter it took back in 2000 to upload Daydream with its 35 photos to iUniverse with a phone line!

8. I utilized a lot of tricks to stuff 135 photos into 95 MB. Photoshop Elements allowed me cut the JPG quality down to 10 from 12 on a few piggy-sized files. I also used PE to expand some of the less than 300 dpi shots up to 300 and I dropped many monsters down to 300 from as high as 900. The largest photo I began with was 203 MB! The smallest was an Instamatic slide from 1966 that I had scanned with my slide scanner at 1800 dpi. I used Picasa to crop all my photos and perform minimal modifications on a few of them.

7. I kept a running file folder of all my selected and prepped photos. I numbered all the photos within parentheses at the beginning of the name so that they would constantly line up in the order they would appear throughout the book. Of course these numbers had to be manually reshuffled repeatedly throughout the process, but this plan was worth the trouble! I could not only see at a glance the book’s photo layout this way, but the procedure easily led to #6 next.

6. I knew from the beginning that the file for this book would be huge, and that I would need smaller versions for several reasons. I created a Word page of my Table of Contents and all the subsections therein and tracked the placement of the photos throughout the book with their respective numbers on this page. I created a second Word page of all my captions with their corresponding photo numbers. I did all this while continuing to compose the book in a Word document without photos.

5. I created what I called a mock-up, a sort of dress rehearsal document for the book. I created a mock-up folder of all the photos with the same numbers, too. After each photo had been selected, cropped, and prepped into its B&W 5.75-inch width in 300 dpi, I made a copycat version that was only two-inches wide. I then inserted the copycat into place in the mockup text file, clicked the tiny photo and had Word blow it up to 5.75-inches wide. What this produced was an 8 MB Word document that was easy to work with, and would be the foundation for my future Kindle and Smashwords versions. I am therefore creating a 95 MB document that will be converted to a PDF and sent to CS, but I am also creating a smaller Word version that can be developed into an e-book. After I completed the writing of the text, I just plugged in my captions with large photos in one version and small photos in the other.

4. Before I got deeply onto the project, I was more frightened of what might happen with the PDF conversion than with any other step in the process. This was, of course, because I had had the least experience with this particular process. My fears were totally unfounded. I downloaded the free Open Office software and the learning curve was only a few minutes. It worked like clockwork with no problems at all. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!

3. Word has been making me want to take a brick to my computer over a particular issue with Kindle and Smashwords formatting, but I found the solution during this past year. Kindle automatically indents your paragraphs even if you don’t, but it does not like the line spaces between paragraphs that are so compatible with Smashwords. If you format a book with the Smashwords Meatgrinder with line spaces, the home boys will love it, but Kindle will add additional line spaces if you submit the same formatting to DTP. The trick is to turn on the show paragraph marks and delete all the extra ones before sending the document to Kindle.

2. Word has reeeaaaaallly made me mad over a second issue. The nature of my writing is like that of a magazine columnist whose work is constantly edited and altered in the process of its creation, as well as moved about in its placement within the final product. There were at least eight places in the final version of Ker-Splash 2 in which Word just refused to move a particular Paragraph #2 up to the line just below Paragraph #1. I would fix it and Word would move it right back where Word wanted it! The secret is that many of those times that my composition had been edited or moved about, I was moving Size 12 TNR in Normal mode into a spot previously occupied by 14 Bold in Heading 4 mode (or some other such mismatch). In my toolbar, the text that was jumping around was shown as TNR 12, but Word had buried secret code in my document. The solution is similar to the posting on this blog that I do all the time. Cut and paste the jumping-bean paragraph into WordPad and then copy and paste it right back. As soon as you do, you will probably see a lot of big, bold text that you had never intended to be there! Just highlight it, turn it back into TNR 12 in Normal, and you’re done! The Wicked Witch is Dead!

1. Lloyd Lofthouse, a member of our review team, has discussed at IAG the many ways he has tightened up the formatting of his book that was first published by iUniverse. I agree in principle with everything he has said about iU utilizing a somewhat standardized format, but in detail we must each make our own personal decisions. His advice was to clamp down the size of an iU book and re-release it at CS. I am sure that concept applies to many authors, but not to me. My interest was in making the interior look just a bit more professional, and a little more like the types of nonfiction car and motorcycle books I was emulating. I had already tightened down my last iU book just to keep the retail price down as much as possible. If anything, in my opinion, Timeline came out a wee bit overcrowded, but I would still do the same thing to keep the price down to its whopping $21.95. (I actually loosened that one back up again in a later Kindle edition.) I have a little more price leeway to work with than does Lloyd with his fiction novels, but as I said, the principle is the same.

You can reduce any line spaces you want down to 8 instead of 12. You can condense letter spacing wherever necessary, too. You can use different font sizes, if appropriate, in certain parts of the document. I left all my major text in TNR 12, but the photo captions were put in 10 and the photo credits in 8. The corporate contact addresses were changed to 10 and the extensive Acknowledgements went to 11. Parts of K-2 are centered, parts are left aligned, and parts are justified. As I said, Lloyd wanted to reduce the cost and retail price of his book. I wanted mine to look less like a POD novel. The technical formatting procedures were the same. I found online an outstanding guide in PDF form for the book creation process. It’s called Build Your Book, by Walton Mendelson, published by One-Off Press in Prescott AZ in 2009. It’s a quick, free, 1.8 MB download. Mr. Mendelson’s instructions helped me a lot with my project, particularly in the latter stages of the CreateSpace process. Google it, or download it from the link above if you are already signed up at CS. I highly recommend it!

1 comment:

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

I can't imagine doing a project like that: it was hard enough setting up a text-only book on Lulu. But congrats on figuring it all out and getting it done, even if (for now) you're saying "never again."