Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The First and Second Format Wars

Armistice was declared today, 1st April.

Accepting my print proof of Through the Hostage on April Fools' Day would be a worrying omen if I were completely sane, but completely sane people, I'm convinced of it, never become writers. They certainly never, ever, become indie authors.

Star Trek captured my feelings perfectly on the topic of my final and accepted proof.

Captain Archer: I believe someone once defined a compromise as ... a solution that neither side is happy with.
Commander Shran: In that case, these talks have been extremely successful. 

OK, that's a bit melodramatic. Very melodramatic. I've seen much, much worse in bookstores. I've seen very much worse indie pubs. Given that I'm aiming for average, I'm happy. Actually, I'm ecstatic. I've got a print copy of my very own book sitting on my desk, at which I send periodic doting looks (think ape with first banana sort of looks).

Could it be better? Yes. Of course it could. The cover, which I haven't the expertise to tweak, has the edge of one letter of the title just slightly overlapping the spine. I didn't get a professional developmental edit, because really, at $0.03 per word at over 100,000 words ... well, if I had that kind of cash spare I'd by lying on a beach somewhere drinking something that comes in half-coconut shells (and there'd be a lot of empties lying around).

Could it be worse? Hell yeah, it could be very much worse. I've bought worse many times. I'll back my general editing against the big publishing houses because I keep growling over their errors in the books I buy. The story is as good as I can make it, and I enjoyed writing it. If someone else enjoys reading it, well, that's a bonus from my point of view.

I decided on CreateSpace for my paperback version, partly because they're affiliated with Amazon, meaning that paperback (if the gods smile) will simply be added, hassle-free, as a format in which you can buy my masterpiece, right alongside the e-book.

There are other major pros with CreateSpace. For example, their customer service is awesome. Send in an email, and you get a personal response, with some actual information in it, much faster than I was expecting (24 hours or less, I think, in my case). Also, I ordered two print proofs, both on Sunday evenings (that was coincidence) and they showed up on my doorstep Tuesday evening. Given that they predict two weeks for postage, I was duly impressed.

The First and Second Format Wars occurred when I tried to format my guttering and margins (no, this isn't a problem that can be solved by removing the leaves from the drain). There's an interesting wrinkle in the CreateSpace uploader, where it will tell you ten times in a row that you need to increase your gutter (inner margin), and regardless of how much you do so in Word, it will actually move the text on the page, in the previewer, the opposite way. Luckily my hair is too short to pull successfully.

Another interesting wrinkle I discovered: we all know that each section of your book should start on a right-hand page. The title page should always be a right-hand page, chapter 1 should  begin on a right-hand page, and so on. Easiest way to achieve this? Page break / page break, inserting a blank to make sure your content starts in the correct place. Easy, right? Wrong! Inserting a single blank in Word turns into two blanks in the CreateSpace previewer, meaning you have a weird double blank ... and your content is still on the wrong page.

Next time, I will probably simply download one of their Word templates and paste my content in, to see if the template has the same issue. At least then I'll have the immature satisfaction of pointing, mocking and making rude noises before embarking on the marathon.

CreateSpace does provide very handy guides, which, while they don't actually prevent the previewer from telling you that your margins are wrong, do explain in useful detail the steps that should avoid having the previewer send you annoying messages. They also host some helpful forums, where you can usually find someone else who has had this problem before you. There may not be a solution, but you can at least watch someone else getting to the multiple-exclamation-marks stage online.

Hence ... Armistice. I'm a perfectionist, and I'd like to have the cover absolutely perfect, and I'd like to have the pagination absolutely perfect, and like every other author who's ever set pen to paper, I'd like an international bestseller. As with books as with life, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I compromised, and I have a paperback copy of my very own book sitting on my desk. Sometimes sucking it up has its perks.

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