Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 20 February 2012

Working With Createspace

By a freak of nature, a mystery of design or what have you, I've found myself in Sullivan Towers this weekend without hot water, central heating or broadband.  Apparently, just like the good old days. I'm absolutely revelling in the experience and will be dissappointed when I have to be warm again.  I appreciate that sounds like I've plumped for an overly technological heating solution, however it's just a case of bad luck as opposed to delusions of being in the same financial league as Bill Gates.  Fortunately I live close enough to my Son-in-Law to scab off his WiFi (but not close enough to absorb any radiated heat, unfortunately).

So I've spent the weekend looking deeper into the Createspace Print on Demand (POD) system to keep my mind off the cold.  I'm still waiting for the five proof copies of Digital Life Form to cross the Atlantic and am hoping that they arrive before the end of this week as I'd like to take one with me on holiday to proof check.  But it occurred to me that I missed an opportunity when I ordered those proofs and my endeavours this weekend has revealed a few other tips I thought I could pass on to anyone thinking of giving the POD a go.

First off, you may recall that I decided to order five copies to take advantage of the economies of postage scale - the price per book stays the same regardless of how many copies you buy, but the more you order in one go, the cheaper the postage is per book.  Well it occurred to me that I could have been a little more patient and done what I've subsequently spent the weekend doing - I could upload all of my books and ordered fewer proofs per book.  Like one, perhaps?  So tip number one is, if you have more than one book on your inventory, then upload them all and buy just one proof each.  If the results aren't what you want then you'll end up with a minimum number of mistakes to leave nonchalantly on your coffee table when you want to impress visitors.

What I also discovered when ploughing through the other four books - incrementally, unfortunately, meaning I have had to backtrack a few times - is that eBooks are formatted quite differently to print books.  It might sound obvious, but many of us have been immersed in preparing our books for Kindle and Smashwords for the last year or so and it turns out there's some things that are done differently.

For example, we don't put page numbers in eBooks - it would be a pointless exercise in a format that is scaled to suit anything from a mobile phone to a large screen monitor.  But you do need to include page numbers in books because they don't tell you that you've read 69% - how did we ever manage?  Oh yeah, we looked at how much thickness was left, but I guess that's a tad old school.  And while you're popping your page numbers in, take some time to relearn the intricacies of Word and it's section breaks, otherwise you'll have page 1 showing on the preamble.

Your electronic manuscript probably doesn't have a header, either.  It's another old school thing, having the title in front of you on every page, at the top.  Despite the fact that pretty well all of us, when asked what we're reading, turns the book to look at the cover.  Anyway, its tradition and makes a book look like a real book, so you'll have to play with that too.  Section breaks need to be handled carefully here too, because really you don't want the header to start until the story does.

Its also traditional to fully justify your book - it may already be formatted that way, but if not....

And finally there's the page count.  The more pages, the more expensive the book is to make, simple economics really.  If you intend pitching your seventy thousand word opus at $20 a book then that shouldn't be an issue, but if you're trying to keep the unit costs down and your book is longish, you may need to do some work.  For example, Skin weighs in at 110,000 words and 120 chapters (it's not only Dan Brown who does this, then).  My eBook version has a page break after every chapter end, which is nice and airy, however by removing the page breaks I reduced the page count by 60 pages, or approximately $2 a book as I like to think of it.  The end result may be too crowded and busy, but I'll know that when I review the proof.  If they have to go back in, then they will, but I'll try to live without them first.

The ball is now in Createspace's court - judging by how quickly they sorted Digital Life Form out I should be able to order a proof of each tomorrow and hopefully they'll be waiting for me on my return from holiday. 

Hopefully the hot water, central heating and broadband will be up and running by then too!

I can be followed on Twitter too - @RayASullivan

To find out more about my ancestors visit my sister’s website

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