Saturday, December 16, 2006

more book progress

We're at the review stage for Water from a Skull: I've printed out a PDF of the manuscript and am poring over it, looking for inconsistencies in footnoting, pagination, bibliographic notation, and so on.

I'm delighted to say I dug up a paper I'd done on Zen Buddhism, and am including it in the Buddhism section of Water from a Skull.

If all goes well, then I'll be sending my files off to CafePress this very evening. While it's possible that the book will be ready tomorrow, I'm betting on Monday, because I'm not expecting customer service to move quickly over the weekend.

Those of you who use CafePress know that, generally speaking, the creation of a product is instantaneous once the proper data files have been uploaded. For example, if you're creating an audio CD, CafePress asks you to upload CD cover graphics, an on-the-CD image, and the proper CD files (in MP3 format, I think). Once you've uploaded the audio and graphics files and have written an entry for the product, it's ready to go.

For books, the idea is similar (upload a PDF of the book's contents, plus cover and spine graphics files), but you have to work with the CafePress folks a bit. Why? Part of the reason is the spine's dimensions cannot be determined until the PDF page count has been finalized. Another problem, in my case, is that I'm creating my book's content on a Mac. While I have Adobe and can "print to PDF" (a function already available as a Mac OS X feature), I am unable to print a PDF whose page dimensions match the intended book's dimensions. In my case, CafePress has told me that they will take my MS Word document (already formatted to proper page and margin dimensions) and create the PDF themselves.

Stated a bit more concretely: I want my book to be 7.5" wide by 9.25" tall. I can set my MS Word document to those dimensions, and can "print to PDF" straight from the document. But the resultant PDF, while showing the text exactly the way I want it formatted, will be 8.5" x 11". This is a problem because the CafePress print-on-demand facilities require that the PDF itself-- not the MS Word document from which it came-- match the requisite page dimensions.

Hence my need to consult with live bodies instead of simply uploading files.

Now, if I were to create books whose dimensions were 8.5" x 11", there would be no problem: I'd simply upload the files as they are.

And while I'm at it, let me confess something: I'm nervous about selling an electronically published book without having seen a copy of it myself. Back when I was putting together my 2001 book of filth, Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms, I used Morris Publishing, and they were good to work with. Morris is a type of vanity publisher, essentially a printing house that takes your manuscript as a camera-ready document and prints out however many copies you order, with the possibility of a 10% overrun or underrun (you pay the difference if it's an overrun and get a discount if it's under). Overall, I enjoyed working with Morris and, were it not for the existence of places like CafePress, would probably use them again.

We did have one hitch, though, and this is what makes me nervous: Morris sent me a manuscript proof to look over; I received a glossy sample of the cover and spine art (all done by me and sent to Morris as a TIFF), and a loosely bound copy of the manuscript.

I quickly discovered that all the pagination had gone wrong.

All it takes is one misalignment. In this case, Morris had dropped one of the blank pages I had sent them as a placeholder, and the book's odd and even pages were completely screwed. Normally, Page One of any book will appear on the right-hand side. When you crack open a book at any random page, the left page is even-numbered and the right page is odd-numbered. Over two hundred pages of my 244-page manuscript had been messed up by this mishap, and when I pointed it out to Morris, they initially wanted to charge me to set things right. Their rate was several dollars per page, which would have meant several hundred dollars' extra cost for me. As I knew I hadn't dropped the page myself, having counted and recounted numerous times, I stood firm and eventually got my way: Morris made the changes free of charge, the manuscript turned out fine, and Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms was born. Ah, what a proud day that was. I'm thankful for Morris's flexibility.

But the idea that a single missing page can cause that much trouble has haunted me ever since, and I find myself worried about whether this book, my first-ever electronically published work, might not suffer similar problems.

I suppose the best thing to do is go full steam ahead and just make sure that I've included all the proper blank pages in my manuscript. As my FAQ site points out, CafePress does have a 30-day return policy should you be dissatisfied with any CP product. If you happen to be among the first to buy the book, then discover that there are major problems with formatting, etc., please return the book to CP, get your refund, and TELL ME WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS. It's absolutely crucial for me to know. As I said on the FAQ site, I have no intention of turning out an inferior product.

OK... back to work. More news later tonight.


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