Changing course

There’s always so much to do in the self-publishing world, and it’s exhausting. It also pulls you away from what you want to do most, write. Sometimes, I use these other things, these necessary evils, as a way to procrastinate.

The first was in finding the perfect image for the book cover. I became obsessed with it. Once I found it, I toyed with how to use it, slightly modify it, and looked for the perfect font. This was over a year ago, the book still incomplete. But I had a cover.

I distracted myself with re-issuing earlier, unrelated, books using my own ISBNs in order to have a little more control over my work. This involved learning the ins-and-outs of Bowker and IngramSpark. Easy enough, except, IngramSpark has different requirements for cover files. Another distraction, which included upgrading from Photoshop Elements to Photoshop and re-learning how to do certain actions in a more powerful program. And hey, I also switched aggregators to distribute my e-books wide. Fortunately, that’s an easy system to use, except…you know, I really need to add an active, hyperlink table of contents to those books. Let me distract myself with that for a week or so.

Okay, book cover? Check. Reissues reissued? Check. Understand how Bowker and IngramSpark work? Check. Understand enough of Photoshop to do what I need? Sure. E-book hyperlinks? Got ’em.

You know, I should really try and have an online presence. It’s what all the kids are doing nowadays, can’t be a dinosaur, can I? Yes, it’s already tough trying to get a blog post up twice a month, but, go for it. So, I created a Twitter account, which I avoided for years because I didn’t think I was succinct enough. Turns out, I am. Found some great people to follow, too. It’s so entertaining to distract myself and procrastinate reading those tweets.

Hmm, I hear about AMS ads. I should really look into that. Warning: start trying to build a list of keywords for ads and you’ll be at it for days. Or weeks. And, wouldn’t you know it, as I search for relevant words, authors, and book titles, I find books that interest me. I should order this or that book and distract myself from my writing a bit more. True story, last night, I had some books in my cart but wasn’t logged into Amazon. I closed the browser and thought, you know, I don’t really need those books. Besides, I have a stack of titles I haven’t even read yet. Screw it.

Well, after all those diversions, I’ve come to a decision that’s going to require a lot of willpower. I’m not sure I’m up to it, but, damn it, I’m going to try. No more distractions, no more procrastination. I’ve got to focus on the novel. I don’t care how small the progress, as long as it’s progress. To that end, I’ll still try to update the blog twice a month. I’ll still be checking in on Twitter, but not to waste time or procrastinate. The book is far too important.

Hyperlink ToC bookmarks in LibreOffice that don’t fight with Calibre


If you read e-books, you’ve seen it. The Table of Contents at the beginning of a book, listed in blue. Tap or double-click a chapter name and voilà, you’re there. Nifty, huh? If you use Word, you know how to create that ToC, or can readily find out how, because instructions abound on the web. Heck, even KDP explains it somewhere. But what if you use a Mac and LibreOffice? You’ll find nothing helpful on Amazon’s KDP site because a) they’re indifferent to Mac users, b) they’re indifferent to LibreOffice users, and c) they’re indifferent to Mac users who utilize LibreOffice. What to do?

You could save your ODT file as a DOC or DOCX, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Libre if you ask me. Not so very long ago, KDP used to tell Mac users to hand code all the HTML, good luck! Now their not-so-helpful help entry merely says to use hyperlinks and bookmarks. Which brings me to the crux of the matter.

I use Calibre to create an EPUB from an ODT file. I never created that active ToC because I didn’t know how, didn’t have time to learn, and didn’t have the inclination to wander the web trying to find out how. Yesterday, however, through some semi-useful information found on the internet and a lot of trial and error, I figured it out. There may be a better and faster way, but this seems to work and is fairly simple. Continue reading

Parted ways with CreateSpace

I’ve been busy of late, so I haven’t had time to blog much. I did want to say that as of a couple of weeks ago, I’ve officially parted ways with CreateSpace. I’ve mentioned my reasons in other posts; title suppression, delays in customer service responses, and weak site security. It was unfortunate, because I really liked the swift turn-around when it came to ordering proofs and their end product. My understanding is KDP Print books are of the same quality, so, fingers crossed.

If truth be told, CreateSpace’s website was a bit old fashioned looking and will bounce you to sections you’ve already completed. KDP is streamlined and quick, I’ll give them that. I only wish I had more control over how things list on the dashboard and could set preferences. I’ll be able to test the entire KDP Print process, including ordering, in the next few weeks with the last guide re-issue. From what I’ve read, the method for ordering proofs from KDP seems unnecessarily complicated. Place order, receive an e-mail, order within a set window on Amazon…odd.

I’m still not sold on IngramSpark books. I dislike the thinner paper stock and heavy black of the text. I’ve seen others say they like the crisp, dark ink coverage, but I think it makes the book look cheap. That’s just me, of course, although I just recently read a traditionally published book and the ink was no where near as heavy, it was more in line with a CreateSpace book. I do like having IngramSpark for wide distribution. I’m planning on a hardcover edition for the novel and their pricing isn’t bad, all things considered.

I updated all files and metadata for the first five episode guide e-books and the print re-issues are out for them as well. I’m cruising through the changes for volume six and will release both editions around the end of June. I’ll say here, I won’t be continuing the project. It’s incredibly time consuming and there’s little to no interest. There are other things that need my attention. I’ve had some great ideas for the novel the last couple of nights while shaping late chapters. I’m looking forward to diving back in.

Head ’em up, move ’em out

CreateSpace still can’t get their act together. In fact, they’ve taken a step backward. I had retired a title in order to replace it with the new edition published under my imprint, Abstruse & Louche. I received a confirmation Wednesday that the title was retired, and it said as much on the dashboard. Great. Today, the book is listed as available (not, however, on Amazon, I had removed the book from all sales channels). The third edition remains suppressed, because, idiots. That requires another round of e-mails that will most likely go unanswered and pull me away from doing the work I need (and want) to do. Can I bill them for my time?

In light of that idiocy, I ran a test earlier this evening. I moved an old title (the never-sells play) from CreateSpace to KDP Print, to test the waters. It’s a simple process, KDP will import your files after confirming/verifying the ISBN through your CreateSpace account. I’m not crazy about their previewer, especially for the cover. However, if need be, I can always redo it with a new template from KDP. The interior looked fine. I’ve pretty much decided to move everything over within the next week or two. Perhaps even this weekend.

On another front, I finally caught up with the backlog of volume 7 transcribing. I’m still re-proofing volume 5, and making changes to volume 4 in preparation for their relaunch. It occurred to me last night that I hadn’t been working on the volume 4 changes this week because of the CS problems. Problems that eat away at my time, thoughts, and motivation.

Intentionally messing with me

Remember that in-limbo proof copy I’ve been talking about? You know, the one that’s still suppressed even as I type this? Yeah, that one. I received the proof. No notification from CreateSpace that it shipped, it just showed up unexpectedly. Communication from them, on most fronts, seems to be non-existent. Unless you retire a title, then they’re right on top of it. Read into that what you will. As for the proof, I’m not digging the color, I need to make a small change…except I can’t because the title is still inaccessible. Isn’t this a wonderful merry-go-round of idiocy?

The longer this continues, the more I’m edging toward KDP Print. I know that’s exactly what Amazon wants and will probably be the source of other headaches at some point. Recall, if you will, the KDP reporting problems earlier this year. The only reason I need an Amazon POD company is to avoid the 1-2 day delay if I strictly use IngramSpark. Immediate gratification for the shopper. The great thing about using IS though, in addition to better distribution to other retailers, is the title will stay on Amazon, even if CS or KDP suppresses it.

CreateSpace, it’s not me. It’s you.


Warming up to IngramSpark

The CreateSpace suppression issue continues for the print edition re-issue of volume 3. Adding more fun to the mix, I removed the old version from distribution late yesterday afternoon and contacted CS that I wanted to retire the title and why (republish under my own ISBN and imprint). Within two hours, the book disappeared from Amazon’s site. I had e-mail confirmation from them that the title had been retired about twenty hours later.

Once I finished up on the CS site yesterday, I threw caution to the wind and uploaded the title to IngramSpark  I just ordered my proof copy ten minutes ago. Like anything else, it took a couple of times to learn the set-up and ordering processes. It was a breeze this time. Although it’s still a long ways off, I’m looking forward to creating the hard cover edition of Iniquitous Desires through them. My very own novel with a dust jacket. Maybe then I’ll actually feel like a published author. Honestly, I don’t feel like one. The guides are fun, and a lot of work, but they aren’t what I initially set out to do. Add to that the neophyte mistakes I made when I first started publishing, which I’m finally addressing and correcting now. I’ve considered giving up the episode guide project multiple times, but then I figure, I got this far, I may as well finish it. That being said, once I get the back catalog out under the imprint, my time will be split between volume 7 and the novel, with an emphasis on the novel. I miss those people. Curiously, the play I published in 2015 didn’t make me feel legitimate either. Maybe it’s just my innate cynicism and self-doubt.

There I go, digressing again. Back on track, obviously, there are problems behind the scenes at CreateSpace. The inability to access certain parts of a title’s set-up has been resolved, but suppression city remains. Is it a diabolical plan by Amazon to push authors to KDP Print? Probably. Depending on how long, if ever, it takes to get the book out of suppression prison, I may just retire the remaining two older books early and go through KDP, then transfer the other titles over. I haven’t decided. CS isn’t communicating on a lot of fronts. Frustrating for some, maddening for others. Having mellowed with age, I just call it what it is, bullshit.

CreateSpace, what ails you?

CreateSpace is on the decline, and it’s a damn shame. Yes, books would be suppressed from time to time, but resolution was always swift. Not so much now. I uploaded a title over the weekend and ordered a proof on Sunday. Hey, their e-mail said, everything’s great, you can order a proof! I usually select the 2 day delivery option so I can approve and have it available by the next weekend. So basically, a one week turn-around. Well, the book has been suppressed. I replied to their validation e-mail. Nothing. This morning…still nothing, so I replied again. You know, just in case.

Adding to this chaotic cluster, I uploaded a slightly improved cover for another book. I noticed, however, that the sales channels option showed incomplete, with 0 selected. I certainly didn’t set the title up that way. Even more fun, when I click on the channels option, only an image of my book loads with save and save & continue buttons. Save what, exactly? My internet sleuthing has revealed I’m not the only one with either of these problems.

It seems CreateSpace is ill. Dying? Perhaps. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Amazon is trying to push authors to use KDP Print. It looks like I jumped to IngramSpark at just the right time, however, I like to use CS for proofs because it doesn’t cost anything to revise. For the next re-issue, I might try KDP print and see how it goes. It never fails; resolve one set of issues, new ones replace them.


IngramSpark/CreateSpace Comparison

I spent a little time last night thinking over the CS (CreateSpace) vs. IS (IngramSpark) issue. Yesterday’s post was, if not vague, rushed. This comparison is for a 240 pg 5.5 X 8.5 perfect bound paperback on creme paper. All text, no illustrations.

When it comes to the upload process, CS edges out IS. Ingram has some extra steps and confusing wording in places, and finding answers can be a chore. In my experience, file approvals occur quicker through CS.

CS is free to upload, as often as you need or want. IS charges $49 per title, with $25 for revisions. They do offer discounts or free uploads, with use of a promo code. You have to hunt around and occasionally lurk in writer forums to discover them.

Cover templates. I haven’t used CS’s cover wizard, preferring to use the one piece template. It’s easy. Go to the website, feed in your info, and download. IS…enter your info (more than you need to for CS) and they’ll e-mail you. Oh joy, yet another extra step. Let me log-in, open up that e-mail, and download. CS provides a PNG file that opens in RGB. IS provides a PDF that opens in CMYK, has extra information that cannot be deleted, and is a bitch to work on if you use a laptop. Which I do. I spend more goddamn time zooming and reducing to make an IS cover. CS wins this round.

Cover upload. CS accepts RGB files and converts to CMYK, often with good results. They accept regular PDF, PDF/X-1a, and PDF/X-3a generated by either Adobe or Serif (Affinity Photo). IS might accept those formats. I bought Affinity Photo to avoid the subscription for Photoshop and used it in a test case with CS. The cover turned out great. I didn’t want to risk it with IS though; they’re so specific about those Adobe created files, so I had to get Photoshop, which is fine, I was familiar with Photoshop Elements, so there was less of a learning curve.

Proof orders. This one is a little difficult to judge because of errors made on my part. Then again, if IS had clearer instructions, worded so a normal human wouldn’t have to twist their brain into a pretzel to understand (I exaggerate, but you get my drift), I wouldn’t have made the mistake in the first place. I think IS took a little longer, but the weekend factored into it. However, don’t send an e-mail on Sunday saying the order shipped when it didn’t until the end of the following day, Monday. In IS’s favor, though, they provide tracking information (I opted for 2 day delivery), something CS doesn’t do. Packaging is similar. I’ll call this a draw.

Proofs. I’ve read a lot about IS being the superior product. In fairness, I may have sent CS a file with a different color profile, US web coated swop v2 (300% TAC) versus IS’s mandatory 240% TAC. The color on the CS book is a little deeper, a little bluer. The IS version has a bit more gray, so it’s duller. It’s a noticeable difference when laying one book partially atop another, but standing on a bookshelf, comparing the spines, it’s negligible. And speaking of spines…

The IS book’s spine is narrower, due to the thinner paper stock. I was surprised. I’ve also read that the interior text is much darker, hence, it looks so much better. True, the text is darker, but to my eyes, it looks very much like printing out a sheet of paper on your laser printer. The paper isn’t very creamy either. I’m not saying I want a yellowed ivory type of creme, but IS leans more toward gray-white. Of course, this could change, depending on supplier, stock, etc. For some odd reason, the outer margins of the interior in the IS copy looked too wide. I compared to the CS copy and measured; it’s a bizarre optical illusion.

I conducted a spur-of-the-moment stability test. I held each book in my hand by the bottom right corner and snapped my wrist back and forth several times. The IS copy made a noticeable sound and moved rather freely — in other words, it was a bit flimsy and felt cheap. The CS book had a quieter and deeper sound, when detectable. The CS book is weightier and feels more substantial in the hand. It feels like CS uses a heavier cover stock paper as well; perhaps that’s why they can accommodate 300% ink coverage?

I can’t comment on IS’s hard cover book quality. That’s down the road for me, when I publish my novel(s).

At the moment, when it comes to paperbacks, I prefer CreateSpace’s upload process and end product. I do not, however, care for their expanded distribution. It’s lousy, quite frankly, and that’s why I started with IngramSpark. I’ll have to make adjustments, of course, for each platform. It’s definitely been a learning experience.

Proofs have arrived

My IngramSpark proofs have arrived for the first two DS Guide reissues. They’re……okay. Part of it is my fault. Jewel tones look  great in RGB color for e-books, but print requires CMYK, and CMYK is a cruel bitch. Add IngramSpark’s 240% total ink coverage specs and the bitch gets even more cruel. The red of volume 2 ended up being more maroon. It’s not wholly unexpected, when I was using Lulu it ended up pretty much the same. I’m kind of past caring. And I forgot to mention, I had the wrong font size on the back of volume 1 and had to fix and re-upload. Thankfully, IngramSpark is waiving fees for resubmitted files for the next two months. The crazy thing is, I’m killing myself trying to make things right for a very, very, niche audience when I could be working on this: Continue reading

First published work

“You’re talking as if you’re Methuselah, falsely presenting yourself as an ancient and decrepit nag. It’s true, you’re no dewy-eyed colt, but you know, as well as I, that there’s many a woman who prefer to mount a seasoned, proven stallion when overcome with the urge to go riding.”

I thought I’d write a post about the first thing I ever published. It was a play, The Lovers’ Ruse, a bedroom farce, or what I suppose would be considered a romantic-comedy in today’s terms. Due to life getting in the way and several hiatuses from writing altogether, it took eight years for me to complete and publish it in 2015.

Between 2005 and 2007, I had a good run at writing. I couldn’t stop. But I was starting to burn out, especially on prose. As an exercise, I thought I’d try writing dialogue only, and how better to do it than as a play? I was influenced at the time by several opera buffa, the plays that inspired them, and the works of Molière. Specifically, The Barber of Seville by Beaumarchais (opera by Rossini), Il Matrimonio Segreto, an opera by Italian composer Cimarosa (a vast improvement over the English source material, The Clandestine Marriage), and Molière’s The School for Husbands, along with other various French plays of the 18th century.

The Lovers’ Ruse is a basic set-up with stock characters. Young lovers facing obstacles, a scheming servant, a well-meaning but old-fashioned parent, a helpful acquaintance, etc. Initially, the dialogue was very stiff, very formal, and very stylized. I realized I had to loosen it up some to make it more accessible. It was the right choice. It’s still stylized, but not nearly as much. Rhythm is also incredibly important and overall, it flows quite well. There’s also a great deal of wordplay, the piece wouldn’t work without it. At times, I don’t even know where some of that repartee came from. I credit that to those carefree and sometimes elusive muses.

A curious thing happened while writing that had a positive impact. I had a character that was mentioned a few times early in the play. He doesn’t make an appearance until the end. It occurred to me; why not have every character talk about him at some point, but each with a different perspective? He’s obnoxious, he’s a rogue, he’s witty, he’s industrious, and so forth. When he finally appears, the audience (or reader) can decide the kind of man he is for themselves. Is he some, none, or all of the things he’s purported to be? What made that decision even better, was it allowed me to get out of a bit of a bind in a particular scene.

What makes The Lovers’ Ruse so different is that it’s so unlike what I usually write. I tend to skew toward darker, psychological character studies or horror, suspense, occult. It’s like coming across a moon garden of white blooms at midnight; light, charming, and wholly unexpected.