August 10th, 2015


A Lulu Of A Weekend

So... last week I announced that I had finally achieved the first draft of Book 1 of my series (DW) (LJ). And I had a PDF formatted for use on the Acrobat reader on my Kindle Fire HD. But I've also said that I wanted to print some hardcopies -- not printouts -- for Beta readers who don't want to read a book on a device.

There are two things to remember here: (1) I am not self-publishing this book. This is strictly about getting some Beta reading copies. (2) I tend to roll my own files, rather than depend on wizards or templates. It's both a control thing and a personal preference. Depending on someone else's wizard or template means you get to choose their choices. Uh-uh.

Oh, and a third thing. I knew from reading people's self-publishing blogs that creating Print-On-Demand real books or eBooks can be an annoying process. More than one person I knew sent in what they thought was a proper file, only to get a box of copies of gibberish. So I knew that it would take a while to get things set up right.

John Scalzi had once mentioned on his blog that he'd used to print up one copy of a book for editing purposes. That sounded pretty clever, especially when I was checking around. There very well may be others, but I know Lulu does not charge a setup fee. I could take my PDF down to Schuler Books and use their Espresso book printing machine, but their rate schedule includes a $150 setup plus $6.00 per copy and $0.03 per page production costs. For my 332 pages, that would be $15.96 per book in production costs, and for the initial four-book order I would end up paying $53.46 per book. (But I wouldn't have to wait for shipment -- I'd have the books in minutes, so it is something to consider when I'm a rich author on a deadline.) (grin)

Lulu is charging me $5.70 for each trade paperback -- but there's a coupon code to get the 4th book free. So with shipping, I paid $24.84 or $6.21 a book. I can live with that. Hopefully they'll look nice in a couple of days when they get here. (double-grin)

I know enough about books and publishing to be dangerous. And I did try to use Lulu's template file, but hated some of their defaults. And when I tried to make an amalgam of their template file and my pre-PDF copy, I ended up with a horrible problem with the gutters coming out wrong and page headers which misbehaved. Lulu requires your printing file to end on a blank page. Hard to do that when it keeps on giving you a page header -- or if do a perfectly normal section break and try to disconnect Same As Previous, it ends up deleting the headers through the whole file. I suspect this is a weird interaction between all the styles that Lulu uses -- and I don't -- and changing the .docx file to a Word 97/2003 .doc file.

That wasted a day.

Of course I am still having to fight Word 2010. Most of the books have been written with that, because ZEPPELIN -- Wendy's old Windows 7 Toshiba laptop -- has a nice big display. My other XP/7 laptops have Word 95 and Word 2003. It used to be easy to access page size and margins, but that damned Ribbon in Word...

Eventually I just scrapped trying to use Lulu's template at all, found the nuts and bolts settings in Word 2007 and rolled my own files. I'd set up the Lulu account in March, so time to go back and check things out. And get ready to upload some files.

Again, no way was I going to use their cover creator wizard -- I opted to make a one-page PDF upload. For that I need the spine width. Farbled with that and got it done.

Now, remember, I'm not expecting this to work on the first attempt.

It didn't. Fortunately Lulu had advanced to where they do some good error checking. And it turned out that when I first starting creating PDFs to read on my Kindle, I'd selected A5 paper size, because it was one of the presets. I thought I had changed it to 6x9, but must've lost that setting when I changed file versions. Okay, that requires redoing everything -- including getting a new spine width for the one-page cover. And my PDF wasn't ISO 19005-1 Compliant (PDF/A). A while back, I had wondered loudly online about that ISO 19005-1 checkbox on Word 2007's Save As PDF option, but Microsoft Word UnHelpful Help didn't tell me what it was for. Now I know.

That wasted a second day.

Finally, I made a second attempt. And one of the errors was using a font smaller than 6pt. Hmm. Finally figured out that I had used an old spacing trick on one page where I had two blank lines set in Times New Roman 5pt. Deleted those. Still a problem. Also, my map wasn't 300dpi.

That wasted the afternoon.

Tonight I built everything up anew. I even did a Ctrl-h Search-and-Destroy to change anything 5pt into 6pt. It found one instance, probably a font size change command with nothing in it leftover. And between 2am and 3am, I got it all to work:

And I've ordered my initial four copies. No, it's set for Private, so you can't buy one off of Lulu. I am not self-publishing.

Ultimately it sort of all went better than I'd expected, after hearing some of the horror stories from 3-4 years ago. But still, three days to get things sorted out... the first time that is. Any more Beta copies for this or any other books will go much easier. Until, of course, Lulu changes things. As everybody does. (evil-update-grin)

I'll talk more in details on my procedure which works. But in these wee hours, I'll just be pleased that I think I got it.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal