words about words

Ever since my first book released for Kindle, people have been asking for a printed version. A ‘real’ version. They don’t have a Kindle, they just don’t like ebooks, whatever. That’s a blog post in itself, right? Anyway, recently the second book in my mystery/crime series came out on Kindle, and it seemed like a good time to make a paperback of the first novel available. I really don’t think that people who wouldn’t pay seven bucks for the digital version are going to rush to lay down twelve bucks ($11.99) for the paper-and-ink version. Which is what I have to charge in order to make one dollar per copy in royalties.  Which is almost like giving it away, but not quite.

The advantages of a paper-and-ink version are these:

1. I can do a Goodreads giveaway, which can increase awareness of the book. I did this for my first novel The Sleepless Nanny. Remind me to write a post about that.

2. I can give away signed copies to family and friends.

3. I can use them as rewards in my Indiegogo campaign. (in fact as I write this I owe 13 people copies of Schooled)

4. I can drop off copies at restaurants and bars that I wrote into the book and hope they’ll display it with pride (or hide it behind the counter). I could also leave copies in video game friendly locations like Nintendo and Xbox offices which are both within a couple miles of my house.

Anyway, I decided to get off my duff and put together a print version of Schooled using CreateSpace. I had some preconceived notion that it was going to cost me money to do this. But that’s only if you want them to help edit or proofread or create a cover or lay out the interior. I did all that myself. In the long run, it might have been worth it to pay for the expertise and save myself some frustration. But hopefully we can ALL learn from my newb fumblings.

Here’s how it went down. I didn’t have the full pdf files of my book cover for a couple of stupid reasons. But I did have a fantastic front cover and back cover. Just not in one big file. So I had to upload the bits individually, do some erasing of a logo with MS Paint of all fucking things, and cobble together this cover. Note that there was no option to upload the spine, so I have this dumb one.

Schooled cover preview

Allright, that’ll work, sez I. Then I convert my Word doc of the final text of the novel to a PDF and upload that too. Good to go, right? Wrong. The previewer allows me to see what it will look like in print. And it looks like dogshit. Suddenly, I am struck with the absolute truth that new chapters MUST begin on the right side of the book. So it takes me about 4 hours (I wish I was kidding) to figure out where to make the page breaks so that each chapter starts in the place I believe it needs to. Please note: at no time do I consult an actual fucking book though a shelf filled floor to ceiling with examples of bookdom lies at my right hand no more than 15 inches from my shoulder.

Okay, after multiple uploads with adjusted pdfs, I finally send the whole thing–cover plus interior–off for review. And the next day it comes back. Rejected. My cover is fucked up. The artwork and title are too close to the trim line (the edges of the book). Well, shit. That’s just not something I can fix. Luckily, I have a lot of smart, talented and clever friends. I posted a plea for help on Facebook and the lovely Michelle Silva (of Ska Studios and Charlie Murder fame) volunteered to fix the cover like it was no big deal. It was a HUGE deal to me, because I lack the tools and skill to do jack shit with art. In about an hour Michelle sent back the corrected cover and it was perfect. Now the precious trim line was safe and CreateSpace could suck it.


And suck it they did. The next morning I got the email saying it was approved and I was free to order a proof. Wahoo!! So I ordered the proof and chose expedited delivery. A few days later, the copy arrived. Oh boy I was so excited!

The dollar is for scale. Obvi.

The dollar is for scale. Obvi.

The cover looked great and it was so fat! So substantial! How many pages did it turn out to be, I wondered? Well, guess who forgot to put page numbers on it? Or title and author at the top of the pages?

Has anyone ever been so dumb? You’d think I’d never seen a book before.

Not only was I missing headers and page numbers, but the spacing was DERP and the font so huge it looked like a book for old people or the legally blind. Seriously. It looks like SHIT. Take a gander.

Derp Book

Why yes, it does look like a typed-out manuscript. So much fail.

Back to CreateSpace I went. THIS time I did two things: looked at a real goddamn book and discovered that no one gives a shit on which page a chapter begins and page numbers and headers are legit. Also, no one fucking double spaces and they CERTAINLY don’t skip a line for every new paragraph.  Now that amateur hour was over, I decided to download the template that CreateSpace recommends for this size of book–trade paperback.

Okay, so it looked good at first glance. The font was Garamond, which always reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald because the first time I read This Side of Paradise (his first novel) it was printed in Garamond. So. I download the CreateSpace template and begin painstakingly cutting chapters out of my Word doc, pasting them into a .txt file, then cutting and pasting into the template. It looked pretty good, I had to admit. Though very condensed. By the time I had the whole book laid in there, it was 180 pages long. I wanted my acknowledgements at the end instead of the beginning, but the template barfed and I had to start all over. I did manage to flense the table of contents out though. I hate those.

Finally, it was done and I was ready to upload and preview. Well, it looked a hell of a lot better than my first attempt, but I got an error. My gutters were fucked up. Gutters? I didn’t touch the fucking gutters and wouldn’t even know how to. What fresh hell was this? I ranted and raved a while, and RE-DID the whole thing. By the by, Chapter Nine of that template has fucked up indents. I had to do them all manually. TWICE.

Gutter Error

On the second attempt I got the gutter error again and well and truly lost my shit. I even filed a bug with CreateSpace filled with bad words and anger about how their own fucking template sucks sweaty donkey balls. Or something.

After going to bed and waking up with a slightly better attitude I tried saving the template file as a pdf and asking CreateSpace very politely to take it–take it all. It did.


I was about to leave on vacation, so I ordered the new proof by regular ol’ slow ass ground shipping. When I returned home a week later it was waiting for me!  v2 is lightyears better than v1. Compare chapter threes:





I’m still a little dismayed at the slim size.

v1 and v2 spines

It looks more like a novella than a full novel. But. I’m going with it. The paperback version of Schooled will be available in the next few days. Now, when it’s time to put Pwned in print, I will be slightly less idiotic than this time around. Hopefully.

UPDATE Aug 29:

Schooled is now available in paperback! Get it here.

6 thoughts on “How to make a paperback

  1. One thing to remember: quality is always better than quantity. As long as you are satisfied with the quality of it, the length/size shouldn’t matter. BTW, it’s next on my reading list.

  2. Rev. Jared Tucher says:

    What you need to remember is that quality is always better than quantity. As long as you are pleased with the content, then the length/quantity shouldn’t matter. BTW, this is the next book on my reading list.

  3. ksbeth says:

    what an ordeal and congrats!

  4. It sounds like a painful process but it was worth it. Your book looks great now.

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