Monday, June 24, 2013

From File to Paper

I am an expert at ETL: Data Extract, Transformation and Load. I didn't know this until my brother helped me rewrite my resume. When I described what I did he told me ETL is a current business buzz-word and much-desired skill. That's nice, I guess. In my job we spent many, many hours extracting data in various formats and getting it into a NASA ISS database. In the early years that involved a lot of OCR - optical character recognition. OCR has certainly improved in the last two decades.

Budding authors have exactly the opposite problem. You want to take your computer file and convert it to paper - a book.
A very nice lady at church asked me about our books a few months ago. The first book that my wife and I published (Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff) was very small (but, arguably, important). This lady wanted a copy, but wasn't interested in the electronic version. When I put my latest book out (My Mother-in-law Misadventures) this sweet woman was disappointed that she could not get a physical copy.
"How hard can it be?" I wondered. After all, James Altucher did it for his books.
For the last few weeks I endeavored to transform my e-book into a physical book. I used our first book as a guideline to learn the process, figuring (correctly) that My Mother-in-law Misadventures would take more work. This, in the short form, is the process I followed (minus the weeping and gnashing of teeth).

1. First we chose to go with a print-on-demand publisher. Let's be clear: this is not the same as a vanity or subsidy publisher. With enough funds I might have gone with the latter, but I was trying to keep costs down. Most books, my own included, rarely ever recoup the costs to publish them. To keep my losses low I needed to keep my costs down. There are a lot of print-on-demand publishers. If you google "print on demand services" you get over 200 million results. Fortunately for me, early in the process of learning to publish a book I stumbled upon Joel Friedlander's wonderful web site The Book Designer. He has an excellent article on which company to use for self-publishing a print-on-demand book. To sum it up, Joel investigated a number of print-on-demand vendors and recommends two: CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) and Lightning Source (Ingram Book Company). From the advice in Joel's article I chose CreateSpace (since I have no budget).
2. Once you establish a (free) account at CreateSpace you Add New Title from your personal dashboard. The dashboard, much like the one on your Amazon KDP account, is where you track all your projects.
3. On the Start Your New Project screen you need to enter the book title (name of your project) and what type of project it is. In my case, of course, I wanted to create a paperback (hardback isn't an option). You can also create Audio CD's, MP3's, DVD's and Video Downloads. Then you choose which setup process you want to follow. Since I didn't know what I was doing I chose to use the Guided process (thank goodness).
4. On the Title Information screen you enter all the relevant fields. The only fields required are the Title, Author and language (which defaults to English on my screen). You can add additional authors, as I did for Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff. If you're writing a series, such as my current Zombie Apocalypse series, this is where you put the series title as well. (Yeah, that's a hint: keep an eye open for Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas, though this is the current working title).
5. The next page is where you assign your ISBN. If you bought your ISBN from Bowker (the only official source in the USA) then this is where you put the number you assigned. If it doesn't matter who is listed as your publisher, then you can let CreateSpace assign an ISBN. (As they state "'CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform' is the imprint of record for all books with a CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN.") For Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff, Darling and I didn't care about the listed publisher. In fact, CreateSpace specifically states "A CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN is required if you want to sell your book through the Libraries and Academic Institutions sales outlet through the Expanded Distribution." For My Mother-in-law Misadventures I wanted our own company listed as the publisher, so I used an ISBN that I bought from Bowker.
6. Now you get to the fun part, the interior of your book. The default size for a paperback is 6" x 9". You can choose black and white or full color interior and either white or cream-colored paper. Your choices will have an effect on how you develop your cover! The white paper is thinner. The cream paper is easier on the eyes, and I think it might be less expensive. Once you make these choices (which you can change at any point before you approve the book) you upload your book file as either a Microsoft™ Word or PDF file.
You know what? You format a printed book file a lot differently than you format an e-book file. It is so much different that I will leave that for the next post! For now, let's say you managed to get a good format and you reviewed it.
7. Your cover. Oh my goodness! As many of you know, the cover of my last book was a trial for me. Thank goodness for Tatiana, who did a superb job on both my e-book and my paperback. Doing the cover for The Fiscal Cliff wasn't nearly as difficult. Essentially I used the CreateSpace tool and built the cover online. I used one of their stock photos and the cover came out fine, though I did tweak it after Darling and I reviewed the Proof copy we ordered. I don't think there is a need to use the CreateSpace Professional Cover Design at $399. There are dozens of graphic artists that do good work and cost significantly less money. Tatiana, as I mentioned, is excellent.
8. Okay, now all your data is entered, the interior and cover are finished and everything is uploaded. If any obvious errors or issues arose you will receive a warning or an error. You resolved all those. Submit everything for the final review by the CreateSpace people and sit back and wait. In my case each file was reviewed in less than a day.
9. If the CreateSpace people found issues (they did on my second book) you need to resolve those and repeat the process. Once everything is good you can order a printed copy of your approved work or simply use their on-line review tool. We ordered printed versions. That took a few days to get to us, but helped us catch a few things I might have overlooked if I tried to do it with the on-line review tool.
10. Approve your book, finish the paperwork (distribution, sales and marketing - there's always paperwork) and you're finished.
Order your newly created paperback book and enjoy.

Feel free to send me a copy if you like (just kidding - you don't have to do that).

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