The last few weeks have been all about the paperback. Despite what they tell you about how easy print on demand is (I mean, I'm not sure anyone's ever told you that, but there's certainly a perception that producing a book over the internet can be done in just a couple of clicks), but it would have been a very stop/start – and expensive – process without having the design and typesetting ability to do it myself.
It's all taken about 10 emails to the Kindle Publishing Direct support address, re-uploading the cover a handful of times and the main text at least a dozen times since the last post.
The first problem was the cover. I hadn't realised you could design the entire cover front and back and upload it for your Kindle paperback copy, and I feel a bit stupid about that - the back cover is almost as important as the front, but I had this idea in my head they'd have some sort of standard template you couldn't alter.
It started because after uploading the front cover their system plonked their ugly barcode around from the spine to the front, completely wrecking the contrast and balance of the design. So I asked if they could put the barcode on the back cover, which they could, confirming that you can upload the cover as one file, including the front and back covers and the spine.
So I had to get pretty specific specs for the measurement of the spine, which depended on the number of pages, which changed as I tried to wrangle the margins inside. To begin with I'd referenced a couple of other paperbacks and set the outside margins and gutters where I thought they'd be easiest to handle for a reader flicking through.
But when I uploaded it their previewer (a pretty handy little tool that gives you a proof of the whole thing and does a preflight at the same time) rejected it because their margins are so strict. I had to move the gutter further away from the centre, which moved the text box on each page closer to the outside than I was comfortable with – the last thing you want is your thumb covering bits of text while you're holding onto it trying to read.
So that of course meant that if I wanted a decent bit of distance from the edge of the page to the outside margin of each text box I had to make the text box on every page slightly thinner, which made all the text reflow and made it longer, and since it was already at their maximum page count (775) it was then too long, etc etc...
I'd already inserted hard returns to wrap text to the next page to stop chapter headings appearing at the bottom of pages with nothing under them, changed tracking on paragraphs to fix widows and orphans and any number of other adjustments, and changing the text box width across the whole document blew all that out, so when I had the margins where I wanted them (and were Amazon's system allowed, which meant another export and upload to their previewer) I had to go right through all 770-something pages and check for pagination issues all over again.
I got it all perfect, ran another PDF, uploaded it, ran it through their preview tool again and... would you believe it, it rejected about eight pages where the text still fell outside the margins because the x height of some italic characters like 'f' and 't' overhangs the edge of the text box in InDesign by about one millimetre!
So I had to go back through, pull the text boxes on just those pages back by a single millimetre, then deal with any tracking or wrapping issues that changed the flow onto the next page (otherwise I'd have to paginate the whole thing again on from those pages), upload it, run the previewer again to make sure that page was okay, and go through that whole process for every page that had showed an error.
And of course, that entire process played havoc with the page count, because when I included all the deleted scenes it went over their maximum page count. As it was I had to delete a couple of them to come in under, so the first hard copy of Falling will go down in history as not having the complete set of deleted scenes.
I wonder if, decades in the future, film nerds will know that just like we now know editor Richard Chew constructed the shot of the Tusken Raider threatening Luke after it attacked him by running the film backwards and then forwards again, resulting in it shaking its staff up and down angrily.
It was a bit irritating, but I also had to admit to myself that I quite enjoyed it. It took me back to my designer days of dealing with font sizes, text box sizes, text wrapping between boxes and all that fun stuff. I stayed up really late one night with music playing, dealing with it all just like a real graphic designer at an ad agency or book publisher.
Anyway, I finally uploaded it with all the problems solved, or so I thought. The previewer gave me some weird error about there being blank pages in the middle, which there aren't, so I've gone back to the support email once more.
But the real shock! horror! news is that while I was going through the text for the umpteenth time looking for pagination issues I just happened to spot another typo – a 'what' that should have been a 'that'. I now have to change it in every version there is, both the original .doc file, the epubs and mobi version for sale on Smashwords, Amazon and Apple, the online review copy, etc.
It further goes to prove what authors always tell you about getting editors or proofreaders. I've been over this manuscript more times than it would have received if I'd paid six professional editors and proofreaders to look at it, and there are still f%$king mistakes in i