Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Adventures in CreateSpace by Susan Price

We seem to be blogging a lot about CreateSpace just recently.
A Flash In The Pen

     I have a CreateSpace confession. It was my job to turn Authors Electric's first anthology of short stories, A Flash In The Pen, into a CreateSpace paperback. I said I'd do it - I thought I could do it - and I made a right pig's ear of it.

When you log on to C/S, you download a template, into which you paste your book. They give you a choice of a 'blank' template which has little except the formatting for page lengths - and the formatted template, which has formatting for front and back matter, page-numbers, and headers for title and author name at the top of the page.
     For my very first C/S venture, years ago, I used the formatted template, and got hopelessly confused and frustrated by it.
     So I ditched it, and used the blank template, with which I got on okay. You simply paste your whole book into the template and off you go. There may be a bit of fiddling with chapter headings, but that's about it.
     But there are no page numbers with the blank template - unless you're a good enough programmer to add them yourself. Which I am not.
     A collection of short stories really needs page numbers because if most readers are anything like me, they don't read a book of stories in consecutive order. They look at the contents page, pick one they like the sound of, read that, and then return to the contents page to choose another.
      I asked the other Electrics what to do and was advised me to try the formatted template again. Since their advice has always been good, I followed it.
ACreateSpace Template
      The formatted template has pre-set pages for title-page, copyright page, acknowledgements and contents. Then it has ten chapters, with pre-set chapter titles, followed by 'Insert chapter one text here.  Insert chapter one text here. Insert chapter one text here...' Or chapter two text, or chapter nine, as it may be.
       You have to copy in each chapter title individually, overwriting what's already there. Then you paste in each chapter or story, in place of 'insert chapter... text here...' Afterwards, of course, you delete 'insert chapter X text here...'
     CreateSpace automatically justifies, adjusts page lengths and adds page numbers.

     But only ten pre-formatted chapters are supplied. Everything went well up until chapter ten - but I had 29 stories to paste in.
     At first, I copied one of the previous stories in at the end, then overwrote it with the next story. This worked well for a while - until, at some point, I accidentally picked up a bit of formatting from the 'back matter' of the book, and it all went skew-whiff, not to mention pear-shaped. Pages starting appearing with three lines on them, or with everything centred.
     Debbie and Chris - always the first Electrics to turn to with technical problems - advised me to download another template, and this time copy extra chapters from the middle of the book. In this way, I would avoid picking up code for the front or back matter.
     Chris advised doing this as your first task, before you do anything else - copy chapters from the middle of the template until you have enough for the book you intend to make, plus a few spares.
      I felt a right numpty for not thinking of this for myself. But it's advice I won't forget. Thank you, Chris.
     After some repetitive copying in of C/S chapters seven and eight, I had enough chapters - and succeeded in getting all 29 short stories in place, complete with page-numbers.

Karen, with sub-editor
     But there were still more problems - which made our editor, Karen, tear her hair when she saw them. One story alone, out of the 29, was unjustified. And there were fonts of different sizes and styles scattered randomly throughout the book.
     A little directed concentration mostly solved the stray and wandering fonts and sizes. The other Electrics spotted them straight away, so I suppose it was a case of familiarity having blinded me to it.
 
Looking closely, to check that all the headings were also the same  style/size  just never occurred to me. I had assumed that the formating took care of that. Obviously, I'm not editor material, and should put down my mouse, raise my hands and step away from the screen.

     The single unjustified story came about in this way - this one story just would not behave. It would appear with half a page of print on one page and three lines in the middle on the next. Sentences stopped mid-way across the page, or were centred.
      A bit of stray code had found its way in somewhere, and I could not track it down. It wasn't the case, this time, that I had scooped up code from the CreateSpace formatting of 'back-matter' - it was in the story itself. It didn't seem to be causing any trouble in the e-book version, but for some reason, burst into action in the CreateSpace one. (Or maybe Karen is just better at wrangling code than I am.)
          In the end, I went nuclear - that is, I cut that one story out of the anthology, copied it into Notepad, which strips out all the formatting code, and then copied it back into Word. I pasted it back into the CreateSpace book, and went through adding all the paragraph indents, italics, centering etc, by hand.
     But I forgot to justify. That's my justification.
     At least, it was a simple things to fix. I just went into the CreateSpace document, highlighted that story, and clicked 'justify.' Instant justification. O, the wonder of computers. - Of course, that altered the page numbers...
     Which brings me to the problem with the contents page.

     The 'contents' page is preformatted, with a table. In one column you put chapter title - or story and author. In the other column you put the page number. I haven't tangled with tables much, and failed to wrangle this one.
     One very long title pushed the column of numbers over, resulting in a sort of bent contents page - the numbers of the lower stories being much further over than those of the higher stories. I tried to correct this, but couldn't make those numbers jump through the hoops I wanted them to. I have never got on with numbers.


      While I was changing the page numbers after justifying the unjustified story, I had another go at the bent columns and found, by chance, that if I clicked on the number column, I could pull it over towards the right. This straightened the whole column, from top to bottom of the page. Well, who knew?

        CreateSpace has a useful, on-line previewer, where you can look at your book as a book, with turnable pages - or as a gallery of pages. It gives you the page numbers. It was while I was playing with this, and checking it against the Word file on my computer, that I fell over the next problem.
          The page numbers went: 81,82, 1, 2, 3... Aargh! This had been caused by my copying in extra chapters. Somewhere I'd picked up a 'new section' marker, which made the numbers start at '1' again.
          CreateSpace's advice told me 'to fix this in the native programme.' After some pondering on what this might mean, I went back to Word - which, after all, is a desktop publishing programme. Picking up a heavy hammer, I entered the cave where the numbering goes on.
          It took a bit of tinkering, but eventually I discovered that the 'page-numbering' can be instructed to 'continue from previous section.' I so instructed it, while idly swinging the hammer, and it did as it was told and put the numbering straight.
          I dispatched the latest version to Karen, on a usb, by
snail-mail - since we've discovered that Dropbox seems to add typos. I then went 'Scotlanding', as Karen put it. Well, someone has to venture up there, to check if the natives have all been blown away, melted in the rain or washed into the sea. (I can report that many are still clinging to the storm-blown rocks - and seemingly quite cheerful about it.)
          I returned, to find the usb had also, with a note from Karen to say I was almost there. There are a few stray underlinings and other typos to fix.
          I will get on to it - and it will be coming back to you, in paperback, soon. Apologies to all for the mistakes and the delay.
          But let's hear it for our star editor, our patient, eagle-eyed, whippet-loving editor Karen Bush, with the highest of standards, who will not be having with the much lower muddling-along of the Prices. (Habitually expressed by my grandmother as, 'Well, a blind mon on a galloping hoss woe notice - if it's a dark night.')
          And let's hear it for Lynne Garner, who designed the cover -  and for all the other Electrics, who not only put up a blog each day, but supply stories for anthologies, and advice, help and support on a regular basis.

Short, sharp shocks can be fun - and here's the proof in the form of a new anthology from the Authors Electric blogging collective.

Gathered here are 29 electrifying short stories covering a wide range of genres - whether it's action, murder, romance, comedy, satire, fantasy or the supernatural that turns you on, A Flash in the Pen has something for everyone and is guaranteed to give you a buzz.
                                 Paperback            UK                                     US

                     E-book                 UK                                      US




15 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

Both fascinating and helpful. Thanks for explaining the process. Also thank you for your perseverance and commitment to getting the book out in paperback. It looks beautiful and electrics everywhere, including Scotland, are grateful.

Penny Dolan said...

Sue, thanks for this post. It's a true insight into the problems and annoyances and the utter work that has to go into the production of such anthologies, and both your and Karen's meticulous determination are admirable. Hope all those with stories in the anthology read this and give thanks - although I know that's not why you'd have written it or shared the process here. Well done!

Chris Longmuir said...

Sorry, Susan, I know it's naughty of me and I really shouldn't laugh at other people's problems, but you've just given me my laugh of the day. It's the way you write it, you know. But seriously I do hope you're not bald with all the hair tearing out, and I look forward to your next adventure in CreateSpace. And your dedication is much appreciated by all us Author Electrics.

Susan Price said...

Laugh away, Chris! - I know I'm a numpty at these things. I try to remember that the mistakes have taught me a lot.

Dennis Hamley said...

Sue, I was at first alarmed by the 10-chapter limit on the Idiot's Template.
Then I reasoned that the template doesn't actually know what a chapter is. So now I load about six at once. The template is a truly remarkable document and many people I've spoken to agree that actually realising that you've not only written but printed and then published a handsome,satisfying book (with thirty chapters rather than ten) entirely on your own is incredibly liberating. And it's all because the template isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is.

Dennis Hamley said...

By the way, I echo all the praise to Karen and Lynne. I bought the first edition, with the dodgy page numbers and I'm keeping it because it will definitely become a collector's item.

Mari Biella said...

Your hard work and perseverance - and Karen's - are much appreciated, Susan. At least now you can bask in the glow of a good job well done and relax a bit - at least until the next anthology comes out!

Ann Turnbull said...

I bought this and am looking forward to reading all the stories. Well done, Sue! I wouldn't even attempt such a feat.

madwippitt said...

Thank you Sue for all your hard work on doing this - I know you have put a huge amount of effort into it; it's certainly not a small book to do, and with all the aggravations it has been very time consuming for you! I reckon its all worthwhile though - you have learned some new CreateSpace tricks, and we get a handsome book to read. Yes, I know it's the content that's the really important thing, but like a good meal, I always feel that nice presentation also flavours your appreciation :-)
So thank you for undertaking the chore!

Sue Purkiss said...

I didn't use a template for my Createspace book (which is very nearly ready to go!). I uploaded the book as a Word document and CS then made it into a book. I did have to go through and adjust titles, font sizes and spacing and so on, but I didn't have any problems with chapters. But I know it all gets much trickier when you're working with stories from lots of different people.

julia jones said...

Makes one appreciate the craft of the old-fashioned typesetter... Thanks so much for doing this Sue. Now I'm off to order a copy.

Enid Richemont said...

Encouraging to see someone as mind-blowing as Penny Dolan commenting on this. SUCH an interesting post, and in spite of having the greater part of my out of print children's and Y/A books now out there as ebooks,thanks to David Richemont, I've only now managed, not very competently, to get one out there myself. I am, however, flirting gently with CreateSpace - so tempting in this publishing climate.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Given that I'm about to embark on this process, it's both cheering and worrying! Thanks for all your hard work, Sue. I'll let you know how I get on.

Susan Price said...

Enid and Catherine - sorry to have worried you. It's like everything else - you make mistakes, you learn, you do better, you make more advanced mistakes, you learn... I've learned so much that I'm now making improved versions of books I've already done.

Lydia Bennet said...

Yes thank you Sue, and Karen, and Chris for all the work and/or expertise. it's a cracking anthology. I hope this post will go into the 'how to' index, please, for those of us still to take on Createspace.