Not only to fly, but to bring the world's eyes...skyward.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why I Quit Querying and Proceeded to Publish, Part 5

I’ve been around the traffic pattern enough times to know how often the phrase, “How hard could it be?” precedes disaster. I do my own oil changes and a few other relatively simple things for which I have no specific training, but by and large I live by the philosophy that the world works best for everyone when we pay each other money we earn doing what we do well to do the things they do better than us. I don’t recommend my electrician try to fly his family to Bermuda, and I don’t screw around with stuff that makes sparks without gunpowder or wood. Life can be simple, if we just buck up for it.

With that in mind, I set about learning what was involved in converting my Word document, cover .jpgs, and back cover copy into .pdf files in the format required by the printer. Oh, wait. I didn’t know that yet, because I had yet to pick a printer. Since the widest possible distribution is the only hope one has of succeeding in this business, I was down to three main contenders, all of which seemed like very good choices and, to be completely fair, all probably are or there wouldn’t be that many. I think it’s a Ford/GM/Chrysler thing.

RJ Publications, operator of the website was the early favorite because of the sheer volume of helpful information they post for free. I particularly owe them a favorable mention for the education about ISBNs I gleaned from their site and for the ease with which I was able to calculate my per-copy production cost using the wide variety of trim sizes, papers, bindings, types of printing (digital or offset), and run sizes available. Distribution seemed fairly good with their plug-in to Ingram, called Thor, but I never really understood what Amazon would do with my title once it was in RJ’s system.

I also took a several sniffs around Amazon’s CreateSpace, drawn mostly to the idea of getting some kind of “home field advantage” for my book. Obviously, Amazon distribution was a given there, but as with RJ’s Thor system, I never really understood whether or how my title would appear on Ingram’s list. Even though I don’t expect much brick-and-mortar sell-through, based on what I’ve read from other self- and conventionally-published authors, a core component of my marketing plan involves getting airport bookstores to carry A Silver Ring and offering to do airport signings all over the country on my travels. They may not buy any as it is, but if they can’t order copies from Ingram, they’re sure not to. Complicating CreateSpace’s scheme is their nearly incomprehensible, certainly over-complex ISBN policy.  For space reasons, I won’t even try to explain what I never fully understood in the first place. I also heard some early feedback on CreateSpace related to poor construction and/or print quality, but I think they’ve addressed that by now.

Finally, and somewhat reluctantly, I looked at Ingram’s own Lightning Source. I say reluctantly because I found their site rather user-unfriendly and had to do far more digging than I’d have liked, including (the horrors!) sending some emails to their people, in order to get some idea of their pricing, distribution, and setup process. As with CreateSpace to Amazon, I assume my book’s availability on Ingram’s distribution network is implicit with being printed by Lightning Source, and they did a much better job of convincing me I’d also see receive distribution on Amazon than CreateSpace did of convincing me any of my airport bookstores could order a copy to make me go away. If I remember correctly, Lightning Source also offered a slight cost advantage and, using a promotion code now expired, free title setup.

With the fourth of July bearing down on me like a Chinese currency policy board, I needed to get my ‘meat’ ready for the ‘grinders’ as formatters call the various submission engines employed by different publishing outlets like Lightning Source, Kindle, and Smashwords. But, with less than two weeks before my market-maker’s preferred deadline, how?

Google still amazes me. I put in “self-publishing and book and formatting,” and right there near the top of the list is this little outfit calling itself DiamondPress Publishing. As with any Google search, the thought “what’s the worst that could happen?” stops by for a visit, and I click.

I like what I see. Though it does seem like just another small press looking for authors too timid to try what I’m doing themselves, they say they provide formatting services for self-publishers too, so before bed I send them an email describing my needs and compressed timetable.

A lady named Jeanette answers—the next morning.

She says she can get my Word file in shape to pass through the meat grinders at Lightning Source, Kindle, Nook, and any pretty much any other publishing outlet and get my cover files to fit into the template Lightning Source provided me, all for around a hundred bucks. I pinch myself, realize I’m not dreaming, and send her my stuff.

Three days later, right on time if not early, I get it back and upload it. It all works, perfectly. This has to be the best thing since perpetual motion. I’m ready to go in hours instead of weeks, all for less than a day’s wages doing what I’m supposed to be doing in this life, which is to say, not throwing my laptop through the dining room window. Files uploaded and accepted, proof will be on the doorstep before Uncle Sam’s birthday. What a country!

Before they send a proof, however, Lightning Source emails to tell me there’s an error with my ISBN. There are, of course, books with both ISBN-10s and ISBN-13s. The file I uploaded wants to become the world’s first ISBN-14. Assuming there are no radioactive isotopes of my ISBN number I, crimson-faced, ask Jeanette at DiamondPress to make the correction necessary (one of several of my own screw-ups she’d end up fixing for me as I spent more time with my proof) and bill me, since it was clearly my error. Jeanette cheerfully sends me a corrected copy—no charge. Did I mention Jeanette’s fast, good, and really nice?

When the proof shows up, it’s perfect, I not at all hastily conclude. I looked at everything. Chapter headings match, no gutter problems, no pagination errors, nothing glaring at all. I say again—nothing glaring at all. It looks like a winner! I complete my order with Lightning Source and head out for fourth of July in Seattle, confident of my book’s formidability versus its New York-based competition and pleased with having had to just barely extend my original deadline of July the first. Even big-time authors miss a few, right? So the book may not be perfect, but it’s damned good, and it’s on sale, on time. Order one and see for yourself.

An aviation love story...

Twilight landing at LAX

Martinez Canyon Rescue