31 August, 2008

It's only been about a zillion years since the last one of these here journal entries. So, let us see what I can do without breaking anything.

The big news is my renewed efforts to get The Etymology of Fire and The Faire Folk of Gideon into See, the big problem with Amazon, and with bookstores in general, is how much of the money they get out of the deal. Simply put, they get half. Yes, half. So, if the cover price is, say, $11.95, then Amazon gets $5.98. Now, if the book costs me $5.30 to make, then I only get a 68¢ profit. But, wait, there is more. Amazon doesn't care how much it costs me to get the book to them, and it has generally costs me $1.60 per book to get them to Amazon. Shockingly enough, this situation results in me loosing money every time somebody buys a copy of The Magic Flute from Amazon.

The end result of all of this, of course, has been my general disinterest in shelling out a couple of thousands dollars to have another big pile of books sitting around my apartment, making demands on what to watch on TV, refusing to use a coaster. And, then loosing money on those rare occasions when Amazon sells a copy.

Now, what would have been nice would have been if I could have found a nice print-on-demand service from which to shell out a much smaller pile of money for a much smaller pile of books that would still carry a half-decent cover price. Always the first thing I would be asked whenever I would tell people about self-publishing. Why not use a print-on-demand service? I think I've gone into that topic before. Generally, I don't trust them. They seem like glorified vanity presses, and they still cost a lot. Even the print-on-demand service, I finally did trust enough to start using was still way too expensive to get books into Amazon. Seriously, just go look at the cover price of my books at Cafe Press. I would have to charge close to forty bucks a book in order not to loose money from Amazon. Sucks, I know.

So, what finally happened was I just kept hearing about another print-on-demand service, Now, it is true that Lulu was one of the first services I ever checked out. I must have taken a look about the same time I was looking at Cafe Press, and I just didn't like their service. Their interface sucked. Their cover creation system was crude. And, I was generally left with the impression that they would produce a very low quality book.

So, I ignored them. I grumbled about my two other novels lacking a dead tree presence. And, I concentrated on remembering how to do music.

But, I continued to hear about Not much. Just that they were different. They didn't try to screw over their user base. They were a good service. So, I finally took another look. Well, it had been long enough I couldn't tell if their interface had improved, but I did discover that you could submit your own wrap-around covers, which was a big improvement. And, they charged a lot less for the privilege of using their service, which got me very excited.

I mean, the situation still wasn't ideal. They wouldn't ship directly to Amazon unless you paid them a hundred bucks. Meaning I would have to pay for Lulu to send me the books, and then I would have to pay to send the books to Amazon. Sucks, I know, but I thought, maybe, I could work with this.

I figured out Lulu's format. I calculated a page count. I was able to get a cost estimate out of Lulu. I took a guess about how much it would then cost me to ship to Amazon and discovered that this might work.

Okay, I'm dreaming, I know. A cover price of twenty-one or Twenty-two fifty per book is far from ideal, but I'm pretty sure that I did all of my math well enough that I don't actually loose any money in the situation. I mean, I think I will get less than a dollar per book sold by Amazon, but that is better than loosing about a dollar per book sold by Amazon.

All of which happened round about March of this year, and I immediately set about formatting my books for Lulu. The first problem turned out to be the fact that Adobe had replaced PageMaker with InDesign. So, I had to learn a whole new program. Fortunately, InDesign has a lot in common with PageMaker, In fact, InDesign has some huge improvements over PageMaker. So, that was really cool.

I figured out InDesign. I converted my layouts. Of course, me being me, I couldn't just important my PageMaker formats into InDesign. It is inelegant to my way of thinking. You just never know what little things are going to suddenly jump up and prove that the PageMaker to InDesign conversion didn't go as well as you may have liked. So, yes, I made all new layouts from scratch. Or, almost from scratch, as the case may be. I did import enough PageMaker layouts to be able to see what I had done. I would then enter the info into a clean InDesign template, and we were rolling.

Of course, I then realized that I didn't know which version of the texts were the most recent and had the most up-to-date corrections. Well, this was a pickle. I finally decided to just pick which version I thought was the most recent and work with that. This proved to have its own problems as that text only existed in PageMaker format, and I discovered that InDesign wouldn't import the raw text the same way that PageMaker could import text from other PageMaker files. InDesign would only take the PageMaker text with all of the formatting quite messily intact.

Fortunately, I discovered that I could export the raw text from InDesign, which created a rather amusing situation. I had to open the PageMaker file in InDesign. Let the conversion process work its magic. Export the raw text to a pathetic little ASCII text file. Open the text file in OpenOffice. Apply the OpenOffice styles I had created. Save the formatted text as a Microsoft Word document. And, then, finally import the MS Word file back into InDesign. Yeah, wow.

I'm sure there were many different ways to accomplish the same thing, including just working with the stupid converted PageMaker file, but I refused. Nothing simple is worth doing easily, and all of that.

Besides, I wanted to be able to edit the text in a half-decent word processor such as OpenOffice. Sure, InDesign's text editor is much better than PageMaker's text editor, but it still sucks in comparison to OpenOffice.

Which brought me to the next step in my grand plan. Re-editing the damn text and stamping out as many of the surviving fucking typographical errors as I could find. I mean, damn, there were still a shit load of those in The Etymology of Fire and The Faire Folk of Gideon. Made me mad. Finally started to absorb enough of my time that I had to stop working on music. Yeah, sucks. It's been months since I put any work into the new sonatina. And, just as I was starting to think it didn't suck, too. It's still just laying there in all of its not quite tonal glory and everything.

But, the fucking books had to be re-read. They had to. I was about to put those books into a format I couldn't update whenever I felt like it. I mean, there were going to be copies mooching smokes and drinking out of the toilet here. They weren't going to take revisions. I had to get the text fixed. It was embarrassing. And, The Etymology of Fire had some really cringe worthy errors in it. Really. Fucking typos.

So, first thing I had to do was figure out a way to re-read the fuckers that wouldn't result in my mind automatically correcting the errors in my head. I had to see them. I had to read them. Note them. Correct them.

So, I read the damn things backwards. Well, not quite backwards. Just read the chapters out-of-order. Or, backwards as the case may be. Read a random chapter. Start with the last chapter and work my way forward. Something like that. Just break up the flow.

Good news. Bad news. I found lots of typos. Pissed me off. Fucking typos. Took months. Two months, anyway. Yeah, I didn't really have much time or energy to work on this. I still had a day job, after all. And, that day job was burning a lot of time and energy. Lots of stuff to do. Exhausting days. Blah blah blah.

So, finally done. Mistakes found. Edits entered into the text. Files saved. Imported into InDesign. Layouts done. PDF versions generated. Covers designed. Submitted.

Oh, hey, I almost forgot. I found a website that uses open source software to generate ISBN barcodes. Free. Holy shit! This was manna straight from god's mouth to my ear. A website that hated barcode companies as much as I did. Those fucking spite-filled jackals. Those pestilent perverters of other people's bottoms. Corrupters of small sheep and llamas. Eat shit, motherfucking cocksuckers. I spit in your general direction and call you a naughty thing. You should be ashamed of yourself! How dare you lecture me on my business practices! Telling me how you hoped I taught my children better than I acted! You were shit! You were nothing but a bully and extortionist! Threatening to have my ass arrested if I didn't give you sixty-six bucks for something I had nothing to do with. Refusing to listen to a word I said when I even suggested the possibility that the job number written on the check may have been an error. Just because the erroneous job number just happened to match another one of your job numbers doesn't automatically mean that I am responsible for your delinquent account. Jesus fucking Christ! Turns out the erroneous job number wasn't even put on the check by me. And, I've got the canceled check to prove it. What does that say about your business practices and how you raise your own damn kids, you hate-filled sour old whore?

But, I'm feeling much better about the whole situation. After all, I sent the company a certified letter, which for all they knew contained a cashier's check for sixty-six bucks, and they returned it unopened. Marked, return to sender. Fucking victory!

But, I digress.

Edits done. Cover made. Price chosen. Fingers crossed. Fifty copies show up on my doorstep. Which means fifty copies of The Etymology of Fire and fifty copies of The Faire Folk of Gideon. But, I can live with that. I may not be crazy about the format. The books being a little bigger than I would like. But, I can live with that, too.

They've been entered into Books-in-Print. I'm just waiting for Amazon to recognize them. How long does it take Amazon to update their database, anyway?

Well, anyway, Amazon will recognize the books and ask me to send them about two copies. Amazon never asks for more than two copies at a time. No idea why. Just what they do.

And, then I get to sit around as absolutely nobody orders a copy. Nobody's interested. Oh, well, they exist. What more do I want, right?

copyright © 2008 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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