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Posts tagged ‘print’

It’s not your ancestor’s Vellum

Brad asked me to fill in for him this morning, so I thought I’d continue the formatting and publishing series I started last month. In this post, I mentioned a Mac-only program a friend used that I’d downloaded and would review later. That program, Vellum, isn’t cheap. But, having played with it enough to be comfortable with it and having used it to convert the extended version of Vengeance from Ashes, I have to say, it is well worth the money.

For those of you with a Mac, you can download the entire program as a “trial” and use it. The only limitation on functionality is that you can’t actually export an e-book or print-ready PDF file. However, as I noted in the earlier post, the preview function of the program lets you see what you have without actually doing the export.

So, what is Vellum?

Vellum is a program designed to convert your word processing file into e-books and, in the last version or two, into a print-ready PDF file. There are two pricing levels for the program. As I said, it’s expensive. To get the e-book only version, you’ll pay $199 and for the e-book and print version, you’ll pay $249. Unlike earlier versions of the program where you could buy a license that would allow you to convert a single title or in increments of 10 (if I remember correctly), there is no limit on the number of titles now. And, to be honest, that is the only way I managed to convince myself it was worth the money.

Like many other conversion programs, you can write in Vellum but I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s not where its strength lies. However, that ability to write in it means you can edit in it which is a huge plus. That’s especially true because you don’t have to open a text editor and edit the underlying HTML of an e-book like you do with other conversion programs. It even has a spell-checker which can be nice or annoying, especially if you are writing science fiction and fantasy.

Once you install and open Vellum, you’ll see something like this. You’re given the option of viewing the tutorial or opening the Help Overview. Below that, you have the option of importing a Word file. I recommend you view the tutorial first. The program is really pretty simple but the tutorial will help. Also, there are some pretty good — and short — Youtube videos about the program as well. The one I watched was only about 10 minutes and it gave all the important information I needed to put together a project using the program.

Once you import your Word file, you’ll see something similar to this. As you fill in the blanks in the dialog box in the center of the screen, you will see the changes happening on the right side of the screen. That is your previewer pane and you can set it to show what your book will look like on the Kindle Fire, the Oasis, the iPad, etc. You can also set it to show what your print file will look like. Note the far left panel. That’s your table of contents that’s been generated by your use of Headings in Word (or similar program). You can change those, including their attributes.

While we’re on the TOC, at the bottom of that pane is an *. If you click it, a dialog box will open. One of the options is to add an element. This is a handy tool because it means you no longer have to type out your copyright page, etc. It has one on file and all you do is fill in the blanks. Choose where on your ToC you want it to appear, add the element and it is there, not only in the ToC but in your preview as well.

Once you’ve finished filling in the book details, click on the Ebook Cover tab and upload your cover. That will embed your cover with the book file. If you’re like me, this is great because it means you don’t have to worry about it later.

Now it’s time to move to what I see as the real strength of the program. One of the banes of the indie author has been making the text of our ebooks look like that of traditional publishers. Unless you had access to programs like InDesign, doing things like true drop caps and even something as simple as true small caps was beyond many of us. So we found workarounds that didn’t quite do the trick. With Vellum, you don’t have to do that. It has different options built in and all you have to do is choose which ones you want.

Here is a screenshot of what I did with Vengeance last night. This was one of, if I remember, six or eight options available. There are different elements you can add — if you want — after the chapter heading. Since this is a science fiction novel, I didn’t want anything too fancy. It also has the first letter looking like what we are used to with traditionally published books. I could have opted for a different font or small caps or no fancy effects. But this is what I thought looked best for the book and genre.

It also handles scene breaks if you want it to. By using the standard  asterisk to break your scenes, you indicate to Vellum that there is a scene break and you can then choose what you want to happen. As you can see here, I chose to use the same basic first line layout that I do for the beginning of a chapter. I chose a simple line between scenes, again because of the genre. I didn’t have to do anything except go to the styles tab on the far left contents section and tell Vellum what I wanted it to do. The nice thing is you can preview everything before you make your decision. Better yet, you don’t have to go through and insert these changes at ever scene break or new chapter. You set it once and it is done automatically.

Once you’ve checked your work and are happy with how it looks, you can then generate your ebooks. Before you do this, if you have a section at the back of the book (or at the front) where you want to link to your other titles and you sell them in the different stores, you can actually input those store links into a separate dialog box for each title. What happens is when you tell Vellum to generate your e-books, it will automatically assign the right links to the appropriate store. That’s because you can choose to generate a book per major outlet and Vellum then optimizes the books according to those store’s requirements.

As you can see from the image above, I chose to generate versions for all the major stores but did not generate the generic EPUB file. That took maybe a minute to do. Once the process is complete, you get a new dialog box up that not only recommends you check your files but it will link you to a page that tells you how to check your new files. I sent the Kindle file to my Oasis and, damn, it looks good. None of the issues I’ve had in the past trying to use any of the “fancier” effects showed up. So far, so good. But we still had the print version to look into.

I’ll admit, this is where I held my breath. I’ve gotten to where I can take my basic manuscript and turn it into a decent print ready PDF in an hour or so. But it meant doing things like changing the the page size, figuring out the margins, etc. And then there were the headers and footers — oh, those headers and footers. They can be the bane of any author’s existence. But the headers and footers, as well as all the other special effects, can be set for print just as they can be for e-books. I’m still playing with the final product for the print version but the image below gives you an idea of what can be done.

As for those concerns about converting to print, Vellum surprised me and in a good way. It took my basic manuscript, considered what I had typed into the original dialog box when I got started and then all I had to do was choose which form of header and footer I wanted to use. That’s it. You choose the page size when you get ready to export the file. My only complaint (am I’m sure it is something I can fix but haven’t figured out how yet) is that it has page numbers on the bottom of the first page of the chapter. I want to lose the header and footer on those pages. But, if that is all I dislike about the program, that’s pretty darned good. As with the e-book versions, it took less than a minute to generate the PDF file.

I need to play with the program some more but, to get multiple e-book versions and the print version done in less than an hour with a program I am still learning is pretty darned good. To get one that looks closer to a traditionally published book at minimal effort is a very good thing. The final judgment, for me at least, is that Vellum is well worth the money. While I hesitate to recommend anyone spend that much for a program, I will do this. If you have a Mac (sorry, iPad Pro and iPad users, they don’t have a version for iOS), try the program out. As I noted above, you won’t be able to export the files but you can see what the program is capable of doing.

For me, until I see something better out there that is also easier to use, Vellum is going to be my go-to when it comes to converting and exporting files for both e-book and print publication.

Formatting for Print

A couple of weeks ago, I started a series on formatting. You can find the posts here and here. I promised to come back and do a post on how to format your interior file for print versions as well. That’s what today’s post is going to be about. As we start out, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions. The first is that you are working in Word or one of the equivalent programs. Yes, InDesign is a much better program and gives you much better control on kernaling and the like, but it is 1) expensive and 2) had a learning curve many find daunting. So, let’s get started.

The first question, even before you start your formatting, that you have to ask is where you are going to turn for printing and distributing your book. There are all sorts of options out there. To me, the two best — and for different reasons — are Createspace and Ingram Spark. The latter can get you into bookstores but the downside is you have to pay to use them and you aren’t guaranteed shelf space in those stores. The second can be completely free or it can cost you a whopping $10 if you buy an ISBN from them. The downside is that Amazon owns Createspace and that means getting into bookstores is going to be much more difficult.

All that considered, you have one more question to answer. Do you really want to spend the time, effort and money (yes, money. Even if you don’t pay someone to go out and try to sell your books to those bookstores, you will have to do it and every hour away from your keyboard is money out of your pocket.) trying to get into those stores? In other words, will the return on investment be worth the money spent to use Ingram Spark?

For me, since the vast majority of my sales come from e-books, I am more than happy using Createspace. It keeps my initial financial outlay down to a minimum, puts the print books in Books in Print, in the Amazon stores and lets me order copies at a discounted price when I need them for events, cons, etc.

So that is my second assumption for this post. Everything I am about to tell you is based on Createspace. If you decide to use Ingram Spark or one of the other services, you will need to check their formatting requirements.

So, how do you format your book for print?

The first thing you do is decide what size you want your book to be. Remember that the more pages you have, the more it will cost to produce and the higher your price will have to be in order to make money. I choose standard trade paperback size of 9 x 6. Now the fun begins.

Take the final version of your book and save it as a new file. Because I have been known to get confused on an occasion or two, I tend to save the files as NameofNovelPrintVersion. Once I’ve done that, I selection all (if you are using a PC, that ctrl A) and then go into layout and change the page size. Save it again. In fact, you should save often — and back up to other media.

Once you have changed your page size, check your front matter. Compare it to other print books in your genre. You want your books to have the same basic layout as those of traditional publishers. Here is how I set up my last several books:

  • Title Page (title only)
  • Also by (list other works)
  • Second title page (title, series, author, publisher, logo, etc.)
  • Copyright page

You can play with fonts and font size on your title pages. The key is to make it look as much like a traditionally published book as possible. In other words, imitate what you see. Also, remember that the font size limitations you had in your e-book go out the window when you move to the print side of things. For example, I have nothing with a font size of more than 16 in an e-book. For a three line title page (title of the book only), I used Minion Pro SmBld with font size of 36. Line spacing before was set to 100 and line spacing was set at multiple (1.15).

Now, before we go any further, each of the above pages had a page break after the last line of text. That means the “Also by” by was on the back of the initial title page and the copyright page on the back of the second title page. The exception is the copyright page. That page has a section break (odd page) instead of a page break after the last line of text. What this does is insert a blank page where needed so your next bit, your dedication, appears on the right hand page of your novel. To insert the section break (odd page), click your layout tab. Then click on “breaks” and scroll down until you see “section breaks” and “odd page”. Click on odd page. You won’t see the additional page in your word document but it will show up when you save your file to pdf.

 

So now you have a new “section” and this is for your Dedication. Replace the “page break” from your e-book with “new section, odd page” after the last line of your dedication.

In my books, I make a change here from my e-books. Because e-books use your style headings to build the active table of contents, I don’t use Heading 1 (or any other) on “Dedication” in the digital version. However, with the print version, I want “Dedication” to match my chapter headings, so I highlight the word and then apply Heading 1.

And this is where we start changing the formatting from the digital version of the book.

My Heading 1 is set up as follows (for science fiction):

  • Font:
    • Minion Pro SmBld
    • size 20
    • all caps
  • Paragraph:
    • centered
    • spacing before: 100
    • spacing after 50
    • line spacing: multiple 1.15

This drops the heading down the page and gives spacing between the chapter heading and the first paragraph. Once you make this change to your heading settings, it should apply to all your headings in the document. In Word, you can make this change pretty easily by simply right clicking on the heading, choosing “modify” and then enter what you want.

Your next section will be Chapter 1. Your chapter title/number is Heading 1. If you had added spacing after in your paragraph dialog box for the Heading, you do not need to have more than one line return between the chapter title/number and the first line of your first paragraph.

And this is the next place you can play with your formatting and make it different from your e-book. Again, I suggest you look at books in your genre by traditional publishers and see what they do. You don’t usually see Drop caps in science fiction or fancy fonts, but you might in some fantasy or romance novels. For my SF novels, I small cap the entire first line. Now, when doing this, I sometimes have to play with the spacing in order to make it look right. You can do this in word by highlighting the word or words you need to adjust. Click on the font dialog box and then click on the advanced tab. When that opens, you have the option of changing your spacing and scale. Play with it and see what works best.I usually leave “scale” alone and work only with spacing. (Note: you will need to check this again later, after you have set your margins and gutters. I’m not having you set these yet because your page count is going to change based on how many sections you have and how many blank pages have been included.)

My paragraph settings, which are “Normal” on my style ribbon, are as follows:

  • Justified
  • First line indent 0.3
  • 0 spacing before and after a paragraph
  • line spacing of 1.15 (multiple)

My font is set at Georgia, 11 font size.

For section breaks, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Just remember, if you use an image, you need to embed it in your document and each time you use it, it increases the size of the file and, if you are in the 70% royalty program on Amazon, it will increase the transmission cost per download. Instead of an image, you can use symbols that are part of your font package. Once more, see what the trads in your genre are doing.

Add a section break at the end of the chapter (making sure you removed the page break, if it was already there). Rinse and repeat until you are done with the book.

Now that you have the body of your book formatted, select all and go into your paragraph dialog box. Click on the line and page break tab and make sure you have unclicked widow and orphan control. This is so every page, except for partial pages, end on the same line. Now save your as a PDF. Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t talked about headers and footers. We will in a a moment. Just bear with me. Once you have the PDF file, see how many pages it is. Make a note of the number. Now, go back to your working print file. It is time to set up your margins and gutter.

Createspace at least helps you here.

If your books is 24 – 150 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.375
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 151 -300 pages:

  • inside margin of .5
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 301 – 500 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.625
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 501 – 700 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.75
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 701 – 828 pages

  • inside margin of 0.875
  • outside margin of 0.25

Open your page dialog box. Your first tab should be margins. Choose the appropriate margins from above and fill them in. Choose your orientation (portrait). Where it says “pages”, choose mirror margins. Now click on the “paper” tab. Make sure your page size is appropriately entered. Now click the “layout” tab. Make sure it says a new section starts on the odd page. Under headers and footers, make sure both “different odd and even” and “different first page” are clicked. Press okay and then save your document.

Now, finally, it is time to do your headers and footers and this is where you will see why we switched to section breaks instead of page breaks between chapters. If you look at a traditionally published book, you will see that most do not have headers or footers on the first page of each new chapter. Also look at how they do their headers. Are the author names set out in the same manner as the book title? Some will be and others will not. Some will italicize the author name and cap only the first letter of each word of the author’s name. Now, how do they do the title? Capped? Small caps? Choose which you like best and now we will get to work.

Go to your first chapter. Click insert header. If you are working in one of the later versions of Word, this should take you to the “design” tab. Make sure “different first page”, “different odd & even” and “show document text” are clicked. Now look for “link to previous” and make sure that is not clicked. You do not want headers or footers on your front matter. Once you have that done, scroll to the second page of the chapter. Type in the author name. I have it centered in my manuscript but you can align it however you want. My only reminder is to do what is common in traditional publishing in your genre. Once you have it typed in, highlight it. Make sure it isn’t indented. If so, open the paragraph dialog box and removed first line indent. Also, consider changing the font size slightly to offset your header text from your main text. I drop my font size down to 10 for my headers.

Once you have done that for the author name, scroll down to the third page of the chapter. Type in the title of the book. Repeat the check for indents and font size. Now scroll to the beginning of the document and make sure you haven’t accidentally wound up putting headers in the front matter. If it looks all right, save your document.

Page numbers are next. These can go up in the header or down in the footer. I put them in the footer because that is easier to do. So, go to “insert” select page number, and basically repeat what you did for your headers. Once you have them aligned how you want, make sure there is no first line indent. Match your font size with your header font size. You have one more step. If your page number doesn’t say “2” on the second page of the chapter, click on “page number” and then “format page numbers”. The dialog box that opens up lets you choose what number to start with. Choose 1 — it won’t show since first page is different — and save. Make sure it works. If not, choose 2.

You’re almost done. Skip ahead to your next chapter. If your headers and footers aren’t there, don’t panic. Double click in the header section of your page and that will open up the design ribbon. Now you can click link to previous section. That should import all your settings from the first chapter. If you have done it right, you will have no header or footer on the first page of the chapter but those should be in place after that page, complete with correct page numbers. Check the rest of your document and save.

Now it is time to save as a PDF again. This time, when you save, you want to go back and check your formatting as it imported in. Pay close attention to how your first line of each chapter looks — did your special formatting carry over as you thought it would or do you need to go back and play with it? Does each page look right or do you need to tweak the formatting some. One problem that can happen on occasions is weird full justification of a short sentence. This happens when you accidentally put in a soft return (ie, you accidentally hit “enter” while holding “shift”). All you have to do is go to the end of that paragraph in your Word doc and erase the soft return and then hit “enter”.

Tweak as needed, until you are satisfied with how the document looks.

One more thing. You don’t need all the end matter in a print book that you have in an e-book. You have already listed your other work at the beginning of the novel. So there is no need to list it all again. You can add a “Note from the Author” or “About the Author” if you want, but you don’t have to. I do, simply because I don’t like the book ending with the last page of the novel and there being no chance to thank the reader. Again, and I know I sound like a broken record, check what the trads in your genre are doing.

In other words, copy, copy, copy but make yours look better than the trads.

Save our your final version in both DOC and PDF. You will upload the PDF version to Createspace — or whoever you chose to do your POD versions. Now you wait for them to tell you whether you passed review or not. When you have, download the PDF file they have compiled. Make sure nothing happened to your formatting and your book still looks the way you want it to. If you haven’t been doing this for awhile and aren’t comfortable with it — and even if you are — go ahead and order a hard copy proof of your book as well. See if you like how it looks in print. If not, change it.

In other words, don’t rely on the downloaded proof. I had a book where the downloaded proof looked great but when the printed version got here, my 250 page book was something like 125 pages. The font had screwed up somehow and you needed a magnifying glass to read it. Fortunately, I caught it before it was released into the wild. Believe me, it is better to spend $5 or so plus shipping to avoid that sort of headache.

I know this is a super-long post but there is no easy and quick way to handle this. Now I’m off for coffee and food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Print isn’t dead but neither is digital

Dave’s post yesterday was a wonderful image of what publishing could — and should — be. That’s especially true if it wants to make an aggressive step to stop the financial bleeding most major publishing houses are suffering from right now. Unfortunately, it was only an April Fools Day post and not reality. This is driven home by an article in the L.A. Times that shows just how traditional publishing is trying to balance reality with fiction, and not the kind of fiction you read. (Hat tip to Kris Rusch for pointing me in the direction of this post.)

In “The Paradox of Self-Publishing”, it is posited that there is a “myth” surrounding self-publishing: that it is leveling the field for authors. The basic premise is that the traditional publishers love self-publishing because it lets them see who the successful authors are going to be and then they, the publishers, can sweep in and bring these newly successful authors into the fold of traditional publishing. But the article doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that the publishers love this because it means — and I am paraphrasing here — that they, the publishers, don’t have to do any of the work. The author has already written the book, had it edited, promoted, made all the wonderful sales, etc. Now all the publisher has to do is sit back and sign the author and let the author keep doing what he’d been doing all along. (Like Kris, I’ll let you look up the link. I just don’t feel like sending traffic to their site for such a head-scratching post.)

Now, that may be exactly what the bean counters in their gilded halls atop the publishing buildings think. But consider how that very thought process goes against the argument those same publishers have been giving to their authors — and readers — about self-publishing books. Where is the value added by the publisher if this is their way of doing business? There is none, especially not if they are simply sweeping up the rights for a book that has already been there. The only thing that’s happening is that the author now is getting less money for a book he’d been getting the lion’s share for up until then.

Also, think about the impact it will have for the next book written by the author, assuming it is now contracted to Major Publisher. The author is now thinking that he will have the added value of the publisher actually doing the editing, copy editing, proofing, marketing, etc., of his book. After all, that’s what publisher’s do, right? But the publisher has seen what the author can do on his own so why put out that additional money and effort? So, what happens? You get the problem several of the wunderkind of self-publishing who went on to sign traditional publishing contracts have discovered: a drop in sales and money. You become one of many, too many, in a house where there is more interest in the favorite child than an equal support of all the children. You are expected to be out there earning not only your own wage but wages for “mom” and “dad”. In short, too often you discover than you are doing as much, if not more, than you were when you self-published and for less money.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try for a publishing contract. If that is what you want, go for it. But this new approach by publishing supporters just blows my mind. It’s like they are the little kid out there bragging about mom and dad and not realizing they are telling family secrets in the process. Of course traditional publishing loves to snatch up indie books that are doing well because they don’t have to do the work of promotion, etc. But by saying so in public, you are admitting that the so-called value added aspect of your business doesn’t exist.

Another branch of the argument against e-books is that their sales are flattening and indie bookstores are growing. Well, let’s look at that. Of course e-book sales are flattening. For one thing, they aren’t getting full reports on the sales of indie books. They are using figures from companies that track publishers or members of a certain organization. That’s just about as reliable as bookscan numbers — as in it’s not. As for the growth of indie bookstores, if you go back to the beginning of MGC, you’ll see that’s something we’ve been predicting all along. Of course they are going to grow with the decline of the big box stores. But that doesn’t mean the e-book market is on its way out. What it means is that there is a market for both print and digital books. However, as our society becomes more and more digital and the cost of printing continues to increase, you’ll see digital slowly becoming the preferred means of reading.

In an article linked to in the LA Times’ piece, it was asked why someone like a Stephen King or John Grisham would want to self-publish because he’d have to hire this huge staff to do what his publishers do now. I can’t speak directly about what King or Grisham do, but I know too many authors who have had “best sellers” who have hired staff to do exactly what their publishers are supposed to do. They have editors and copy editors and proof readers and researchers, etc., all because the publishers don’t do the “value added” jobs to the extent they used to do. So what would the difference be between having to hire someone to do that job while you are under contract with a legacy publisher and having to hire someone to do that job when you are self-publishing? Oooooh, I know the answer: the author will get more money. They have already had to hire someone to edit/copy edit/proofread/market/etc., plus they have had to pay their agent a cut of what they get as well as getting only a fraction of the monies the publisher gets on the sales of their, the author’s, hard work.

And that brings up another facet of self-publishing the detractors seem to always forget, or at least leave out. The agent. Most legacy publishers still require an author to have an agent to even get through the door to be considered for publication. If that agent manages to sell your work to a publisher, he’ll get at least 15% of any money you make. Some agent contracts are written so they maintain a financial interest in your work for the life of copyright. That means even if you manage to get rights back from the legacy publisher and bring it out on your own, at least 15% of any monies you make will go to the agent or his heirs. The agent may not have done anything after getting that initial contract signed but they get money forever. I have a problem with that.

Of course, the people who write about how e-books are now showing they are just a flash in the pan and traditional publishing will survive in its current incarnation are also the same folks who think authors are foolish enough to accept the argument that a novel that has already been edited for print has to be re-edited for digital release. Or that it costs as much to make an e-book as it does a print book. I’ve given up hoping they will realize that we aren’t as dumb as they keep trying to convince themselves.

Am I saying self-publishing is the way for everyone? Hell no. It’s got its problems as well. But it is a viable option for an author who isn’t afraid of working hard and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. For me, I like working on my own and with small publishing houses. That said, if I happened to be offered a contract from Baen Books, I’d jump on it, giggling and dancing like in joy like a little kid. But that’s just me.