Sunday, 18 September 2016

P is for Proofreading - the hell that is formatting for Lulu

What a deadly dull topic for a blog post. I wonder if I will be able to say anything at all remotely interesting.

My historical novel, King's Ransom, is out in paperback and in all ebook formats. However, I still want a hardcover. I know a lot of people don't think it's worth bothering with hardcovers, and indeed I know perfectly well that no one will buy it. Nevertheless, I always feel that a book only available in paperback is just a little bit like a movie that goes straight to DVD.

Accordingly, I've set my book up in Lulu, and have formatted the interior, and I think it's alright. Now comes the first acid test - the proofreading. I am conflicted about this, for once I'm happy with the interior, I must address the dustjacket, and that is a horrible, horrible, horrible task. Lulu do not make it in any way easy to design a dustjacket, and I sometimes wonder if they aren't doing their best to make it impossible. Of course, if you're happy to accept a plain black spine with plain text, then it is much easier, but I have this beautiful wraparound cover for the paperback and I so want to maintain the same design for both editions. So the longer I spend on the interior, the more I can put off confronting this appalling task.

This is the paperback cover. You can see why I don't want to change it.
Of course the book has been thoroughly edited and proofread, many times. However, every new edition requires the same care, because of the formatting. Sadly, the Lulu proof copy doesn't print against a black background as the Createspace one does, and this annoys me very much, as after all the trouble I went to to increase the margins, I now cannot see where the edges of the pages are, and don't know how well it has worked. I can tell from the words per line that it's an improvement, at least I'm pretty sure, but when all is said and done, if you cannot measure it, you are just guessing. This is infuriating when the cost of getting a proof copy printed from Lulu is so great, both in money and in the unconscionably long time it takes them to print it, let alone send it. I really wish Createspace, who know what they're doing, would add hardcover books to their repertoire. I would ditch Lulu in a heartbeat.

I don't get started till 1300, because the whole morning is taken up with church and sleeping in late. Almost as soon as I start, I find several errors, all in the footers. Some pages which ought to be completely blank have a footer, and one page which should have a footer unaccountably lacks one. I say some colourful words, but really I'm just glad I didn't pay through the nose and wait six weeks for a printed proof copy to find this out.

I finish examining the ms - luckily I don't have to proofread the actual text, for this has already been done to the nth degree. If anyone discovers a typo in the published work, I will give that person a free copy of any and all of my published work. E-copies only, mind, because I'm a Struggling Writer.

Anyway, I correct the five footer errors I have found. It takes me only a few minutes to do this, because God knows I've had enough practice. The headers and footers are the thing that will screw up your manuscript format every time. Trust me on this. They seem to develop errors spontaneously. The one skill a self-published writer needs above all (after actually being able to write, that is) is a really sound knowledge of MS Word headers and footers.

Now a pdf must be produced for uploading to Lulu. This is fraught with danger too, but again, I've had so much practice with this doing my five Createspace books that it doesn't really pose me much of a challenge.

The pdf generated, it's time to review it on the screen. Almost at once I spot a header error which I completely failed to notice on the printed proof. Zounds, farathoom, and similar expressions. I fix the pox-infested thing and regen the pdf. Another footer error has miraculously spawned. I fix it. Now the document has become read-only. The only way I know of to fix this is to reboot.

That takes up the first hour of my work today. You see why formatting and proofiing for these print editions is an absolute nightmare. A whole hour gone, and I still haven't fixed the new footer error because I wasn't able to save it.

That seems to be the last one, though, and now it is time to wrestle with the Lulu website. My eyes already feel as though they have been sandblasted, from staring at the white screen, and my nerves are twitching with irritation. The combination of tedium and intense focus is an uniquely painful one for me. Of all the jobs that must be done to publish a book, I think this is the one I loathe the most. That is, until I remember about the dustjacket.

I am determined this time to get the dustjacket right first time. If I can get my head around all the numbers, it ought to be possible. The thing tells me how many pixels everything is, so I ought to be able to do this. Pray for me, people.

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