Tuesday, 20 September 2016

R is for Ransom - Prioritising for Productivity, and Dustjacket Design

R is for Ransom, more particularly, King's Ransom, my recently released historical novel. It's out in ebooks and paperback, but I'm working on a hardcover edition. I have the printed proof of the interior, and there is the dustjacket yet to be designed, a task I dread. I've been hoping that I can figure it out by logic, by the exercise of my mighty brain, but I'm scared of finding out that I can't.

There is a second thing I need to do for King's Ransom; I have to finish putting together the information for my book trailer, which is being kindly made for me by my friend Sue. Sue is an awesome friend, and you can see her website, where she does all kinds of promotional things, HERE.

And thirdly, R is for the Royal Melbourne Show, where I will be exhibiting Emily tomorrow. Today, I must finish off the prep for that, get our kit packed up and in the car, and sort out an outfit to wear.

A further complication is that I have client work on, and I did not touch it yesterday, being all taken up with getting Emily ready for the show. I'd better get on with that first, as it's only fair, so I decide to finish the first pass of edits before tackling the KR proofreading.

Make a List

When I have a number of things I need to achieve in a day, I find it helpful to prioritise them. This helps me to avoid wasting time dithering about, or finishing something that could have waited and leaving undone something that was really important. Therefore, my first action is to make a list.
  1. The client's work goes first on the list, because he is paying me and has a right to expect his work to be done in a timely manner.
  2. The trailer is next, because once I've got it all together, I can hand it off to Sue and forget about it.
  3. Next is the proofreading, because again, once that is done I can either make corrections, send it for printing and forget it for today, or else tick it off entirely.
  4. Fourth is the dustjacket design. It is low on the list because it will take intense concentration, and I need not to have other things buzzing about in my mind, so it will get worked on only when the higher items on the list have been dealt with.
  5. The final show prep goes last, even though it is vital and must be done today. However, after dinner, if it is not done it will jump to the head of the list. I probably don't need more than half an hour for this, having done the bulk of the work yesterday, so I can afford to put it out of my mind during the working day.
Start at the top of the list

I start on the client's work, and go through till three, with a short break to take Emily out for lunch. She has to have some kind of outing, and offlead in the park is definitely out of the question. I finish the edit and get it off to the client at 1445. I finish getting together the information for the book trailer and get it off to Sue. 

It's now 1630, so there isn't much of the day left, and I doubt if I'm going to get much done, if anything, on the dustjacket, but I think I can squeeze in the proofreading before Robert gets home and I have to produce another one of my culinary marvels. I quickly finish assembling Emily's show kit and make sure our tickets are in my bag, because these things are so important and it takes only a couple of minutes. My outfit can wait until after dinner. This leaves me probably three hours to work on the proofreading and maybe, just maybe, get a start on the dustjacket.

The interior file is finally just as I want it, so with mixed feelings I gird my loins to do battle with the dustjacket. I am truly dreading it.

I have a copy of the paperback cover that is the right height, so that is my starting point. Information from Lulu tells me my spine width will be 305 pixels, and will start 2888 pixels from the beginning of the complete thing. The flaps are 975 pixels wide. Therefore, the whole thing will be (2888*2)+305 = 6081 pixels.

I start by opening the base file; the paperback cover. It is 3844 pixels wide.
The outside part of the dustjacket (not including the flaps) needs to be 4131 pixels. This leaves 287 pixels unaccounted for, in two lots of 144 pixels. Therefore, let's first create an image that is the same height as the cover, and 144 pixels wide. This will be the 'buffer zone'; it will go between the main cover and the flaps. Because white space down the edges of the outer cover will look horrible, I plan to choose a colour that is as neutral as possible with the main cover.

The height of the cover is 2775 pixels, so I need to create an image that is 2775 vertically and 144 horizontally. For a start, let's try making it solid black. Now, I open the main file and extend its width by 144, having carefully unchecked 'maintain aspect ratio'. Then I fill in the extra area with solid black. Now to do the same at the other end. This will only need to be 143 pixels.

I save another version and do 'flip vertical'. Nothing happens. It is possible that there isn't enough storage; it's a very large file. So many PC products don't release storage, so I reboot before trying again. Realise I needed to flip horizontal, not vertical, but still it doesn't work - at this size, Paint doesn't seem to allow the aspect ratio to be turned off. 

I create a blank file of the desired size and cut and past the black bits into each end, and then cut and paste the paperback cover into the middle. This seems to work okay. What a relief! Now I need only to add the flaps. This is far more than I hoped to get done today. It's amazing how a little number crunching makes it all understandable.

Here it is! So far so good!
The flaps are 975 pixels wide, as I mentioned before. Let's see if I can make the space for them. The width with the space for the front flap will be 5106. And no, I can't - it doesn't allow me to leave the aspect ratio untouched. Zounds, farathoom and other expressions of opprobrium and disapprobation.

Very well, I'll do the same thing again, but first to create the flaps. I make a blank flap, 2775 by 975, and I make a version of the blank full-sized file coloured red. This will let me see if I've lined things up correctly. Now all I have to do is paste in the three bits.

And yes, this works, although there is a thin line of red that I need to white out. You'll have to take my word for this; I tried to upload it, but the white flaps are invisible, so there's no point.

All I need to do now is to fill in the content on the front and back flaps. And here it is!

While it's uploading, I mix myself a vodka martini. By Jove, I'm proud of what I've achieved today!

It's not over, though, because now I must upload it to Lulu. As it uploads, I sip my martini, wrapped in a golden glow of happiness. This is something I've tried, and tried, and tried to do and always failed before. Now, I see vistas opening up of hardcover editions of everything! It is now 1835, so I have only been working for just over two hours to achieve this, and it was the first time! So often when one finally bites the bullet, one is surprised by how much easier the task was than expected.

When I have uploaded the dustjacket, I realise that I have forgotten to include the barcode on the back of it. Yet another service that Createspace take care of for one and bloody Lulu doesn't. Back to the drawing board.

Another long, tedious wait as it uploads to Lulu
It finally loads up to Lulu and now I make the print-ready pdf. Another long wait for them to display it so I can review it. It's all fine, and I finalise the book and order my proof copy. I feel as though I've been through a car wash on foot, yet it has only been less than three hours since I started.

Now that is almost the end of my list. So often when I've felt overwhelmed at work, I've created a list and worked through it and finished it all with time to spare. What seemed impossible at the beginning is often quietly achieved when we work down a list. The last remaining thing is to get my outfit ready for the show tomorrow.

I have my show suit cleaned and ready and I choose a blue shirt to go with it, because I have my wonderful new blue shoes. There's something about coloured shoes, isn't there!

This was the final task of the day! 

And with a glow, partly of vodka but mostly of virtue and pride, I close my account of this day. Everything on the list completed, and it's not dinner time yet.

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