Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A Real Book!

While my friend edited and I struggled with software there were other considerations.  Ellen is ultimately a story about the after effects of humans trashing the planet so it seemed right and proper to try and keep the trashing at the minimum in her launch.  The search was on for an ethical printer.  Now there are many, they are not hard to find but they do not all offer the same.  Ethics are tricky things with many considerations.  Recycled, workers’ conditions, carbon footprints, mileage, inks, paper and so the list goes on.  With the ultimate question at the end: which one could I afford?

Cost was a pressing problem I thought about a lot as I engaged in other activities.  Obviously the larger the print run the better, but huge print runs were out of the question as how many copies realistically was a first time author, a self-publishing one at that, going to be able to shift?  There was no room in the garage for spare books, besides there were mice out there in the winter, couldn’t I just see their delight at a couple of boxes of pristine paper to keep them cosy!

I decided on one that was local, within thirty miles, with a lot of ‘green’ credentials and a chap at the other end of the phone, whose voice I fell for.  He was very helpful and gave me a lot of advice, for which I am forever grateful. 

I was also at this time beginning to research what was needed to be done after the book was printed, how to market Ellen.  I know, I know, completely the wrong way round! Reading all about strategies, I began to plan one for Ellen.  I couldn’t afford to pay up front for the first run but what if I collected pre-orders?  Some kind of flyer was needed.  Did I know enough people though who liked me enough to buy a book I had written?  I wrote a list.  Friends, groups to which I belonged, well known acquaintances, the list of names grew.  I thought I maybe could manage to shift a few books. 

So now the DTP was engaged in designing a flyer /order form.  It was to be a limited edition (how many I didn’t know until I had the orders) signed and with a discount.  The flyers were handed out with a certain amount of trepidation, after all I had no track record at all to offer.  I have very nice friends and acquaintances and the number of orders grew greater and greater.  My original few grew to many.  More than enough to cover the cost of the printing.  Enough now to add a basic package from the printers, they would, for a small fee, supply an ISBN (the cost of buying ten of these had been bothering me for a while, starting at my age was I ever going to write ten books!), stock the book and deal with future orders and the invoicing.  My skills with business are even poorer than my skills at editing.  It was a relief to be able to avail myself of this.

My friend sent me the corrected book and then I ran through it again to check I had it all in the correct places.  Checked the page numbers ran the way I wanted.  Checked the copyright and dedication pages.

I e-mailed Ellen’s Tale and the cover for a proof copy and waited.  This was when I found that files change as they progress from one computer to another.  Pages had slipped, page numbers had vanished.  It would help they said, it really would help, if I could PDF the files (they had asked before but I had had no way of doing this).  I could see though that I would have to do something.  I learnt about page breaks, they helped keep the pages where I wanted them.  I learnt what a ‘pilcrow' was, and could check spacings, but I needed to find some way of PDFing.  I had spent too many long nights trying to fix these problems, reading the entire book word by word and checking the changed spacing. I was being pipped at this last post.

Luck, my magical friend came up trumps again in the wee small hours, as I drifted around the web trying to find what I wanted,presenting me with a six week free trial of a well known PDF package. Obviously not the whole package that enables one to run a whole business but certainly enough for me to transform 250 pages of doc. into the correct file to send to the printers.  All I had to do was work out how to do it.  Another long silent night as I checked and rechecked, lips moving as I swore and despaired.  I had a deadline.  How long would my nice friends wait for their books having already paid, and Christmas was looming ever nearer. 

I did it! and  at 3.30 a.m off sped Ellen intact at last to the printers.

One of the most exciting moments in life is opening a box full of brand spanking new fresh smelling books all bearing that title and your own name.  A real book, not a screen full of words, not a bundle of papers with squiggles and crossings out, no a book.  A book like all those hundreds one has read, a book like all those authors before have written.  It is a moment of heart stopping awesomeness.  A moment when one wishes to run down the street showing everyone, instead one thanks the fates that technology has produced the mobile phone and texting!  Tell the world according to oneself in a matter of moments, lovely!

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