Those of you who waste your precious time reading me may know, through one source of information or another, that I recently self-published a collection of poems. This earth shattering news went up on my daughter's Facebook page, immediately rocking the poetry world.
I’d always believed that being “published” means someone else reads your work, likes it and arranges to publish it. “Writers” are those who can make a living writing. Surely self-publishing is an ego trip, a little more so than blogging.
Would you expect any other attitude from a guy who spent his career in banking?
But then, a couple of months ago I realized I had enough poems, which appeared on Fictionique and here, to fill a small book. I thought it might be nice to put them all in one place, bound in a pretty cover with my name on it. Gifts, for friends and family.
Yes…I would venture into the world of self-publishing! I would make myself an author, published in print.
I went through my work and picked out those pieces I liked, the ones that had gotten a decent reception when they appeared online. They consisted of one- and two-page pieces. I looked for a theme. Out of the theme came a title: Initial Verses – A Collection of Poems on Love, Loss, Poverty and War. I mean, who could resist that title?
Now began the adventure.
I looked around for a self-publishing site and decided on CreateSpace, which is an Amazon subsidiary. Anything self-published through CreateSpace automatically goes up for sale on Amazon. I opened an account and added my first title.
My pieces were all stored on various discs and were all in WordPerfect. Yes I know. Nobody, but nobody, uses WordPerfect anymore. The first job was to convert all of the pieces from WordPerfect to Word. CreateSpace will accept an uploaded Word document, but prefers PDF to create your print file. Well, Word was acceptable, right? So Word it was going to be.
Next of course is creating the “book” document. Forty or fifty poems cannot be uploaded as a book. The entire manuscript needs to be one document – this meant copying each piece and creating one continuous document which becomes the manuscript for the book.
CreateSpace allows the author to upload a Word document and within minutes, a) tells you of any problems which must be corrected, and b) allows you to see what the virtual book looks like.
Within minutes I was advised that my Word document was the wrong size. I had decided on a 6″x9″ book, and my document was formatted at a standard 8 1/2″x11″ typewritten page. Half inch margins all around the page and “set the gully margin to zero”. Got it.
When I uploaded the revised Word document I was able to see it in virtual book form…and the poems were running together. Insert page breaks where necessary. Upload it again.
Some of the two-page poems were starting on the right hand page and required the reader to turn the page to see the second part of the piece. I wanted two page poems to start on the left allowing the reader to see the entire piece without turning the page. Move the two page poems, making sure each one started on an even numbered page. Upload it again. This is it, I thought.
Piece of cake.
As I flipped the pages of the virtual book I discovered that, at every 6 or 7 pages, the last line of the poem was over on the left hand margin rather than being centered (I had chosen to center all of the pieces). Additionally, it seemed that a number of the one-page poems were one line too long – the last line appearing on the following page.
I re-typed the “one line too long” poems, rearranging the lines so that each fit in the space allotted.
I could not fix the margin problems appearing randomly throughout the virtual book.
I called CreateSpace.
“Well, Frank, our system really prefers .PDF! Sometimes when a Word document is uploaded, these things happen!” Now they tell me.
I download a free PDF converter and convert my Word file to a PDF document, which I can read but can’t make any changes to.
I upload the PDF document. Voila! The margin problems are fixed.
Next I work on the cover. This was, at least for me, the easiest part of the project. I found the cover design module simple and easy to use. Everyone who has seen the book likes the cover (so don’t judge a book, etc., unless it’s this one).
Pricing the book depends on how greedy you are and whether or not your dreams include the Amazon bestseller list. CreateSpace tells you how much it will cost to manufacture the book, taking into account the number of pages, illustrations, size, etc. Amazon adds their cut and gives you a break even number. I added a dollar and came up with $5.50. My royalties go directly to my checking account.
My son-in-law began asking me if we’re rich yet.
Next I ordered a printed proof. $2.15.
When I received the proof I realized: a) it needed a title page, and b) it needed a table of contents, and c) it needed some line adjustments. A two-page poem, for example, starts on the left with a title, drops a couple of lines and begins the text of the piece. As the reader moves to the right hand page there is no title at the top, and the lines of text were up there instead. More formatting in Word, converting to PDF and uploading again.
This time, I added a title page, an epilogue and a two-page table of contents.
I realized later that the page numbers I used in the table of contents were now wrong since the table itself added two pages to the count.
Word, PDF , upload, view.
I finally got the nerve to press “Publish.”
The next day my book was on Amazon.
Now, in many ways, I had it easy. My “manuscript” consisted of poems I had already written and proofed; it was simply a matter of putting them in book form. “Editing” consisted of deciding in what order they should appear, cutting some, including others, looking for a theme, designing a cover.
Additionally, the book contains no illustrations. Pictures make it much harder unless you’re a computer geek.
Finally, CreateSpace will do all of this formatting and layout for you – for $250. An editor will call you and work with you. My ego trip wasn’t big enough to warrant $250. If I couldn’t do it myself, it wouldn’t get done.
Converting a finished print book to Kindle has its own challenges. First, it’s the Word document which is uploaded – not the PDF. The largest difficulty comes with the table of contents. Page numbers are meaningless with a Kindle or iPad. The reader must be able to touch or scroll to a chapter or poem in the table of contents, click and move immediately to the chosen place. It’s possible to create this in a Word document – but not within my expertise. CreateSpace will convert your book to Kindle for $69, which is probably the way I’ll go.
I must say, it’s quite a trip to see your name on a nice, attractive book cover. Since I had family and friends and friends of my daughters, all forced by proximity to buy the book, I made number #2 on Amazon’s Best Seller list (for poetry!). Right up there with Leaves of Grass – at least for two days. I also made the “Hot New Releases!” list.
My girls have my book on their coffee tables and women who know me now look at me differently. Hmmm…maybe there’s more to the old guy than meets the eye…
It’s nice to think my grandkids or great-grandchildren might read it someday.
Now if you’ll excuse me – Oprah is calling.
"Initial Verses - A collection of Poems on Love, Loss, Poverty and War".
Also available on Kindle