The question of whether I can navigate Ingram’s print-on-demand pathway on my own has been answered.
I have held my book in my hand.
And it looks fine.
It looks every bit as good as the editions published by St. Martin’s, Bantam, Mcmillan, and Pan. Personally, I much prefer the bright, striking cover designed for me by Digital Donna to any of the ones the in-house artists produced. Yes, those designs were all created a long time ago, and both tastes and technology have changed. But I remember being a little disappointed even then at covers that just didn’t seem to capture the breakneck pace and dark, escalating menace that I wanted the images to project.
The first thing readers see are the editorial reviews (of which I’m pretty proud). I cropped this a bit from the pdf to fit it here:
I saw only one change I’ll make next time: I’ll enlarge the gutter slightly. The verso page text slides just a bit more into the fold than I think is ideal. I made a deliberate decision to tolerate widows and orphans because I preferred square to uneven pages. I played around with the text to eliminate as many as I could. Here’s what Page 1 of the main text looks like, with no master applied to remove running heads:
As for Ingram’s process, every element that looked hopelessly daunting when I first ventured into the File Creation Guide unraveled itself as I worked my way through.
I do think that the Ingram interface is unnecessarily challenging. Perhaps they’re used to working with experienced publishers and not the newbie authors who might fall into the categories “indie” or “self-” publishers. I do know that many indie and self-publishers are expert at getting their books in print, but Ingram is not welcoming to those who are not. I had to piece together my own “step-by-step” journey in lieu of the one they didn’t really provide.
I am also aware that a professional designer might have handled aspects of my formatting process differently. For example, venturing into and out from The Book Designer site, which I found to be invaluable, I encountered a debate on pairing fonts for text with those for elements like chapter heads and running heads. There’s apparently an aesthetic to such choices that is beyond me. I’m more verbal than visual, and my ultimate choices might dismay people with more highly developed sensibilities. I looked at a lot of books to see how running heads, for example, were handled, and I picked a general direction that I liked. I can’t see readers setting the book on fire because of my choice.
Here is a screen shot of the interior pages with the master applied. Adobe Acrobat wouldn’t display verso (left-hand) and recto (right-hand) pages in a spread; instead it displays the recto page (page 3) and the verso page that would be on the back of page 3 (page 4), so you have to reverse these to see what pages really look like in the book (author’s name on left, title on right):
My experience, which I will continue to detail in upcoming posts, speaks to empowerment. Maybe I’m an odd sort of person, but whenever I hear “You can’t do that!”—well, them’s fightin’ words.
One caveat, of course, is to recognize when expert help really does make a difference. I was absolutely thrilled to find that Digital Donna knew exactly how to handle the cover template, including how to open and position the bar code. That was one learning curve I was glad not to negotiate.
And I’ll repeat here a suggestion I made in my first post on this journey: If you want to master a new technical skill—as I did in using InDesign for my formatting process—buy a book!
Let me clarify. Sometimes it pays to learn a new technical skill, even if there is a learning curve.
- Each new skill set increases your comfort with the technological insanity we all live with.
- Each new skill will stay with you, even if you have to refresh from time to time.
- You’ll be familiar with a wider range of options and can make more informed choices.
- And you’ll realize what you CAN accomplish, which, in my experience, can make you feel good.
But as you take such plunges, I again argue, the right expert help can be an important flotation device. If I hadn’t taken a couple of weeks to work through the first few chapters of a book on using the program, I’d have been utterly flummoxed. With the book’s help, once I learned the basics, the whole program started to make sense.
True, getting the right book can be hard. A couple of years ago, I started learning Python, just for fun. That project has been crowded out by my book-publishing/book-marketing ambitions, but at the time, I ended up buying THREE books because no one book gave me the specific kind of help I needed.
I had much better luck with my InDesign book, Classroom in a Book. It’s not perfect but it got me rapidly over the hump.
Yes, it’s an additional expense. But here’s a thought: even adding together the cost of the book and the year’s Adobe subscription (less than $300), I’m ahead of what I could have paid to have this done for me. If I use this new skill for any future projects, I’m even further ahead.
The link above is for the Kindle edition. I suspect, actually, that older how-to editions for somewhat older versions of InDesign would be cheaper and still adequate for the basics, such as how to create a new project, how to get your text into it, how to generate your paragraph and character styles.
Once you learn those steps, it’s just another word-processing program. Really. I swear.
My next adventure is to play around with different options and report on how they compare. First, Word. I’ve already discovered that Word will let me set up master pages. Whether I can use them as flexibly as InDesign allows remains to be seen.
I’ll be reporting. For now, I’m thrilled!