The GIMP, CreateSpace and a Great Basketball Euphemism

Yes, last week’s post is really not happening until this week. I could make excuses, and say, but wait, I heard that more people read blogs on Monday than any other day of the week although I’m told they share more on Friday. It makes sense. Monday is a reading day (quiet, introspective, Monday-blues and can’t quite get into the workweek yet), and Friday is happy time. Time to party! Time to be free and share!

Maybe that’s not it, just one mad women’s assessment. I use the word “mad” to mean both crazy AND angry.

Someone I am close to, well, okay it’s my daughter, is opening up a new salon in Chicago. It’s to be the Savon Spa and is on Halsted St. in the heart of beautiful Lakeview. They will offer a variety of services, (things I never do) like spray tans, and facials, and something called micro dermabrasion (doesn’t that sound painful?), nail care, massage, stuff like that.

At one point I must have had a weak moment, or a moment in time when I needed to inflict intentional pain on myself. I can help you! say I. I have some photo editing experience, I’ve designed book covers, and cards, and even tee-shirts. Maybe I can help with your computer-related needs. Okay, says she (and her partner guy). How about helping with business (appointment) cards and a flyer?

Sure, say I. I can do that.

What was needed was a full blown graphic artist (not me) so I quickly learned that my sophomoric little package wasn’t going to work. Not to worry, I’ve also got The GIMP.

GIMP is not for everyone, and probably not for amateurs like me, but it is open source and it does everything except bring your pipe and slippers (two items I do not need anyway). It’s a great package. Here I am again, plugging great software. I can’t believe that The GIMP is available for a free download, it does everything that other sophisticated graphic design tools can do.

What a learning curve. What frustration. What a drag. Here is a picture of the finished flyer.

I have been tweaking and YouTubing and reading documentation and trying things for several days now, so while I like to write funny posts, I don’t feel particularly funny.

More optimistically (see, I could have said “on a lighter note” and that would have been a cliché), I have five copies of Perigee Moon coming, and will mail these out to my Beta reader group. They will arrive in a day or two. I did the final formatting over the weekend, when I wasn’t working on the freaking flyer and trying to figure out why my image couldn’t be moved, or the clone tool wouldn’t work, and trying to understand layers, and alpha channels, and a myriad of other stuff.

This stuff is all in my brain now, but if I don’t use it, it will disappear, as I make room for more subjects that I am required to learn.

Back to the novel, when I did the final preparation of my internal file, I had to go back to a post I wrote, about how to use Word to do your formatting and then create a pdf file, which can be directly uploaded to CreateSpace. So simple, to do, these fine CreateSpace people have made it easy on us poor not-worthy-to-be-published-in-any-traditional-way authors. Yeh! Here’s to CreateSpace.

I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so it’s a good thing I wrote that post, so I could go look at it again. This is the second time I’ve done that, so it’s valuable to me, if to no one else.

So on to my third topic. I heard a great basketball euphemism I thought I’d share.

This was back a couple of weeks ago before we were at Final Four, it might have been Elite Eight, when the interview took place. OU (Ohio University) hadn’t gotten so far in many years, since back in the 70’s and here they were. Finally! We people in Ohio were happy that our Ohio teams had survived.

OU has the dubious distinction of being The Biggest Party School in the Country. If you want to major in binge drinking, go there. A basketball player was asked about a previous win and if he had celebrated and here’s what he said.

“I must apologize that i didn’t contribute more to the elimination of distractions.”

That’s a very nice way of saying he drank himself silly, I guess. Got wasted, gooned, toasted. I thought that was a very nice euphemism. He is certainly a very politically correct young man.

Yeah. I don’t feel funny. Instead I feel like I’m getting the flu.

Images in Ebook Files – How to Include Them and Maintain Sanity

I recently rereleased my first novel, Whatever Happened to Lily? I took on this effort because of a stupid error on my part, I hadn’t been consistent with the author name among the print versions and Kindle versions of my two novels. I felt it important enough to change, so asked how this might be done.

Alas. The author name is engraved, set, permanent, not to be changed! And the book has to be completely redone in order to put a new name on it. After some thought I decided I’d go for it, and so if I was going to go that far, I might as well reread it and see what stood out as needing work, or being eliminated, or otherwise crappy writing. I found some things I didn’t like, and added a couple of parts to make the character (Jay) seem less of a turd. I also added a washed out image on one of the front title pages and tweaked the cover. I uploaded this to CreateSpace and all is well.

I ordered a proof, decided I messed up the cover, fixed that and ordered another proof and liked it, plus the interior. That was finished, but now the Kindle version must match the printed version so I did that too.

The Kindle version requires a Microsoft Word document with different formatting. It must have no headers or footers, and the dropped cap and small caps at the beginning of each chapter must be removed.

Next it can be saved as html and, in the past, this was the end of that process. But wait! I wanted images in the Kindle version too, I thought that would make it look more professional. I see the cover picture on some of the books I’m downloading, and I want mine there too, plus I want that washed out title page included.

I transferred the html file to my Kindle and (naturally) the images weren’t there. Figures. That would be way too easy.

I spent two (that’s TWO) days on figuring out how to do this, and I am still not satisfied with the outcome, although the Kindle version looks fine now. I got on the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) message boards and sure enough, there is plenty of chatter about how to include images. Lots of posts that begin with “Help!!” so I know I’m in the right place. They all say, put your images in a folder along with your html file and zip them together and upload the zip file.

Ah! Of course, why didn’t I think of that? It doesn’t know where to find them. I did what they said. Interestingly enough, all three files ended up on my Kindle, both images and the html file, and looking at the html file revealed that the images were, uh, missing. Still missing. A couple of problems here. One, I DON’T want those image files uploaded as separate files, and two, I DO want them to be included in the html.

I am one of the unlucky people who can’t just chalk this up to experience and look for another way. That would be too easy. No, I’m one of those who will find out why this doesn’t work, dammit, zipping up three files shouldn’t be rocket science.

Maybe the path inside the html file is wrong, I thought, and I fiddled with that, wasted more time. Finally I had to give it up. This is a very hard thing for me to do. I decided I had to try to use some software that I had downloaded a few months back, but hadn’t really used, called Mobipocket Creator.

Another learning curve, but I used that and I did get the images to appear inside the file. But now I had formatting issues. It appears, this software ignores those hard break lines you put in the Word doc, which is then converted in the html file, but when creating the mobi file, it ignores those blank lines.

Wonderful. I now have to Google that and discovered that I can create a Style in word. The first line should have 24 pts (points?) before it, which is about three lines. I’d never done too much with Styles so this was good information.

Once that Style was created I could apply it to the first paragraph of each chapter. I was pleased with the end result, but am still frustrated that the first method didn’t work.

There was an interim step in the process where I downloaded more software called Sigil. This was before I ended up with Mobipocket. Sigil informed me that I had to update my browser to IE9 which I’ve been putting off. I did it, and now I have another learning curve to figure out where everything went. My favorites used to be on the left, now they’re on the right. The refresh button moved. And where is the Print button?! I had to actually Google to find out and it seems you have to press the Alt key in order to get the File Edit Tools, etc. menu which then allows you to enable the Command Bar with the printer button on it. Really? The Alt key? Is this really an upgrade? Seems like we’re going back to the olden days, where you had to know secret combinations of keys.

All I want is a browser, a damn browser. I want it to be familiar, and useful, and intuitive. I thought we had that. I don’t mind the upgrade, but why can’t the basic functionality, and the location of buttons, stay the same? It sounds like Change For Change Sake to me, and that is never a good idea.

Even though I want to write, it seems that so much of my time is devoted to trifling stuff like this. I guess I have no choice but still, it is distracting, frustrating and counter-productive.

Now, back to writing.

Formatting Tips and Tricks for Self-published Authors

Things I Learned Along the Way – A Few Self-publishing Basics

I have very recently submitted my second book, Second Stories, to CreateSpace for publication. Doing this has prompted me to share some of the tricks and tips I’ve learned along the way. This isn’t the first article that has been written about this subject, but just another perspective on the whole process.

When I was pretty far along in the editing process, I decided to get a Kindle. Besides being a great little toy to have, I found it to be extremely helpful to me, as an author-now-editor. I discovered I could email personal files to my Kindle, so I sent my MS to it. Always before, if I wanted to read before submission to ensure the errors were gone, I had to print. That’s a lot of paper. Talk about killing trees. Not to mention the ink that ran out every second printing. So it made financial sense to buy the Kindle, and it’s better for the environment.

But on to what I learned in the submission process.

I am never the person who has to have the latest and greatest gadget or electronic device. After it’s been around for a year or two though, I succumb to changes and then I WANT IT NOW!! I’m not a phone person, so I didn’t have a smartphone for a long time after they came out. My old desktop was good enough, who needs that laptop anyway? And certainly not a Kindle! Why would anyone want one of those things? So now I have all three of these can’t-live-without-it items.

I balked at upgrading from Word 98 to Word 2007. Why get into the new millennium when the 90’s were good enough? Word is intimidating sometimes, and I’d mastered one version and everyone said the new version is very different, it’s like learning Word all over again. Oh yeah. That sounded like just what I wanted to do. Not. I’d have to learn those bullets and numbering all over again? As it was, whenever I used them, I’d hit the enter key, hold my breath and hope for the best, and now I was going to have to figure all that out once more?

But I wanted to convert my .docs into .pdfs. You can’t do that in Word 98 but you can in Word 2007. And the reason I wanted to have the capability to create pdfs was because I am self-publishing with CreateSpace and I wanted to have complete control over my files. Not only is it less expensive that way but I’m the one who knows best how my book should look. I’d been through that once before (back in the BookSurge days) and it was a little frustrating when I had to point out formatting errors they’d made.

Okay then, Word 2007 it is. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I discovered that Word 2007 is a vast improvement, it seems much less twitchy to me, from its predecessor. And once you finish all the formatting and sizing and attribute selection and it looks perfect in Word, you simply upload it to a .pdf file and that’s it! Files are ready to print, and print just as you want them because with pdf, what you see is what you get. WYSIWYG!

First thing is to size your pages, my book is 6” by 9”. On the Page Layout tab, click the dropdown arrow underneath Size in the toolbar. Size you want isn’t there? Click on More Paper Sizes and the Page Setup window appears and you can select any size you want.

Any time you want the Page Setup window, click in the corner of the Page Setup bar on the Page Layout tab.

Next, margins. Same thing here, click on the Margins dropdown and select Custom Margins. I selected 1 inch for the top and .5 inch for the bottom margins, Portrait orientation. Select Mirror Margins under the Pages section. The inside margins are more or less dictated by CreateSpace and a book that is over 400 pages needs to have inside margins of at least .875 inch. Outside margins don’t matter so much, as long as they are at least .25 inch. I made my inside margins, .875 and my outside margins .5.

When I looked at my manuscript, now nicely sized, it seemed backwards. Had Microsoft got it switched? It seemed when I reversed the inside/outside margins it looked perfect. After a couple of bad proof copies and a lot of head-scratching it dawned on me, and it’s a little embarrassing that it took so long, the first page of any book is on the right, but Microsoft displays it on the left, so it’s the display that is backwards and the gutter side will appear to be on the outside. It needs to be viewed then, with the knowledge that left is right and right is left.

Once it’s converted to a .pdf file, there is a “facing pages” viewing option in Adobe Reader. It is very helpful to view it that way. In this viewing option, there is no first left page, the pages start on the right and each set of two pages appears the same as it will when printed.

Now on to the headers and footers section in the Page Setup window > Layout tab. The header will be what appears on the top of every page. I took the defaults with the exception that I checked both the “Different odd and even” box and the “Different first page” box.

The following is the most difficult to understand. I wanted a few pages in the front to be title pages, and a copyright page and a dedication page, (hereinafter referred to as, hmm, let’s see “Front pages”) and I didn’t want these pages numbered. And, at the end of the book, I have a Disclaimer page and I didn’t want that page numbered either. At the end of the Front pages, right before the actual book text starts, insert a section break. On the Page Layout tab, in the Page Setup section in the toolbar, select the Breaks dropdown. You’ll see a “Section” section. (That’s good, a Section section.) Select Next Page under Section. Don’t use regular hard page breaks because when you format your headers/footers it won’t work right. Each chapter must be a section, so go through the file and remove hard page breaks and insert a section > next page break instead. Within a section, you can use hard page breaks, as I did, within the Front pages. Just make sure the last page of each section is a section > next page break.

For the actual book text I wanted a page number on the left side of the left page and the right side of the right page, and I wanted the book title centered on all pages. Except for the first page of each chapter, where I didn’t want any header at all. Because I checked the two boxes on the Layout tab, I was able to do that, and format my headers exactly as I wanted. I didn’t use footers but they work the same as headers.

On the Insert tab, select the dropdown under Header, then Edit Header. The text of the book becomes disabled and the header becomes enabled. You can see the blue tabs with all your sections when you are in Header mode. It’s good to go through and check all that, make sure the front part is one section, and each chapter is a section, and any additional pages at the end are their own section. Enter the information you want in the header for both the left and right pages. They will be different, because of the position of the page number.

While in Header mode, note the Link to Previous option in the Navigation section of the toolbar. The first section’s header (Section 1) will be disabled because, since it’s first, there is nothing to link to. Throughout the text of the actual book, the headers should be linked together. BUT! The first chapter header (which is Section 2) should not be linked to previous, Section 1, which is the Front pages. This is what will allow you to have a header on only your book text. Now any header information that is in the first section can be removed without affecting the rest of the headers in the book text. Same thing with the last section. Make sure that section is not linked to previous either and remove header information.

This was the most frustrating part of the whole process, for me. I finally got it though, and it all looks just how I wanted it to.

Double click anywhere in the text to get out of Header mode.

For each chapter, I removed the header on the very first page, and I could do that without affecting the other pages in the chapter because I’d checked the Different first page box. The other pages in the chapter weren’t affected when I did this.

In the first paragraph of every chapter, I did something special. I wanted a drop cap on the first letter, no indentation and the first few words Small Capped. With the cursor anywhere in the first paragraph, select Drop Cap on the Insert tab. You can select Dropped but that defaults your cap span three lines. I didn’t think that looked good, I wanted less. Select Drop Cap Options. You can change the font if you wish, sometimes you’ll see dropped caps in an old English font. In the Lines to drop: option, I selected 2. Two lines instead of 3. I left the Distance from text: at 0. For the first paragraph only, I also selected no indentation, again by right clicking and selecting “paragraph”. Select the text you want to small cap, starting with the character right next to the dropped cap. Right click and select “Font…” and check the Small Caps box.

All the other paragraphs in each chapter were single spaced with a .2 indent on the first line. Select First line under “Special:” and .2 under “By:”.

That’s pretty much it. I am very happy with the layout of my book, and I like the fact that I don’t have to go through the tedious process of filling out the changes sheet, as I had to do when BookSurge did the formatting.

Hope this has been helpful. I’m not a Word Wizard by any means, but you don’t have to be. That’s the good part.

If anyone has questions, just leave a comment. I’d be happy to assist anyone and please send any tricks and tips you’ve learned along the way!