Confessions of a Romance Writer | The highs and lows of producing a print-on-demand book

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I never expected getting my story into a print-acceptable format would be difficult. I naively assumed preparing my book for printing would take about a day, tops.

But it didn’t. It took much, much longer.

I started the whole print-on-demand process through CreateSpace which is attached to Amazon and based in America. They were free to join and their set up was straight forward. They even allocated me an ISBN (an International Standard Book Number). I had a PDF version of my cover designed suitable for a paperback and I’d converted the interior of my book – the actual story – to PDF via the “save as” option within Microsoft Word. Both files were accepted without problems.

The proof copy of my book was on its way when Amazon pulled the plug on sending stuff from America to Australia because of a new tax law we’d introduced. And my dreams of having a paperback version available came to a screeching halt about a month before my launch date.

Almost all my writing friends recommended Ingram Spark. They are based in my hometown (Melbourne), making the postage much cheaper and quicker. So, I decided to set up an account with them instead.

The first hurdle to doing this was the cost to set up an account. But, as I’m a member of the RWA, I had access to a promotional code that negated that fee. Yes!

Next was the issue of an ISBN. I didn’t have one, but Ingram Spark will not print a book without one. So, I had to purchase my own from the only official broker in Australia. And, with no real alternative, I had to pay a “publisher set up” fee to that broker on top. I purchased 10 ISBN numbers, so I’ve got heaps now. Problem solved. You don’t need an ISBN for e-books, but I think it’s a good idea to have one just in case.

The next hurdle I encountered had to do with the way my files were set up. My cover it didn’t have the right colour space. The interior of my book wasn’t “an acceptable PDF” either. Neither file made it through the initial internal check that Ingram Spark runs. This meant fixing them before I could get past that initial set up stage.

So, after reading the instructions more carefully, I attempted to “Print to PDF” the interior content of my book from within Word. But this didn’t work. Mainly because I’d chosen the 5x8inch format for my book, but the printer driver thing I have does not recognise that size. Instead it created a PDF with lots of white space and very small text on a US Letter sized page!

After reading reams of advice, which wasn’t very helpful, I contacted Microsoft (via email). They pointed me to a program that I could download for free that would allow me to convert my Word document to PDF in any size I wanted – PrimoPDF. Another problem solved, and it worked.

But it took weeks to get to this point, and I hadn’t even begun trying to resolve the issue with my cover. Thankfully, the original cover file was formatted in Photoshop, so when my designer sent the file I was confident that I could re-do the PDF conversion according to Ingram Spark’s very strict guidelines.

I was smarter now. I downloaded their cover template, and their 35-page file creation guide – you need to search for these, but they are available on their website. And my darling husband, who has more experience than me using Photoshop, volunteered his services. He’s an engineer. So, of course, he followed the instructions to the letter.

While we were “fixing” the cover, I trimmed the blurb on the back of the book because it was too long. It was then a matter of saving the updated Photoshop file to an acceptable PDF. Again, hubby followed instructions and we encountered no problems at all.

So, eventually, after an enormous amount of time, both my cover and the interior of my book was finally ready to upload onto the Ingram Spark website. And this time, they sailed through their internal checks. Within a day or so, my book was ready for approval. Which I duly did and ordered a proof copy. Only I obviously didn’t “approve” my book correctly because I had to do it again before my order was processed successfully.

Less than 10 days before my book launch, I had the proof in my hands. But I wasn’t completely satisfied. Changing the cover (to tone back the red and change it to gloss) and the interior (to fix the larger than anticipated header and the two spelling mistakes I discovered) will cost me money, but I’m doing this anyway.

Because this book has my name on it, I fully intend to supply the best quality product I can to potential readers. That’s why I’m being super fussy and pedantic about the way the book looks and reads.

I doubt I’ll have a paperback available by my launch date, but I know it’ll be worth the A$23.00 to those that order one. I just hope they love my story too.

Wendy Davies

Wendy adores riding her pedal-assist electric bike. And living in Melbourne means she has easy access to some incredible bike paths and Victoria’s extensive rail trails.

She runs her own editing and communications business and is often found reading her Kindle, immersed in a romance story. She makes her own jewellery. And enjoys travelling with her husband, where she often indulges in taking the odd landscape photograph.

Wendy lives her life with every intention of leaving this world laughing and shouting “what a great ride this have been”.

Check out her website, or follow her on Facebook – but she’s not on Twitter!

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