My life has been pretty much a 'figure it out as I go' kind of thing.
My dad told me many years ago, (after I had started a business) "If someone asks if you can do something that you don't know how to do, just say 'yes', and then figure out how to get it done."
I did as he suggested and have found that it works brilliantly.
I came from the music world where I wrote music for much of my life and now have aimlessly wandered into the world of literature. There's not much difference really. The competition is equal and the struggles to stand out are the same.
Because I seem to start things and not think about how long it might take to finish, I realized that such a mentality is the only thing that has allowed me to do anything. If someone had told me how long it would take to write a book, I wouldn't have started it at all. We tend to defeat ourselves with impatience. I know I do, at least.
I would love to share with you the abundance and minutia of frustrations that went with ignorance of writing.
From the learning curve of using Microsoft Word to the basics of storytelling and grammar. Piece-o-cake, right? MmHm.
I wrote my first song when I was five, could've been four, I don't really remember - it was a long time ago. Stories, songs and ideas pop into my head constantly and I try to capture them, in some form or fashion, before they disappear. I would often dream new songs and hear them in full production. Horn sections, background vocals and lyrics were as clear as day. But at four in the morning and searching for a pen and paper in the dark it fades with each second. Soon, all I am left with is maybe a title or an idea rather than a complete song.
Once I decided to write a book, I wanted to write about life lessons and other things I had experienced in my years. But unless I am actually saying something unique, what do I have to say that's interesting and different? I pondered for a while but nothing seemed too exciting. Then one day I remembered something that had happened between my daughter and me when she was five. Because I was away from home a lot, she had given me two teddy bears to keep me company until I returned. I would call everyday to hear that little angelic voice on the phone. After the usual, "So, what'd you do today?" stuff, I found that I didn't have much to talk about. Out of nowhere, I found myself saying that I caught the two teddies climbing into the fridge for some milk. There was silence at the other end. "- They're alive?" she asked. Uh-oh, now I had her attention. But what do you say? "Yep!" I quickly answered without thinking about it. She followed it up with the next logical question. "How come they didn't move when they were here?"
I had to think about how this was going to work. I told her, "Because I caught them, now I'm the only one that can see them move."
She believed me, of course, because I'm her daddy.
Fast-Forward 13 years and I am reflecting on the story sparked from true events. It was charming. I began to put some thought into a teddy world and how it actually worked. The more I thought about it the more it made sense. It might not have been what I wanted to write about but it was fun, it was adorable and I could do just about anything in it.
Deciding to write the book was one thing but starting it was another. What kind of book was it going to be? A kids picture book? A children's story book? I didn't know. I labored for several months on nothing more than how to start it. Finally one day I got fed-up and simply wrote down the first line that popped into my head. THERE! It's started! Now comes the next part - where's it going?
Oh, man! Am I done yet? There's the impatience thing I was talking about.
I decided that I wanted this book to be as real as I could make it. This isn't about two magical teddy bears - this would be all teddy bears. I thought about the name, Teddy. Where did it come from? Wow, there's a true history here. I thought about how could this phenomenon happen? A real life miracle, if you will. Then I looked at the most glaring issue that happened in the beginning of the story: what about consequence?
If teddies aren't supposed to move in front of humans, then what happens when they do? Are they punished? Who punishes them and how?
As soon as I asked these questions, I decided to answer them seriously. When I did that - the book took a different turn. Repercussions from your actions, a consequence for breaking the rules would be the crux of the story.
At that point, somewhere around chapter five or six, I stopped writing for children and simply wrote it for me. I got lost in the story and it opened up to the kind of book I would love to read. It would be cute, fun, charming yet still have a sense of responsibility and life lessons that would be displayed through teddy bears that are learning everything they know from us.
Like children watching and learning from their parents, teddies are doing exactly the same. The Secret Teddy Society was taking shape.
I needed a direction - a structure of story and I wasn't doing it very well. Already several chapters in, I still had no idea where the story was going. I was basically writing a children's book because of the pure nature of the story (Teddy bears). But with each chapter and further character development, I was slowly forgetting my intended audience.
Because I never talked down to my daughter from the get-go, I instinctively wrote in a normal dialogue.
The more I thought about the teddy world, the more complex it became. I wanted it to make sense even in fantasy. If teddies aren't allowed to move in front of people, then what happens if they do? Who or what keeps them in line? That's when the Teddy Council was created along with rules of conduct or "Code". The Teddy Code would be the fabric of co-existence between the teddy world and the human world.
If the Code was broken I wanted there to be a serious consequence to their action. It was, in essence, breaking the law.
The story began shaping into something more complicated than a small forty page children's book. I loved the idea that even teddies are responsible for their actions.
What creates a teddy personality? Easy and obvious answer: the one that brings them to life. They emulate the one they love. If all a teddy does is sit in the corner and watch humans act out their lives, then that is who they become. They are you. As soon as that was recognized, I realized that this was about the human condition and how we conduct ourselves in front our own children. Wow! I was now completely involved in the story. At that point I stopped writing with children in mind and simply wrote a fun yet complex story that everyone could enjoy.
I now had a new direction and focus.
THE PROBLEM WITH MY NEW DIRECTION:
When reading my newest chapters to my family (mom, dad, wife and daughter) I was met with, "Are kids going to get that?" "That's a big word for a kids book." "Were-bears and zombie bears seem kind of scary for children."
It was vexing.
I tried explaining my direction, and the funny thing was that everyone liked the deeper look into a real teddy world with real human-like problems, but they couldn't get four and five year children out of their heads. I wanted a normal diction and normal life problems in this story. The subject matter may be cute but their consequences are real and even a bit scary. I heard many ideas and directions as to what the story should be, but I already had my sights set. (Stubborn I guess)
Suspended belief in storytelling is a given with every magical and fantasy movie we go to. One thing I have found, though: I would inevitably ask, how could this happen? I wanted some type of explanation, something to help me believe it.
I needed to do that with the Secret Teddy Society. I wanted a logic to their existence. I started hearing that the story was becoming too complicated for kids to follow. (Exasperated sigh) Once again, I needed to remind people that this was no longer a kids book. Just because it is about teddy bears doesn't mean that it can't be serious.
I pushed on, however . . . with doubt.
USING MICROSOFT WORD:
I've written many letters in Microsoft Word. Never tasking myself regarding the intricacies of the tool bar and the myriad of formatting and editing features, I thought I knew Word fairly well. I was wrong. I didn't learn the level of my wrong-ness until I started putting the story together into one long novel. I became aware of how little I knew about Microsoft Word. I would figure it out the hard way, trial and error . . . lots of errors.
Funny thing: When I came upon a problem in Word, I would simply look it up on the internet. (A wonderful thing, the internet) However, almost every time, I couldn't find my exact problem. Sure, I found people explaining things that were close to what I needed assistance in but it wasn't exactly the same. Most times . . . it didn't seem to help. Then there's the difference between my old Word 2000, to people explaining in Word 2007 or 2010. Clearly I needed to upgrade. Dang-it. Curse you Microsoft. Feature changes, sometimes. Layout changes, always. Just when I get used to where tools are, they change it. That being said, I do really love Word 2010. They did a nice job with just about everything.
THE BATTLE WITH IGNORANCE:
Fighting something you can't see, and sometimes don't even know is there, was one of the toughest things to deal with. Starting a story with no real plot and using a program that was more complicated than I was aware, is how I tend to live my life: just start walking, see where it takes you, figure it out as you go.
Life can be quite blissful when you have no idea what's up ahead or how long it will take you to get there.
With every new detail of the teddy world came direction. With each problem I encountered with Microsoft Word came a solution. I was getting somewhere. I still didn't know where, though.
Quick observation: Why is it that we need to say, "Each and every time . . ." ?
Isn't each - every? Why can't we simply say, "Each time . . ." Seems redundant. Just a thought.
Verbal aesthetics, I guess. Everyone else says it, so we say it.
I find it amusing how verbal fads get started.
Not long ago, when someone would ask a question to an athlete about their game or performance, they would start each sentence with, "Ya, you know. . . "
Today it's, "I mean . . ."
Almost every time. Who starts a sentence with 'I mean'? (No, what do you mean? You haven't said anything yet. How can I know what you mean?)
This is my point about influence over others. The subtleties of society penetrate our being without notice. We become our surroundings. Knowledge or ignorance is perpetuated through nothing more than exposure.
Another quick observation: Words. It's how we communicate. But what happens when words are used incorrectly? Actually, not much. When I hear someone using a word improperly, I know what they are trying to say and think nothing of it. But is that the right thing to do? Should you correct someone if they continue to use a word in the wrong meaning? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way. Please don't scold me with opinion)
My dad pointed out a few words that have lost their meaning along the way and it has made me look at diction with more care.
Here's a word: Peruse
I hear people say, "Just leave it on my desk and I'll give it a quick perusal."
Turns out that it is an oxymoron. I had no idea. To my memory, I had never heard anyone use it properly.
Definition of Peruse:
1. Read thoroughly or carefully.
2. Examine carefully or at length.
Unless you are a careful speed-reader, a quick perusal is not possible. Enough, enough.
Let's move on, shall we?
Understanding that I didn't know what I was doing was one thing, but I had no idea just how much I didn't know.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I was at least a 9.5. (That's almost 95% ignorance, dont'cha know)
With every day of writing, my knowledge and skill set began chipping away at my ignorance. Nice.
(I went back and read what I just wrote . . . it's pretty good. Sorry. It's what I do.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah, (or is it, ya? - maybe it's, yah.)
Clearly, I need to take a little break.
I'll be right back.
Ignorance is something I have embraced and try my best to overcome my lack of knowledge in fields of interest. That's the key word: interest. I don't tend to know much about things I don't have any interest in. That being said, necessity has forced me to learn about things that I don't have a lot of interest in. I didn't have much interest in learning English in school. I speak it every day. People understand me, for the most part. I didn't care about grammatics. The good thing was, my mom and dad have an excellent grasp of the English language and what I failed to learn in school I apparently picked up from my parents through osmosis. Jumping into the literary world, I needed to learn grammatics. To be completely honest, I was surprised at just how ignorant I was in this field.
As I wrote Secret Teddy Society, I found that my mind wandered into real human situations that I wanted the bears to experience. Because of my views of life, I understand that all of life is nothing but choices we make. Everyday you wake up you make choices, some good, some bad.
In the book there's a character (human) that lives in a cardboard box in an alley. He drinks too much and often talks to himself to help rationalize his personal choices. Why is he an alley bum? He made a choice. I love this character. He is kind and considerate but felt defeated by life due to his circumstance. He simply gave up. It was his choice to give up. Once I wrote him into the story, it took yet another turn. I was having so much fun allowing myself to use a cute and fun childlike subject matter, teddy bears, to be an example of learning life. Did I ruin what could have been a fun children's book? I truly don't know. I only know that I enjoyed looking into this world and followed where it took me.
Each new chapter along with more character development brought a more pointed direction to the storyline. The beginning of the book started off in a fun childlike nature, however, the seriousness of the teddies troubles lead me to a darker tone of impending doom.
I ran into the danger of having two different vibes in one story. I didn't give it much thought. The dramatic feel clouded my judgement. I liked it . . . a lot. It is difficult to look at your own work objectively. I found that I was defending my direction rather than recognizing the obvious dichotomy. I continued on.
Becoming further entrenched in my direction, the opinions of others began to nag at my confidence.
Who are you writing this book for? - This question emerged several times. I couldn't honestly answer. The intended audience was a question mark. I didn't really want to answer it. Teddy bears were obviously for kids but I didn't want to stop what I was writing. Now I wanted to see where this was going.
Approaching two years of working on the story, the end felt near. I needed an outside opinion. I was introduced to a guy that works as an editor for a company in Boston. He graciously looked at my story, even though it was not his genre of expertise. After reading the book he had some very good points to add. First was the urgency of the teddies that were in trouble. There wasn't any. Second was a hook in the beginning or lack thereof. He was right! Why didn't I see that? Editors, who needs 'em? I DO!
It was frustrating yet illuminating. I invested so much time on the story that I didn't really want to go through it and fix what so obviously needed fixing. It was a critical comment but he was correct. The story needed a lot more work.
I wrote a back-story in the last chapter, one that had a sinister human element to it. At the time I didn't know where it would lead, but the premise was alluring, to me anyway. This would trigger the new beginning hook and larger main storyline to the Secret Teddy Society. I went back and rewrote chapter one. Because of my mindset at this point of the story and the two years I had spent writing, the new chapter one had an ominous feel. My style had evolved over the two year period as well as the storyline.
After completing some of the fixes that were brought to my attention, I felt it was time to get an editor that would give the story a thorough look.
NEEDING AN EDITOR:
The main thing I discovered in speaking with people and researching online was how important an editor is. I felt fairly confident about what I had written. I thought a line or two here and there would be all they would suggest. I would later acknowledge my self-delusion.
Finding an editor is not the problem - finding a good editor, now that's the real problem. Friends, family and the internet is packed full of editors. I had no idea what to look for. I did find out, however, how expensive one can be. Writing this book was to be a hobby, but after two years of emotional investment I wanted it to be the best I could make it. An editor was needed.
My dad, God bless him, gave it a try, but after two weeks of being on page two, I - we both realized this wasn't going to work.
A family friend had just graduated from college and was entering the editing field. I thought this was meant to be. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. I sent the first chapter to get a sample of their approach. This wasn't going to work out either. They started correcting dialogue. What!? Why are you changing my dialogue? A character's speech is sort of set in stone. That's how they talk. Ugh.
I needed someone else. But who?
With more time researching to find someone that I thought fit my style plus reasonable pricing, I went with Cara Lockwood. She was very sweet and took the time to speak with me on a few occasions to explain her approach and even her own experiences as a successful writer.
The problem now was . . . money.
Because producing a book is costly, I turned to the social networking website of Kickstarter. I was intrigued by it all. How you simply stated your project and people would help by donating to the cause. Wow! Where do I sign up? It sounded easy. Actually, it is easy. BUT! (There's always a 'but') It isn't easy. Sure, it's easy to sign up and post your project, but that is the only easy part about it. Getting people to your project AND hoping they donate is another bunch of fire-breathing monkeys all-together. I researched how the successful people did it and why others failed. The common thread to both success and failure was social connections. Social connections? Yes.
Because I do not spend any time on Facebook and Twitter or any other social pages, I had no fan base to inform of my need for donations. Besides, I really wanted to reach strangers. I was hoping to find people that would read my synopsis and donate on the appeal of the story rather than the request from a friend. Simply put: I wanted people that wanted to read the story.
Since it is completely free to try with no strings, I figured - why not?
I took over a month to put together a project page. I know the importance of a polished look and feel. I did the best video that I could produce from my outdated computer, and I came up with some rewards that I thought to be pretty good. After laboring over the look of the page I finally hit SUBMIT. Now what? Wait.
How will people find me? It wasn't long before my newly posted project was completely lost in the abundance of other projects. 1 new project posts every 5 to 10 minutes. After an hour or so I was no longer visible in the "Newly Posted" projects. Gone. My project was doomed from the start because I don't have 500 friends on Facebook to send to my Kickstarter page.
HOWEVER, I did manage to attract a few donors in the first two hours of listing. It was all very exciting. Then the crickets came out. Quiet. I ran the project for the suggested amount of time, one month. (That's almost 30 days, don'cha know)
I had one more chance to be seen. "Ending soon" catagory.
With six days left to go, I noticed that was the start of the ending soon projects. But I wasn't there. Why? Where was my project? Why was I not in the Ending Soon category?
I sent a note to Kickstarter asking why my project wasn't listed.
Apparently, I was below the 10% funded level to warrant the listing. Excuse me? There's a level I have to be at before you'll show my project ending soon? 'Of course there is'. (That is my life motto, by the way)
The pulse was slowing. Life was fading from my project.
I received a note from a pledger saying, don't lose hope. The real magic happens in the last days and even hours of your campaign.
Really? There's still hope?
I won't bore you with the details but when death was at the door, an angel of mercy came to the rescue. One person changed everything. I don't know who they are or why they felt the need to do what they did, but this person donated the remaining balance of the campaign goal. Who does this?
The other pledger was right, the real magic does happen in the final hours. I do not know if this happens with regularity for other Kickstarter projects, but it happened to me and I am truly grateful.
BACK TO EDITING:
Thinking that the story only needed a few finishing touches, I sent the book off to Ms. Lockwood for her professional touches.
After a few weeks I received her recommended edits and changes. It was not what I was expecting. She crossed out a few unnecessary sentences and added a few line changes, but it didn't look like she had made that many comments. Good, I thought.
Let's go back to how well I know Microsoft Word (2000). Turns out, not very well.
I noticed these yellow marks on a lot of words throughout the book. I had no idea what they were. At this point I knew I was only a mere week or two away from completion and publication due to the small amount of corrections she made. WRONG!
Accidentally mousing over one of the yellow squares, I noticed a text box pop up with a comment. What the hell is that? Oh, man! These small unassuming yellow tags were riddled with comments and notes of change or corrections. What the...! (Exasperated sigh)
Okay, settle down and start back at the beginning. It was a bit deflating but at the same time it was nice to know that she went through the story with care. I decided to release any ego I might have had at that point and look seriously at each comment or suggestion. It was the best thing I could have done.
I addressed just about all of her thoughts, concerns or suggestions. A couple of weeks turned into months and a 65,000 word small book turned into a 106,000 word full sized novel. Not what I wanted for the first installment of the Secret Teddy Society. All that said, the book had taken yet another turn. More detail had emerged from all the questions and comments that Ms. Lockwood asked. I was tickled with the amount of detail that developed in the main characters as well as other stoylines that I allowed myself to embellish.
As I mentioned, I heard other ideas of what I should do with the story and who I should be writing this for. Doubt and my conviction had collided. Nervous and unsure if I was doing the right thing by writing a kids book with adults in mind became stifling. I would lie awake wondering if I was doing the right thing. Then one day I happened to come across a quote from comedian Bill Cosby. It read: “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
That was it. He is exactly right. Who did I start writing this story for to begin with? Me. I wanted to write this for fun. I was trying to please everyone. That just isn't possible. I know this book will be criticized for being too much one way or the other. I loved what the story became and am really excited where it's going to go. Because I am an average guy, if I like it, I am sure someone else will.
SELF-PUBLISH OR NOT TO SELF-PUBLISH:
I was greatly encouraged by the small few that read the book and gave feedback. Unfortunately, I was leary of their nice words. I remember friends would often play me songs that they had written and recorded and wanted my thoughts. This is a trap, people. They can ask for your honest opinion, but they don't really want it at all. As soon as you wince or start any comment with, "I'm not sure if you should..." that's when the mood changes. I also realized that if someone is enjoying what they're doing, then why do I need to criticize? I don't. I smile and say, "It sounds great." The fact is, what the hell do I know? Absolutely nothing! My opinion is just that, opinion.
Because of that, I know that I'm not the only one that does it. Is this congenial response delegated to only the music world? I can only assume not. That's why I was leary about their nice words towards my book.
Ms. Lockwood suggested that I look into a publisher or at least an agent. I had already decided to go the self-publishing route and was unsure of why I would need an agent. The other question floating around is, what's selling more: paperbacks or ebooks? All of these avenues and questions needed to be addressed. The fact is a team is more effective than the one. I figured with so many ways to market in todays cyberhoods that I would give it a try. It is truly daunting. Where to focus your efforts?
The phrase Social Media once again cropped-up. Marketing is about networking and informing the public. Paying for advertising was not my main objective. I wanted to see what avenues were available through the trending internet sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, etc. As for my current Facebook account, most all of my friends are musicians. Here's a little something to understand about most musicians. (Okay, I'll have to preface this comment, most musicians I know. I don't want to lump all musicians into this catagory) Struggling musicians don't have a lot of money. That's why they're struggling. I am not about to ask my friends to buy my book just because we're friends. Actually, we probably wouldn't be friends after that. Just kidding.
Quick story: I walked into a guitar shop one day and was gazing at a sweet guitar on the wall. It had a price tag of $850.00. The owner of the store came up to me and said if I bought it today he would let me have it for $750.00. Wow. That's awesome. (I was being sarcastic) It didn't matter how much he dropped the price. I can't afford it. He could have said, I'll let you have it for $100.00. It wouldn't have mattered. I play in a band! Don't you know that? Jeeze! I was insulted at his lame attempt to lure me into buying this magnificent guitar. Long story short, my wife went and bought it for me for my birthday. Yeah, yeah, I cried like a little girl. Let's move on shall we.
Depending on the book manufacturer you use, there are outlets that each one touts. This also is a false sense of marketing. Yes, it will be listed in their catalogue, along with 20,000,000 other books. That's a great way to get seen. (Again with the sarcasm) Let's face it, the marketing or informing the public of your work is up to you. Are we reconsidering a publisher or agent at this point? Eh, maybe. I still want to give it the ol' college try.
SPEAKING OF BOOK MANUFACTURING:
I did my usual investigating on which company to use for my POD (Print On Demand) options. After looking at six or seven possibilities I decided on Lightning Source. At the time it looked like the best option for me. Actually, I remember why I decided to use them. When I was running the Kickstarter campaign, I had a pledger ask me if I was going to offer a hardcover version of the book. I hadn't even considered it. After looking into companies that will print hardcovers on demand, it came down to Lightning Source. Simple. If this person was willing to up their pledge level to get a hardcover, then yes, I may as well let Lightning Source do the printing for both paperback and hardcover. This is where everything slowed to a crawl.
I gotta take a breath before I start this section.
PREPARING TO PRINT:
I now had to format the book into the layout for printing. Because I was going to do both a paperback and hardcover, I decided to go with a book size of 5.5 x 8.5. This allowed me to do one format because Lightning Source will print both versions in this size. Perfect.
Let's reflect, shall we?
Microsoft Word . . . how well do I know this program? Not very well at all. Formatting for publication truly exposed my lack of knowledge about Word. It felt a bit like walking into a room with my eyes closed. I knew it had four wall, I knew it had furniture, I just didn't where anything was or how much was in the room.
Once I had my basic layout in one long document, I needed to place my page breaks, section breaks, headers and footers. Piece o' cake. MmHm.
These were all things I had to figure out as I went. Searching the internet and even watching the sometimes helpful Microsoft videos didn't address my exact demand. However, it did seem to point me into a direction. I liken it to a game of hide and seek with someone giving you directions of "Hot or Cold".
The footers and headers were a particular issue because I wanted to separate even pages from odd pages. I wanted the header on one side to read the chapter name and the other side to read the chapter number. Sounded easy. Maybe it is. But there were a few things none of the lessons online explained. I was close, very close or "Hot", as it were, but I couldn't get it to do exactly what I wanted. None of the lessons described doing what I wanted for a sixteen chapter novel. Finally, through trial and error plus clicking on things that I had no idea what they did, I got the result I wanted. Hazzah!
As the layout progressed I began laboring over such things as font, font size, space between lines, space at the top and bottom as well as the gutter (inside margin). I wanted this book to be an easy read, not because of the dialogue but because the words are crowded together. Pouring over books and more books I decided on Garamond for the font and 11 pt for the size. I added what I thought to be a nice space between lines so my eyes don't keep rereading the same line over again.
I knew the style of art that I wanted on the cover, I just didn't know anyone that could do it. Let's turn to the internet. My daughter is a very good artist and she directed me to a sight called Deviant Art. It is loaded with talented people that are displaying their work for all to see. I took a stab at finding someone on that website that could possibly draw the kind of style I was envisioning. Suddenly, there it was. I found exactly what I was looking for. This person was drawing realistic eyes and fur on cats and dogs in a variety of forms. Perfect. Surely drawing a teddy bear won't be much different than what they are already doing. Her name is Ashley Leuthardt. At the time she was around 19 or 20 years old with a talent that was all self taught. Her style is truly amazing. I contacted her and gave her the cover concept that my wife had come up with (which I thought was incredible) I think it took her two weeks or so, don't remember exactly, but when I received her final picture I couldn't have been happier. The look in Waldo's eyes are serious. It is from a scene in the book. I heard some criticism that the cover was too angry looking. I didn't care, he's (Waldo) not angry, he's expressing a tense moment. I guess it's hard to discern the difference in a still shot.
I had my cover, and the layout was finished. The only thing left at this point was a proof reading before submitting the book for a test print.
Here is where outside help is once again needed. I opted to go it alone due to the expenses that had already exceeded my Kickstarter campaign amount. It's easy, just have a couple people read the book and point out any flaws that they see. MmHm.
Here's another interesting observation: Each medium that I read the book was completely different than the next. I wrote the book on 8 x 11 sheets on screen. I printed the entire book so I could read it on paper. I was amazed at how differently it read on paper than on my computer screen. Then I did another thing that I strongly suggest to any new writer, read your pages aloud. Wow, does that make a difference yet again. I also put the book in pdf and sent it to my tablet . . . okay, this is getting ridiculous. Every form of reading gave a new perspective and forced unseen flaws to the surface.
Coming from the music world, I would reference my new recordings on as many different speakers as I could. Car speakers, headphones, near-fields(small speakers), large speakers, etc. Every reference exposed annoying frequencies and/or mistakes that I didn't hear before. The book was exactly the same. I guess I figured that looking at words is the same no matter the device, paper, screen or even audibly. I was wrong. (What's new)
There were so many mistakes, it wasn't funny. Seriously. Spell check misses all kinds of things. People would read the story and gloss over many mistakes as well. It was frustrating, to put it mildly. Because I know the story so well, I would often overlook missing words. My wife was discouraged when she finished her proof-read and yet I found still more things to correct. After about two more weeks of combing the book for errors I finally felt confident enough to submit a test print to Lightning Source.
MORE MISTAKES MEANT MORE MONEY:
I live by trial and error. Unfortunately, it can be costly. As I mentioned, mistakes have a way of slipping through unnoticed. These grammatical, graphical or style errors ultimately reveal themselves in the physical copy of the test print. In submitting or uploading the interior and exterior to Lightning Source, it took them approximately 5 days to return an approval of acceptance. (That it would print within their parameters) While I waited for them to approve the submitted files, I noticed a few more errors in the interior section. These were changes that I felt needed to be addressed. I made the corrections and resubmitted the file. When I spoke with ONE of the representatives (New Account Representative, POD Client Services Rep, Credit Rep and finally Sales Rep.) regarding re-submission of files, I was told that I would not be charged the 40.00 fee for re-submission. Why do they have such a thing anyway? It was probably my mistake of misunderstanding, as it were. I was aware of their preliminary costs for setting up a new account but I would eventually be PAINFULLY aware that I would be charged for each re-submitted file, both interior and exterior.
While I waited another five days for approval on the revised interior I was feeling anxious about how long this entire process was taking.
Because I was successful in my Kickstarter campaign, that meant that I had people waiting for the book that I had promised by the end of August. Guess what month it is now? It sure isn't August anymore.
After discovering the little yellow comment boxes from Ms. Lockwood regarding scene, story and character changes, I had gone much longer into the final edits than was estimated. I hate excuses and I don't like giving them but one thing I do understand -- as much as people can agree with me about excuses, they still want (need) to hear them. If I never gave a reason (or excuse) as to why I took so long then I would simply come across as arrogant, callous, inconsiderate, lazy, liar or any other word that would be fitting to such aloof behavior. The fact is we need something to base a reaction on. My problem was that I had already informed the pledgers that the editing and layout process was taking longer than I had anticipated. But that was compounded with one delay after another, which would have only sounded like one excuse after the other. I didn't want to come across as giving excuses for something I wasn't going to actually finish. I just wanted to get it done.
With my frustration building at how long the entire process was taking with Lightning Source, I decided to look at Amazon's CreateSpace.
Night and day difference between the two. I created my account with CreateSpace in minutes and uploaded my files soon after. Up came a viewer of how your book will appear. Within a minute or three CreateSpace sent a small list of errors that needed my attention. Some of the chapter graphics had crossed outside the printable area, they listed my graphics as being below the recommended 200 dpi (which I knew they were not) and the fonts had not been embedded into the pdf file. Wow! I knew what I had to do after only a couple of minutes of submitting the files. Easy peasy. I went to work fixing the problems. After making the corrections, I re-saved the book in Microsoft Word 2010 as a PDF file and re-submitted.
Again, after a couple of minutes I received their notes. I went from 3 things that needed fixing to 2 things. The fonts were, again, not properly embedded into the pdf file and my graphics were listed as below 200 dpi. Well, because of my method of graphic insertion into the word document, I knew the resolution was around 600 to 800 dpi, so I wasn't concerned with pixelation. As for the embedded fonts?
This is their note:
Our reviewers did find some non-blocking issues with your files. Some of these issues may have been fixed causing alterations to your files.
Wait a minute, you embedded the fonts for me? Very nice!
At this point I had just received my first response from Lightning Source. They say that my fonts were not embedded, please re-submit file with embedded fonts. (So, you won't embed them for me. Hmm. Interesting.)
Do I assume, due to my ignorance, that I will not be charged a 40.00 fee for re-submitting this file? Remember that they are to print both the hardcover and the paperback -- two separate files. (That's almost eighty dollars don'cha know) that's - per submission. If I made a correction to the story in any way, it had to be done for all formats. (Hardcover, paperback and ebook)
I couldn't figure out what was going on with saving the file to PDF in Microsoft Word 2010. The option to embed fonts was selected. What the hell? The option was there and I had selected it. Doesn't that mean that it will embed the fonts? Apparently the answer is NO! (Grrrr!) Why not? If you say you can do something then why don't you? I get back online and type in my problem. Okay, here we go. I found lots of answers. Go to your "print" section and print your document to a pdf file. Simple. MmHm. I don't seem to have that option. There is no "Print to PDF" listed anywhere in the print screen of Word. (Of course not) Now what? I did more research and found that I had to install my own PDF converter. Who knew? I certainly didn't. I went to CNET and located a free PDF converter that I installed and it worked perfectly. (Bullzip - pdf printer) OKAY! Let's try this again.
I re-re-submitted my files to Lightning Source and waited ANOTHER 5 days for their approval. In the meantime, I had also uploaded the new converted PDF to CreateSpace and received word of approval in six hours. I requested a paperback hard proof and clicked submit. Done!
Two days later I received a note from CreateSpace saying that my hard copy proof had been shipped. Excellent! Three days later the book arrived. That day I got an email from Lightning Source saying that they have approved my file for print. Huh. I went ahead and ordered a proof copy from them as well.
The book from CreateSpace looked incredible. I chose a glossy cover and the off-white interior. I did have a slight issue with the contrast of the images on the chapter headings. They were a bit washed out but not enough to make any noise about. I also noticed that the inside margin (gutter) could have been spaced a bit more so that you didn't have to break the spine to read.
I started to read the printed pages of Secret Teddy Society for the first time. Uh oh. Something's wrong. I was noticing more errors. Style issues. Dashes with no spacing. All the ellipses with the same issue. Dang it! Why didn't I see that before. I was willing to let the space in the gutter go, but now, since this other issue was spotted I wanted to get this right. My mantra for the book had been: If I'm going to take this long to write a book then I want it to be the best I can make it.
So it was back to proofing. (Another deep sigh)
PRESSURE FROM DELAY
Take your time and do it right the first time. This mentallity is easy to say but hard to do when you feel the pressure of people waiting. It was one delay after the other and I was reluctant to give one more excuse of why I was taking so long. I would have only been repeating myself anyway.
More proofing? Didn't you already do that twice before? (I know, I know, but this is the last time, I sware) MmHm.
I was conversing with one pledger about my situation and how bad I felt about taking longer than I had promised. He was extremely nice and told me about all the pledges he had done in the past. He mentioned that most of the campaigns are late on fulfilling their awards and he is still waiting for one award that's been over a year. So, hopefully, people understand the unforseen complications that emerge in most every project. This did make me feel better about taking my time to get it right.
DOTTING THE I's
Careful scrutiny of the interior and exterior became more difficult with each revision. I know, it should have been easier, but I found that I was laboring so much over the little things that I was missing the big picture, the objectivity of aesthetics. I liked it, but would others? I needed to change my perspective. Proofing for the fourth and fifth time was frustrating. I could only focus on one thing at a time. If I was looking for mis-spelled words, then that prevented me from seeing punctuation. If I was forcused on punctuation then that stopped me from seeing grammar issues or any other matter that would slip under my distracted eyes. My mom, God bless her, said that she would be happy to take the time to go over the book. Yes! I didn't want to ask for her help but I was delighted to have it. 16 pages of notes she gave me. SIXTEEN! Are you kidding me? Of course, I was glad to have those corrections but I was troubled that I had missed that many mistakes. A lot of them weren't so much mistakes but rather a difference of phrasing in some cases. She was reading it as a new reader. Perfect! A fresh pair of eyes was what the book needed and she did a great job. (Mom, if you're reading this . . . thank you, again.)
I went back and addressed the appearance and readability. The final draft had the book at 383 pages, but when I widened the gutter space it added ten more pages to the book. That suddenly changed the cover template forcing me to re-do the cover to accommodate the slightly wider spine.
After another week or so of the final proof, I carefully studied the book inside and out before re-re-re-submitting my files to both Lightning Source and CreateSpace. As usual, Lightning Source would take another five days for approval and CreateSpace was three to four hours.
Because of my cautious nature I felt it necessary to get a printed proof copy from both Lightning Source and CreateSpace. I needed to make sure the changes were correct.
Within 5 days I received my first proof copy from Amazon's CreateSpace, at which time I received the approval from Lightning Source to print. At this point I was tired of waiting. After reviewing the book from CreateSpace, I thought it looked great. I could only assume that the same result would come from Lightning Source. Because I was terribly impatient and felt the urgency to get this book to the people that had so graciously supported my efforts, I neglected to order a proof copy from Lightning Source and simply approved it for distribution.
The book was now finished. However, the real task had just begun.
Coming up: Today's POD was stuck in yesterday.