Blurb for novels… BookWright needs work.

I have my Creator Sky novel “published” with CreateSpace. The process is relatively straightforward. You can download a document template that is formatted to their specifications and it just simply works. You can also download a cover template based on your final page size and that just simply works.

In my attempt to find a second print-on-demand service so that there is some level of complete market coverage, I’ve been looking at the different services available.

The biggie is Ingram Spark. The problem is that they have no templates as far as I can tell. All I have seen is a large verbose file creation guide in PDF format. That’s great an all, but in my case I want something simple that looks like a standard novel inside. It shouldn’t be that time consuming and difficult. Not to mention they have a lot of fees involved in the process, so if I messed something up it would get costly fast.

Lulu is an option, but they don’t offer 8×5 that I’ve decided on. Curiously, they offer a 6.88×4.25 inch format that might be interesting for selling direct though that format can’t be sold through their extended distribution networks. I do really like their ebook process, so I do use them for that at least.

I’ve used Blurb before many years ago. I can’t exactly remember for what or why (either photo books and/or my old Convention Photography book). They are reliable and upfront with any costs or fees. They also mention distribution with Ingram Spark. With as much reach as they offer, it seems like a good second PoD publisher. The main issue is their process. It’s easy in some ways, but time consuming in others.

There could be other services out there, but I’ve not found any that have reasonable fees and a smooth process. So today, I’ll be talking about issue I have with Blurb as my second best option to CreateSpace.

With Blurb, they got their feet wet in the publishing service with photo books. This is a problem for novel writing because there are still hold overs from that history in their processes. They have quite a few methods to get data to them. The most difficult would be making your own PDF, which I’ll avoid for the reason mentioned with Ingram Spark. You can make the book directly through their website, which I haven’t attempted. You can use their plugin for Adobe InDesign (I don’t own that software, no go on that). You can also make a book with two separate programs, one called BookWright and the other called BookSmart. I don’t know the differences between BookWright and BookSmart, but I’m thinking that BookSmart was their original software and will eventually be retiring that.

I’ve been using BookWright for a while now. I had used to to make up a test print of the novel with moderate success. For whatever reason it printed in white paper, which isn’t ideal for a novel. Here is a quick photo of the first result.

Like I said, not too bad, but not as nice as the CreateSpace print is. I’m hoping I can get cream paper selected somehow for the next attempt.

Here is a screenshot of the BookWright program itself:

In there on the left you have the side by side pages of the document. On the top you have page templates. There are a few for novels, but most of them are oddly shaped or don’t even work with the 5×8 format.

The problem start for me because I have a finished book and simply want to get it into a format that Blurb will accept. The huge issue with BookWright is that it doesn’t handle text flow well at all. You have to manually add pages and manually add a template to each page (you can select multiple pages and apply a template to all of them at once which helps a bit). The largest problems come when you want to get text into the book.

You can import RTF files, but it has a few large drawbacks. It won’t recognize paragraph indents. It also won’t flow the entire text if it is a large document. When working with novel sized text, it breaks their container design. In my first attempt at using BookWright, I quickly found out there is no way to avoid a large amount of manual labor to make it work.

  1. You need to add pages manually.
  2. You need to apply a template to the page (quickly done by selecting all).
  3. You have to manually link containers for text to flow between pages.
  4. When pasting or importing text, you have to manually tab every single paragraph. This leads to a huge potential for errors due to doing it by hand.
  5. You need to manually flow the text between pages. This means clicking a special icon on each page and then clicking on the following page to flow the text. It’s an added hassle.
  6. If you don’t pay attention, your text can flow into nothing. This is a great way to exclude text in a finished book. Say you edit chapter 3 and the last few paragraph flows into nothing because you added 20 tabs to fix their refusal to automatically indent paragraphs. I had this happen.

All of that extra work is better, in the short term, than spending days or more learning enough to produce a PDF by hand. My issue is that it seems pointless because it could be solved by better design of the application. Who on their design team thought not parsing paragraph indention in imported or pasted text was a good idea? Not to mention the idea of forcing users to mess around with the TAB character at all.

With that said, I’m still going to use BookWright and Blurb as my second PoD service, but it could be so much easier or less error prone if they would fix two simple things (paragraph intention and text flow between pages)

Here is my current process to make it work:

  1. Setup the new project in BookWright.
  2. Add a bunch of pages and apply a novel template that fits with the 5×8 format.
  3. Copy a single chapter at a time. Past it into the next available page.
  4. Flow the text by hand by clicking the special icon and then clicking the following page.
  5. Tab every single paragraph by hand.
  6. Verify that the text didn’t flow into another page and became hidden…
  7. Check for missed tabs and more hidden text flow issues.

It’s a somewhat slow process and prone to error, but sadly it seems better than any alternatives I’ve seen so far!

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