Totally missed NookPress Publishing!

I was talking with a friend about self-publishing and the idea of having better print-on-demand coverage came up. CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, so even with their extended distribution feature, it is unlikely that Barnes & Noble would consider stocking it or selling it in their online store. He mentioned Nook Press as an alternative. Years ago I had used it back when they only had functionality for publishing ebooks. Now they have print-on-demand, which is great. Over the last two weeks or so I’ve been setting up a project on there for Creator Sky. I was initially going to use as my second print-on-demand source, but for the moment I’m going to stick with CreateSpace and NookPress.

The main benefits NookPress has over blurb is ease of transitioning my CreateSpace source document to Nook’s formatting as well as it being tied to B&N, which will mean getting a print version on their site and maybe even in their physical stores eventually.

Here is a small photo of the NookPress print alongside the CreateSpace one:

The biggest difference is that the NookPress cover material has a matte finish and CreateSpace is shiny. Besides that, the Nook one is more compact even though the page sizes are around the same.

Interior quality is pretty similar, but I like CreateSpace a bit more. The paper seems slightly thicker with a more uniform look:

The graphic of my face is noticeably darker in the NookPress version (exposure of the two photos isn’t the same but in real life the graphic is darker as well).

Their self publishing process isn’t foolproof. It took me a second try to get things right (around $11 shipped per proof copy for my ~320 page book). I’ll be going over all of my settings to help anyone out with a similar goal. They have a setup screen with suggestions, but the data isn’t perfect in my opinion. Also keep in mind that you have a 10 proof copy limit to have printed and they hide the feature in the last steps before approving the project for distribution. Be careful not to approve the project before having a print made! My first proof print had a few issues and I’m glad I had proofs made to verify everything. The 10 copy limit is for the entire project, so only have one copy printed each time.

The initial settings were Black & White, Paperback, Cream #55 paper, and 5×8 inch format.

Problems start to arise because their suggestions are not ideal. The site uploader step suggests an interior margin of 0.75 inches, which I think is too small after seeing my first proof copy. The odd thing is that in their style and formatting PDF document it suggests 1 inch instead, which I believe is the correct amount to use.

Here are two screenshots from the NookPress website. I had to make a fake new project to see that page again now that I have Creator Sky published:

As mentioned above, it shows the interior margin that I didn’t agree with. It also shows some dimensions you will need to use when designing the cover art (full wrap that includes the spine). Do not care about the cover values until you upload the interior PDF document. Those values will change after their system processes the document!

Here are my Libre Office page settings:

Width: 5 inches
Height: 8 inches
Page layout: Mirrored
Inner margin: 1 inches
Outer margin: 0.5 inches
Top margin: 0.5 inches
Bottom margin: 0.4 inches (I took this down because I wanted the footer a bit shorter as it seemed like a waste of space)

Keep in mind that I used a copy of my CreateSpace document, which saved a lot of time, but still required a decent amount of adjustments. You have to open up the Styles toolbox and clean it up (Menu item Styles >> Styles & Formatting F11). My original document had probably 5 times as many page styles listed than what you see above, but I went through them and deleted ones that were not used or could be discarded with a bit of work.

Here are the settings for the header and footer. They should be consistent between all of the page types:

Header spacing: 0.32 inches
Height: 0.04 inches
Footer spacing: 0.42 inches
Footer height: 0.04 inches
AutoFit height on both.
I had adjusted the footer to taste, because I thought it was taking up a bit too much space.

The document itself needed to be adjusted to conform to NookPress’s printing preference of PDF files. I had initially converted my document to PDF for the first proof copy without understanding how it would work exactly. It turns out that when doing the conversion in Libre Office, it didn’t include a blank page it should have. The CreateSpace template and Libre office formatted version implement a blank page to make sure that page 1 of the actual text will be on the right side to conform to a standard practice in print books.

As shown above in a previous screenshot, the back cover needs to be designed with care in something like Photoshop to get it right. My first attempt was off, but my second turned out alright. Below is a photo of the first and second attempt with NookPress on the cover:

Here is a screenshot of my Photoshop cover document. I followed the width, height, and spine values on the NookPress website (after I uploaded my interior document to get the correct values):

In this case I pulled up a calculator and started adding guides to help me position things (in the view menu of Photoshop CS5). I aligned my spine text and graphic based on the absolute center of the document. I also added in margins as specified by the site and the PDF style/formatting guide. Don’t go by the graphics on the NookPress site. Their margin/spine ratios are off and the area that it shows the barcode is completely wrong. You really just need to look at the numbers (eg. a spine of 0.72 with 2mm margins, etc).
5×8 inches = 5.13 x 8.25 per side with 0.25 margins on the borders of the graphic is the generic formula excluding the spine size, but keep in mind the NookPress site might give you additional margin values you should consider.

Formatting document references (as long as the links stay the same):

That’s pretty much it! It’s not a short process by any means, but not too difficult with a bit of time to make sure you have margins setup properly in the interior and the exterior graphic.

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Started donating books to Little Free Libraries

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was thinking of distributing a decent number of Creator Sky copies through the local Little Free Library system. I had ordered 50 copies that I still have around half left. They have two errors in the interior, but are solid quality copies otherwise. Obviously, my main motivation is promotion, but that’s not the entire story. The book is self-published and pretty much in a black hole right now. Visibility is what I’m grasping for at the moment. Marketplaces that sell the books have the system gamed to support the interests of people already successful (backed by publishers), or ones willing to spend money on advertising (I might a bit in the future). I’d also simply like to get the book out there for people to enjoy. The Little Free Library is a great concept worth supporting.

I decided to augment the books a bit before taking to the little libraries:

In the author page, I put a sticker asking anyone who enjoyed the book to consider writing an online review. That’s really the most important thing in regard to promotion that I can think of. Books online with a large number of legitimate quality reviews get better ranking in online stores. Maybe the only other better case would be general review on a blog or other website with a lot of user reach. Besides that I put another sticker indicating it was from a Little Free Library. It’s partly meant to dissuade people from taking it and keeping it, but also to indicate it was mean to be placed in one.

I still have a good deal of copies of that first printing, so I’m thinking of taking a few road trips to get it out to larger metropolitan areas like the Chicago suburbs.

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My novel setup with Blurb BookWright.

I’m writing down this process in the eventual case where I forget one or more steps to the process. As I mentioned in a previous post, this program is better than other options, but itself has a lot of drawbacks. In this case there is a lot of manual adjustment needed, which is time consuming and prone to human error.

In this process I’m basically copying text from a finished book document into the Blurb program.

Format: 5×8

File >> Book Information
Fill in the book title and author name.

Paper/Trim >> Paper Types
Standard BW Paper (hopefully cream, not sure yet…)

Add a bunch of pages in the right panel that displays the side by side pages. There are a few ways to do that.

First page:
Title page with book title and author name
Second page:
Copyright information
Third page: Acknowledgements
Fourth page: You need a blank page or something else in this case because the text should start on the right with page number 1 (a convention I’ll mention later).

I position a graphic photo container above those three pages (it should lock into position when you drag the edges around.). Inside that graphic I put a small 100% white PNG file of pretty much any size and make sure it is Forward to cover that area. We will get back to that in a moment. There might be other ways to deal with the issue I will describe, but I haven’t found it yet.

The above graphic shows the “background” area. This is where you can add things that will show up on every single page. When I added those pure white graphics earlier to the first three pages, I was intending to cover up what is done here because the headers shouldn’t show up on those three pages. In this case you add text containers and position them to align with a temporary layout applied (the second novel one in my case). I delete the template afterward because it is just used to align the two header texts.

Page numbering conventions: Standard practice is to have odd numbered pages on the right and even on the left. That means page #1 must be on the right. This needs to be handled manually with Blurb (with CreateSpace the template is smart enough to make it work as it should without caring about which page is on what physical page).

I also add pages numbers starting on page 5 in my case. This is done through the menu with Add/Insert >> Add Page Numbers…

For every single page in the main text, you have to apply one of the page templates. In my case I use that second novel template shown highlighted in blue. In the case of a 5×8 book it seems to work alright. The larger templates will clip and the smaller templates seem specialized.

I copy and paste every single chapter of the book by hand. My setting of choice are these:
1. Palatino Linotype font. I really like how it reads compared to other fonts I’ve seen so far.
2. Chapter titles are size 14 font.
3. Body text is size 11 font with 1 em line spacing.
4. Every single paragraph has to be tabbed by hand (one really stupid software design choice of the program).
5. After everything is done, click the Update Text Flow button, otherwise the text won’t refresh.
6. Do this for every paragraph (eg, select all text and assign the font). I’ve had the program use a default font for the header even though I pasted text with the correct font.

When that is done for the chapter, I likely have to flow the text into multiple pages.

You can see the flow controls above. The top left allows you to remove flow connections. The bottom right allows you to link containers. In this case you will usually be using the bottom right button and then clicking on the next page’s container to link them up.

That’s about it for the editing stage. It take a lot of time and is prone to errors, so I’ll have to check and re-check things before pushing the project to the Blurb website so I can order a proof copy.

Hopefully once all of this is done I can link up this version of the book with their extended distribution networks.

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Getting the novel into my local library.

After finishing my first print version of Creator Sky, I ended up getting a pretty sizable order of copies made (in retrospect, probably too many).

I contacted my local library system to see if they would be interested in having a few copies to put into circulation. Their response was great!  Basically, they love local authors and would be glad to make it happen. Only about two weeks later I check out my favorite library branch and see this:

The biggest thing I noticed was that I should have put the title of the book on the top of the spine considering libraries put their stickers on the bottom (at least mine does). If… or rather when… I revise the book again in the future I’ll be sure to fix that. It’s something I didn’t even consider in the development phase.

Other than that quirk (and the two errors I know exist in that version of the text), it’s great to see it somewhere people can enjoy it! Now I’m hoping people actually give it a chance and check it out. The more active the book is, the longer it stays in circulation.

The process feels like it won’t end after each little mistake or unforeseen omission, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, at least for this book outside of attempts at promotion. I still have around 40 copies of this version I need to do something with.

My next idea is maybe a road trip to deposit some copies into the “Little Free Library” system. Well, at least that’s the general idea. I need to research how it all works and what the code of honor is for the whole little library concept. They might frown on it for whatever reason. (Edit: It appears that there is no issue with the idea from what I’ve seen so far.)

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