Writing and Formatting Software

I recently received the proof copy of Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories. I had spent hours trying to polish the stories, and two full days trying to format the book for print using LibreOffice. I do NOT recommend trying to format for print using a word processing program. Maybe some people can do it more easily than I can. What I found is that every time I closed the file and reopened it, the pages had shifted. My custom paragraph styles had been renamed and transformed. My page styles had changed, adding page numbers and headers where I needed a perfectly blank page.

I spent hours figuring it out. And I finally got it, and saved the file to pdf, and uploaded it to CreateSpace. I got the cover worked out and uploaded that pdf file. Then I ordered the proof copy. But there were problems.

I found one too many typos in the story, so I felt like I needed to go back in and correct them. But that meant going back to the shifting pages and formatting them again. Out of sheer frustration, I decided it was time to learn how to use Scribus, a free desktop publishing program.

I found a course on Udemy.com for learning how to use Scribus, but the course is mostly geared toward magazine layouts, since that’s what the instructor uses it for. It gave me a start, but I needed more. So I bought D. J. Mills’ e-book, Creating Print on Demand Covers and Interiors Using Scribus 1.4.1. That gave me much of the information I was missing and helped to create my own template. There may be better books available; I don’t know. I chose that one, because the author mentioned it on one of my writing forums. And it helped. I was able to get my book interior formatted in a lot less time than I had already spent on it.

I’m still not happy with the cover. It’s too orange, and after seeing the artwork for Catspaw, Persnickety looks too amateurish for me. I’m going to be working on my cover some more. And I still need to proof the interior of the book again, since I did make changes and reformatted. But at least the interior pages will stay where I put them, now. I know they aren’t going to suddenly move up, leaving a big blank space, or decide to throw in a page number where I didn’t want it.
Formatting for print is still nit-picky, detailed work. I think my eyes still hurt. I can see why a lot of indie authors only offer their books as e-books. I use Scrivener for all my writing, and it’s so easy to compile to an epub or a .mobi file.

And after all that work, it’s expensive to print a paperback using Print on Demand. The other option would be worse, ordering five hundred or a thousand copies of a book, and trying to sell them myself. Being an indie author is not a course for the faint of heart or the lazy. For that matter, neither is being an author. Yes, we probably are crazy for putting ourselves through this…for spending hours creating something that may never be read or appreciated. But there’s nothing like seeing your first book available for sale, or holding that printed book in your hand.