Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reasons to Hate Self-Publishing and How to Fix Them

Check the cover size before you publish.
With traditional publishers locking their gates against new talent, self-publishing has become more popular than ever before. I'm writing this blog in the interest of turning my embarrassment into something useful for independent authors such as myself, or maybe you're just curious. I don't have all the answers, just the few I found in my latest misadventure.

First and foremost. I despise numbers. I don't just hate math. I abhor it with every nerve in my grinding, sensitive teeth. I don't have dyscalculia (Number dyslexia) so much as I have a mental block brought on by a vicious grade two teacher who used physical violence and humiliation to help her students learn better.  I'm sharing this because it might explain why I react to large numbers with hyperventilation, panic and sometimes rage. It might also explain how I made some unfortunate mistakes.

Mistake #1 I chose the wrong cover size. Createspace offers several options in both inches and centimeters. The SMART thing to do, when in doubt, would have been to check previously published novels to compare. I don't really understand inches, but the centimeter numbers were too large. I panicked, and I chose the 8.5x11, because I knew that was about as large as a page, in my mind. I actually needed 5.5x8.5.

Createspace warned me. They told me my formatted manuscript didn't fit my 8.5x11  cover and I still didn't clue in. I had Heather Savage reformat the file. Createspace begrudgingly accepted it, sending me a passive aggressive message about how they 'fixed' the files for me to meet their requirements. Everything else was fine, so I placed my order for print books.

It wasn't until the books arrived that I realized my mistake. Too late. Since these books are Print on Demand, that means they were custom printed for my order alone. No refunds. So now I'm stuck with eighteen paperback novellas the size of a children's coloring book. Did I mention that I accidently ordered double because I didn't think the order went through the first time?

The bright side: Because they are Print on Demand, there's only eighteen of them. Could you imagine a warehouse full of those?

The solutions: I offer them as 'Special Editions', because they're still cool looking, and they're going to be extremely rare when I pull them off the shelf. I call Createspace and speak with a human. The worst is confirmed. Since there is an ISBN attached to that particular edition, I have to START OVER. New file, new ISBN code, etcetera.
No need to change the cover. Whew!

Here is when being Canadian comes in handy. ISBN codes are free in Canada. All they require is that you keep them appraised of your publishing dates and when you sell a certain amount you must send copies to their archives. They give you these codes with the promise you'll pay your taxes on the profits.

I logged in and marked Her True Name: Volume Two as 'Cancelled'. Then I reapplied for an ISBN for Her True Name: Volume II and marked it as 'Forthcoming'. It worked.
During this time, Createspace had sent several notices that they would become amazon/KDP, and if I didn't move all my files over, they would be moved for me. So I went ahead and moved my previous novels over, intending to start HTN:V2 with amazon. How different could it be?

The cover file didn't fit. Createspace had demanded a PDF file, then they demanded a PDF file below 32 MB. Emma did a great job of adapting, switching to a PDf at 1000 pixels without compromising the integrity of the cover, but KDP didn't want it. The result looked like a postage stamp centered at the bottom of the page.

Fortunate happenstance. Before that happened, I had sent KDP an email because in addition to my ISBN number, KDP required a number that proved I PAID for it. Um...A quick google search told me to just re-enter my Canadian ISBN, and it will be recognized. Whew!

Just then, my phone rang. It's KDP with the answer to the ISBN. Do I have anything else I need help with? HELL YEAH, since you're here...

KDP customer service is far superior to Createspace. She put me in touch with a cover designer. He went into my file, and got me to send Emma's cover to his KDP address, where he changed it to a JPEG file. (After all that fuss to make it a PDF...) Then he walked me through Cover Creator. This took over 45 minutes and he stayed on the line the entire time. <3

Ugh... I was mad. Why am I doing all this? THIS is what I pay other people for! I don't even WANT to learn this! I just want to write the damned books! What's all this other crap on my cover? Heather Savage, my editor, is right. Sometimes you have to learn things you don't want to, for growth. It exercises your brain. To be honest, I'm glad I did it. And to that KDP rep? I'm sorry for swearing so much. I know I explained I wasn't mad at you, I was just mad, but I hope you didn't take offense. It really was a s simple as you said it was. I downloaded Emma's JPEG cover, and removed the excess titles, fonts and additional texts with a few clicks, and it was my book cover once again.

So I send the new changes for review, confident that everything is fine and I'm done.

More mistakes? I check my email a couple of days later to see if I'm back on the shelves, and I am greeted by another message from KDP. It basically says, "We can't publish your book. The pages are in the wrong order." WHAT?! How is that even possible from a digital file?! The email came with several suggestions and links, and it also suggested I check the trim, counting my pages and calculating them against this OVERWHELMING number that was about 38 digits long and it included a decimal point and AUUUUGGGHHH!

My editor is in Italy. So I vent to my cover artist Emma Hibbs. Besides being great with art, Emma is also a fantastic writer herself with her own experiences in self-publishing and she has an idea. She needs to go into my file and possibly reformat.
I love you EMMA!!

The solution was simple. They wanted the page numbers on the LEFT side of the odd numbered pages, and page numbers on the RIGHT of the even pages. Page one needs the number on the left, page two requires the page number on the right, etc. That's all they wanted. And Thank God for Emma, and her sweet, calming demeanor. <3

Now Her True Name: Volume II is back on the amazon shelf. You can find it here: Her True Name: Volume Two

If I haven't bored you yet, you must be a writer, and I hope this gives you some insight. This was a learning experience for me, one I hope I'll never repeat. I've also learned to calm down and look for the solutions before I panic. Numbers still suck, but maybe I'll get through this next time without undue freaking out.

Oh...and sharing this blog counts as another entry to the contest. Thanks for indulging me.


  1. I'd laugh--but I know it wasn't funny for you. Thumbs up for sticking with it and figuring out the problems. And good luck with sales!

  2. It's okay to laugh. I know someday I'll laugh too. Right now I'm just relieved that the whole thing was fixable. ;)

  3. As someone with 14 years experience in telephone Customer service I can assure you. We are used to being sworn at so if you feel the need to swear to us we don't care.