Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
I know, that’s cliched. How about, sometimes you can’t see the beach for the sand?
Formatting the manuscript for e-publishing wasn’t hard. It was an involved process, but, for the most part, it seemed pretty straightforward, and I didn’t have any issues getting it done accurately.
Not so with the print edition. Despite following step-by-step instructions from Michael Jasper’s excellent “Making Digital Books” series (just as I had done for the eBook versions of the novel), I could not get CreateSpace to play nicely with me. Errors kept popping up in both the manuscript and the cover.
I went online and read articles that alleged to have solutions. They didn’t work. I asked friends and technical experts I know for advice. Their solutions didn’t work. I pored over CreateSpace’s FAQ. Their answers didn’t work.
This was doubly frustrating, because this isn’t my first go-around in layout and publishing. I’ve spent the better part of 15 years working on and off in one publishing capacity for another. I’m not ignorant about the technical side of getting a manuscript into print.
But, in the past, there’s always been a tech to walk me through SNAFU’s, letting me know what I needed to do to resolve the issue. I’ve worked with people on the printing end to make a quality product. CreateSpace is a do-it-yourself operation. There was no one to talk to.
And when you are fighting to get something to work, that’s when you start only seeing the trees, er, grains of sand. You focus on getting them to lie nicely together instead of seeing the beach they are supposed to be making.
I eventually got things to work out. In some cases, I am not entirely sure how I fixed the issues, but I did get everything to work right. I ordered my proof from CreateSpace and prayed it would look right when I got it.
But as I read through it, proofing the layout, I discovered something I hadn’t seen when I was trying to get it formatted — it didn’t look like a book.
I used Times New Roman for the font. I am partial to serif fonts, and I think Times New Roman looks pretty clean, even if it is used a lot.
That was just fine for the body of the novel, but the only difference between the chapter titles and the main text was the former was bolded. The point-size was the same, and so was the font.
And that meant my novel looked like a Word document someone had printed out and bound. It didn’t look like a book. All I had was a bunch of sand; I didn’t have a beach.
So after I fixed all the formatting issues and corrected some typos, I set about trying to make it look like a novel. I changed the chapter titles to Algerian, the same font I use on the cover. I put drop caps in at the beginning of each chapter, also in Algerian. I got everything lined up correctly, and then, fearing more trouble like I’d had the first time from CreateSpace, I held my breath and uploaded it.
To my infinite relief, CreateSpace accepted the new font and didn’t appear to have monkeyed with the layout. I’ve ordered another proof. I’ll be crossing my fingers until it arrives.
But it just goes to show you — you have to keep your eye on the big picture. (I am just full of cliches today, aren’t I?) When you get so focused on the details, you forget they are supposed to add up to something. You have to step back periodically and look at the whole, not just the parts.
Otherwise, you miss the forest or the beach or whatever non-cliched metaphor you like.