I’ve completed a novel – my first book after several years of writing cookbooks and articles for magazines and newspapers. I was determined to do it all – by myself. That means I was forgoing the “traditional” means of publishing (with a known publisher). Partly because I didn’t want to face the possibility of rejection but also because the royalties are low, the marketing sketchy, the effort so enormous – on the part of the author in order to make it a hit … , unless of course you’re JK Rowling. Did I mention the low rewards?
What I’ve learned could fill a book (maybe my next?). Once you finish writing the manuscript it has to be edited, and proofread. Did that – over and over. I was fortunate to have a wonderful editor and working with her was a dream. It’s true she made me do some brutal things to the characters (give them illnesses, make them die, eliminate them all together) but whatever she said, I usually agreed with.
Then, when it was as perfect as it was going to get, I had to format it. That means inserting the text into the program that readies it for publication. Hello InDesign – hello hell! Cho0sing the Drop Caps, picking out cute little symbols that separate paragraphs, adding the Acknowledgments Page, etc. Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to learn – but I did.
Coordinating the graphic design? Got through that too. A wonderful artist designed the cover – I just had to find a graphic designer to design the back cover and put it all together. Check – found someone and got that done too.
ISBN Number? That’s the International Standard Book Number that any self-respecting book should have. I was happy to learn I could get it in Israel – and for a very reasonable price. But when it was sent to me, the number looked fine but the barcode representing it – tiny! I mean really small! We scanned it, put it on the back cover and it looked like a joke. After the first print run we tested it – no scanner could read that sucker. I called the local ISBN distributor here in Israel. The woman in charge rudely told me she had already sent it to me. “You have it already – I sent it as a PDF”. That’s true – she did – PDF meaning it cannot be altered. But she neglected to remember that she sent it in such a tiny size it was unusable. My pleading with her finally took effect – she would send it again.
And once again I got the same ridiculous size. I scanned that sucker and tried to blow it up but my graphic designer advised me that the quality was poor. What’s a girl to do? Another amusing fact was that the very unhelpful issuer changed the name of my publishing company from Bestsellers Ink to Bestsellers Inc. Was she trying to teach me English? Obviously she was oblivious to the pun. Okay, back to our ISBN – how could I get a number that would be readable?
I went to the wise and always helpful Internet and there was my answer. I typed in “generate ISBN barcode” and I got one! Just like that! I inserted my series of number and Voila! I got back a readable, scannable bar code. That problem solved.
Next, I excitedly visited the printer when he called to say the proof was ready. I nearly ran there – and Jerusalem is far from where I live. My first reaction when receiving the “book” was shock. I was handed a large heavy sheet of paper with the entire cover printed on it, and a rubber-banded batch of folded papers – that was my manuscript! Oy.
I took it home and studied it. The cover was not large enough and the black and white checkerboard border would most likely get cut off. And I found an awful mistake in the text. Discussions, suggestions, back and forth and we solved it. Add a red border to the cover and cut that, not the checkerboard, and yes – they would allow me to resubmit the page with the mistake – corrected of course.
But worse than all that was the paper itself. YUK! Who prints books on ink jet printer paper? I mean really! I was told “No, that’s just the scratch paper, yours will be better”. Oh really? Seems the “better” paper wasn’t any better. Apparently they don’t print books here in Israel as they do in the States (China?). I couldn’t possibly approve that paper. “Okay, then you’ll have to go with an upgrade. Let’s see what we have here”. The printer found the paper catalog and I found a paper I liked a bit more. It was called European Bulk 80 gram. Okay, so let’s order.
If only. European Bulk 80 was not in stock – anywhere. Apparently not in the country.They could get European Bulk 90 gram. And it would cost more money – of course. So … what do I know? 90 gram sounded heavy. 80 gram sounded better.
Okay, I can handle this. I have connections. I know a paper importer! I called him – he explain that yes indeed, Bulk (actually he called it Bulky) is the way to go. And he would check. He called back – he can get the Bulky, in 80 gram – it’s not called Bulky – but it is Bulky. What color? Off white. YES! We have lift off. Go for it baby. And then I heard the price – three times what the printer had quoted! YIKES! Are you kidding me? But wait, the printer was willing to give me money back. No paper, no charge for it. Back to the supplier – yes order that Bulky that’s not called Bulky. Send it to the printer – who was anyway a client of his.
After a very long weekend, the printer called when the paper had arrived. “Do you know what you have here Anne?” Well, yes, its supposed to be that bulky 80 gram, off white. “Sorry, but what it is is exactly what we originally had for you – same color white, same smooth surface, it looks like printer paper. And it is definitely not European Bulk or Bulky. Back to the supplier – “Yes, I told you it’s not Bulky.” Was I in a bad movie? “But no problem, if its not what you want, we’ll take it back. Don’t worry.” At least that.
Back to the printer with new instructions – send the paper back to the supplier. Order the 90 gram and let’s go for it. Yes, I’ll pay the additional cost. A few more days pass. The paper arrives!
I go to see the first run being printed and to sign off on the proofs. I’m told to get there by 10 am, I get there at 10:10. The proofs are gorgeous! The text has been corrected, the cover has the added on red border and the Barcode looks good! Its a yes! I sign all the proofs indicating my approval and the job is a go.
But … They’re not ready to get started. “Soon.” Soon turns into a little while longer, then its a bad phone call. The machine has been acting up – the technician has just arrived, it will take a while. Seems they don’t make Heidelbergs like they used to. I take my newspaper and wait, happily doing my Sudoku. And wait. And wait. At 12:30 I ask if I should maybe go out to lunch and come back. “Yes, good idea. But come back no later than 30 minutes and we’ll be ready.”
Off to a little restaurant next door. I’m still feeling pretty good – my book will be printed! I come back and they’re still not ready. Surprised? After a few minutes the call comes up from the printing floor – “Come on down! We’re ready to go!
I watch as the one man brings over the “special” paper on a pallet. I watch as he maneuvers it up and down until he gets the paper exactly under the tongues of the printing press that will grab each piece individually. A few junk pieces are inserted first – as a test run. And then my paper has its run. Boy was that exciting! My book was being printed – on large sheets that have room for 16 pages. I witnessed as two men examined the quality of ink. Yes – it was definitely looking good. I gave it the final approval and went back to the administration area with a big smile on my face.
Next phase would take some time. After all the paper is printed, its folded. Then the cover is printed, dried, the text pages are inserted inside, its glued together, then cut – that’s it! A book is born!
I waited a week to get the call – “Your books are ready to be picked up.” In the ensuing time I came up with an idea to print posters – which they can easily do and bookmarks as well. The company rep looked at my bookmark mock-up and said – “We can do that for you. Just design them, we can squeeze 4 of them on the same page as the cover. No problem. We’ll only charge you for the cutting.” The cost was nominal so I said Yes!
Today was the magical day. Everything was ready. My husband arranged to take the pick-up truck from his factory and we drove to Jerusalem. When we got there, all the boxes were neatly packed, bundled and shrink wrapped. Luckily the printer had one book out. Man, that looked good! And the posters – fabulous! The bookmarks – unbelievable. I was one happy woman! I was taking pictures and smiling and thanking just about everyone in the entire place – in several different languages. Even paying my bill, I still had that smile on my face.
We loaded the pallat onto the truck and drove carefully back to my husband’s factory. We opened a box and I pulled out a book. I was looking at it, as my husband and one of his workers were discussing where to store the pallat of books until I needed them.
And then it happened! I saw something I hadn’t seen before. I almost fainted! There – smack in the middle of the front cover was the partial printing of my email address – printed backwards. WHAT THE HELL!
I stood there motionless, in too much shock to say anything. Had I sent them the wrong photo for the cover? No, not possible – the posters were printed from the same photo and they were perfect. What could possibly have happened? I called my rep – he couldn’t see what I was talking about – that had put a sticker with my name of the spot. He said he’d call me back.
Almost one hour later he did call back (after I already had my first Chardonnay of the day). Yes, indeed they had screwed up. In between approving the proof and adding the bookmarks to the page, somehow my email address got added into the mix. No one is really sure how. Do you think I cared at this point?
They made an offer. Bring back the books. They’ll re-design the cover, make it a bit smaller, slice off the cover on the existing books and re-bind with a new, smaller cover. I couldn’t see that as a very good solution but how much negotiating power did I have? I made my husband deal with the rep – I was too distraught.
So that’s where we stand today. They will make up a sample of what they’re suggesting and I’ll get to decide if it works or not. Will they reprint all the books from scratch if I don’t approve? I don’t know. Should I cancel the check? I don’t think so.
Can someone please remind me why I decided to go the self-publishing route???