Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Publishing a Fishing Book — Nose to the Grindstone

It's almost a year now since I last communicated progress on this subject, but there's been good reason to shelve it for a while and come back afresh not least of which is the need to see it anew and not through blinkered eyes. Without putting it to bed for a while I found it almost impossible to read it, and more importantly receive it,  just as anyone else would — all I could see were thousands of words sprouting into a massive tangle of meanings, none of which I could appreciate being far too close up to the subject matter.

There's more to say too. This year's fishing experiences have added a great deal of weight to what flimsy material I had written on particular subject areas. Of course you can't keep on adding and not subtracting lest you end up with an unwieldy mess but today I'm a happy gardener fearlessly pruning back the dead wood to make space for better material than was there before.

And it's enjoyable once more. I'd experimented with layout and found that to produce files for  Createspace, the self-publishing company I'd initially chosen, that I needed to use Microsoft Word and try to compile a massive file in that notoriously unstable application. Sure enough, after setting up six or seven chapters things started to go horribly wrong. All of a sudden it had reached its limit and crashed more often than it didn't. Progress ground to a halt and I could see no way out of the predicament...

A month ago I discovered Apache OpenOffice. It was recommended by Lulu, an alternative self-publishing house to Createspace and I have to say that after knuckling down to learn its complexities it gets simpler to understand every day and now I can keep everything building nicely without fear of disaster every time I insert a new illustration file or make a section break for a new chapter. Best of all it's free to download and costs nothing to use which can't be bad for a program that's proving so invaluable.

Word offers only 'mirrored pages' so what you see on the left as an odd numbered left page will end up as an odd numbered right page in the book because of the fact that the first page in all books is of course a right page. What's really great about OpenOffice though is that it gives the book creator the professional option of seeing layout in 'facing pages.'

True 'facing pages' must appear like this — it's
logical and exactly as it will look in print where
odd pages are always set to the right.

What all pro layout programs such as Quark Express and Adobe Pagemaker have always offered because the press have always demanded it, expected it and actually must have, is the first page logically viewed as a right hand page with the left page area a blank space (it doesn't actually exist) so when you work on the book you see spreads with the even page left and odd page right, which is how it should be (see illustration above) This is how the pages will look in the hand but with Word you cannot have this and mirrored pages are simply the front and back of each other not a spread across which you can work visually with margins, text and illustrations appearing as they actually will in print. The following illustration shows why...

Word's 'mirrored pages' appear like this —
staggered, illogical for book layout purposes 

and is not how it will look in print because 
odd pages are always set to the right.

I'm getting there at last! OpenOffice is proving a Godsend. Fishing has taken a backseat though with one trip managed so far this month... I'm so bound up in the pressing matter of getting this book out on the shelves sometime sooner rather than later that it's had to. With any luck I'll be ordering the first proof copy by end of February and then I can set to the task of weeding out the small errors from what should be a near finished thing by then...

We'll see! As many have said, 'writing the damn thing is the easy bit' and that has proved true. It's the making of it that takes the most effort, especially if you insist, as I have, in doing it all yourself...

PS. Anyone who is thinking of using OpenOffice for whatever purpose and needs advice on how it works and on the tricky but necessary art of controlling documents by stylesheets can mail me and I'll be happy to help wherever I can — I'm no expert yet, but I think I have a handle on it.


  1. Looking forward to seeing the finished item.

    Having been through the publish, print on demand process a few times with a few companies there are a couple of things not mentioned in their guides.

    The print on demand process doesn't like Adobe Illustrator, Freehand or other vector based drawing programs. Even if the illustration is embedded in another program. Sometimes it gets the layers in the wrong order - the preview looks fine but the printed copy can be hit or miss.

    The way round this is to copy or import the illustrations into Photoshop, flatten them and save them as a .tif or .eps It's a bit boring (especially if you've done a comic book) but they'll print exactly the same as the preview.

    The other is to embed the fonts, or better still make a copy of the finished file and outline the fonts. This leaves the print program no room to interpret what it thought you wanted.

  2. Brian, all my images will be embedded in the final PDf as will the fonts. Taking no chances! The illustrator problem won't exist in this book but might in another I'm tbinking about making so I'll make them TIFs, as you suggest.

    Did you use Lulu? I'm going with them at least for the first proof and then see how it goes. Might change if it doesn't work out though. We'll see.

    Also, when making images. what DPI are you going for with colour, and do you know what's best for greyscale and line art?

  3. I've used Lulu for years to print my portfolios and once I'd found a way around the Illustrator bug they've been great.

    Colour photos should be 300dpi at the size they are going to appear. You can make them larger, only scale stuff down not up in OpenOffice / InDesign.

    Same for greyscale photos, just convert them in Photoshop and adjust the brightness / contrast where you need to.

    Lulu also excepts colour books in CMYK and RGB. RGB looks better on the preview but appears a bit washed out when printed.

    So I always go with CMYK. And pop some colour correct samples on my website.

  4. One issue you will have further down the line is paper quality, print on demand uses that not quite gloss paper that laser printers require... It's not as nice as the paper used on heavy commercial presses.

    If you find a better solution I'll be very interested.

  5. I anticipated paper quality issues from the outset and went for the heaviest. At the moment though just concerned with getting a proof at any normal POD quality to make draw judgements from, Brian, then I'll see where to go next. Proofs are very cheap! That's good.

    The pics are going to be inserted and scaled to get the layout right then remade at exact dimensions at the right dpi. That seems much higher for line art than colour. The pdf's show very noticeable jaggy edges and degradation with line art at 300dpi, and a softness which reads as a kind of gaussian blur with greyscale at the same. Sometimes it works brilliantly and actually improves the art, often it wrecks it!