My novel setup with Blurb BookWright.

I’m writing down this process in the eventual case where I forget one or more steps to the process. As I mentioned in a previous post, this program is better than other options, but itself has a lot of drawbacks. In this case there is a lot of manual adjustment needed, which is time consuming and prone to human error.

In this process I’m basically copying text from a finished book document into the Blurb program.

Format: 5×8

File >> Book Information
Fill in the book title and author name.

Paper/Trim >> Paper Types
Standard BW Paper (hopefully cream, not sure yet…)

Add a bunch of pages in the right panel that displays the side by side pages. There are a few ways to do that.

First page:
Title page with book title and author name
Second page:
Copyright information
Third page: Acknowledgements

I position a graphic photo container above those three pages (it should lock into position when you drag the edges around.). Inside that graphic I put a small 100% white PNG file of pretty much any size and make sure it is Forward to cover that area. We will get back to that in a moment. There might be other ways to deal with the issue I will describe, but I haven’t found it yet.

The above graphic shows the “background” area. This is where you can add things that will show up on every single page. When I added those pure white graphics earlier to the first three pages, I was intending to cover up what is done here because the headers shouldn’t show up on those three pages. In this case you add text containers and position them to align with a temporary layout applied (the second novel one in my case). I delete the template afterward because it is just used to align the two header texts.

I also add pages numbers starting on page 4 in my case. This is done through the menu with Add/Insert >> Add Page Numbers…

For every single page in the main text, you have to apply one of the page templates. In my case I use that second novel template shown highlighted in blue. In the case of a 5×8 book it seems to work alright. The larger templates will clip and the smaller templates seem specialized.

I copy and paste every single chapter of the book by hand. My setting of choice are these:
1. Palatino Linotype font. I really like how it reads compared to other fonts I’ve seen so far.
2. Chapter titles are size 14 font.
3. Body text is size 11 font with 1 em line spacing.
4. Every single parahraph has to be tabbed by hand (one really stupid software design choice of the program).
5. After everything is done, click the Update Text Flow button, otherwise the text won’t refresh.
6. Do this for every paragraph (eg, select all text and assign the font). I’ve had the program use a default font for the header even though I pasted text with the correct font.

When that is done for the chapter, I likely have to flow the text into multiple pages.

You can see the flow controls above. The top left allows you to remove flow connections. The bottom right allows you to link containers. In this case you will usually be using the bottom right button and then clicking on the next page’s container to link them up.

That’s about it for the editing stage. It take a lot of time and is prone to errors, so I’ll have to check and re-check things before pushing the project to the Blurb website so I can order a proof copy.

Hopefully once all of this is done I can link up this version of the book with their extended distribution networks.

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Getting the novel into my local library.

After finishing my first print version of Creator Sky, I ended up getting a pretty sizable order of copies made (in retrospect, probably too many).

I contacted my local library system to see if they would be interested in having a few copies to put into circulation. Their response was great!  Basically, they love local authors and would be glad to make it happen. Only about two weeks later I check out my favorite library branch and see this:

The biggest thing I noticed was that I should have put the title of the book on the top of the spine considering libraries put their stickers on the bottom (at least mine does). If I revise the book again in the future I’ll be sure to fix that. It’s something I didn’t even consider in the development phase.

Other than that quirk (and the two errors I know exist in that version of the text), it’s great to see it somewhere people can enjoy it! Now I’m hoping people actually give it a chance and check it out. The more active the book is, the longer it stays in circulation.

The process feels like it won’t end after each little mistake or unforeseen omission, but I’m seeing seen the light at the end of the tunnel, at least for this book outside of promotion. I still have around 40 copies of this version I need to do something with.

My next idea is maybe a road trip to deposit some copies into the “Little Free Library” system. Well, at least that’s the general idea. I need to research how it all works and what the code of honor is for the whole little library concept. They might frown on it for whatever reason.

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Blurb for novels… BookWright needs work.

I have my Creator Sky novel “published” with CreateSpace. The process is relatively straightforward. You can download a document template that is formatted to their specifications and it just simply works. You can also download a cover template based on your final page size and that just simply works.

In my attempt to find a second print-on-demand service so that there is some level of complete market coverage, I’ve been looking at the different services available.

The biggie is Ingram Spark. The problem is that they have no templates as far as I can tell. All I have seen is a large verbose file creation guide in PDF format. That’s great an all, but in my case I want something simple that looks like a standard novel inside. It shouldn’t be that time consuming and difficult. Not to mention they have a lot of fees involved in the process, so if I messed something up it would get costly fast.

Lulu is an option, but they don’t offer 8×5 that I’ve decided on. Curiously, they offer a 6.88×4.25 inch format that might be interesting for selling direct though that format can’t be sold through their extended distribution networks. I do really like their ebook process, so I do use them for that at least.

I’ve used Blurb before many years ago. I can’t exactly remember for what or why (either photo books and/or my old Convention Photography book). They are reliable and upfront with any costs or fees. They also mention distribution with Ingram Spark. With as much reach as they offer, it seems like a good second PoD publisher. The main issue is their process. It’s easy in some ways, but time consuming in others.

There could be other services out there, but I’ve not found any that have reasonable fees and a smooth process. So today, I’ll be talking about issue I have with Blurb as my second best option to CreateSpace.

With Blurb, they got their feet wet in the publishing service with photo books. This is a problem for novel writing because there are still hold overs from that history in their processes. They have quite a few methods to get data to them. The most difficult would be making your own PDF, which I’ll avoid for the reason mentioned with Ingram Spark. You can make the book directly through their website, which I haven’t attempted. You can use their plugin for Adobe InDesign (I don’t own that software, no go on that). You can also make a book with two separate programs, one called BookWright and the other called BookSmart. I don’t know the differences between BookWright and BookSmart, but I’m thinking that BookSmart was their original software and will eventually be retiring that.

I’ve been using BookWright for a while now. I had used to to make up a test print of the novel with moderate success. For whatever reason it printed in white paper, which isn’t ideal for a novel. Here is a quick photo of the first result.

Like I said, not too bad, but not as nice as the CreateSpace print is. I’m hoping I can get cream paper selected somehow for the next attempt.

Here is a screenshot of the BookWright program itself:

In there on the left you have the side by side pages of the document. On the top you have page templates. There are a few for novels, but most of them are oddly shaped or don’t even work with the 5×8 format.

The problem start for me because I have a finished book and simply want to get it into a format that Blurb will accept. The huge issue with BookWright is that it doesn’t handle text flow well at all. You have to manually add pages and manually add a template to each page (you can select multiple pages and apply a template to all of them at once which helps a bit). The largest problems come when you want to get text into the book.

You can import RTF files, but it has a few large drawbacks. It won’t recognize paragraph indents. It also won’t flow the entire text if it is a large document. When working with novel sized text, it breaks their container design. In my first attempt at using BookWright, I quickly found out there is no way to avoid a large amount of manual labor to make it work.

  1. You need to add pages manually.
  2. You need to apply a template to the page (quickly done by selecting all).
  3. You have to manually link containers for text to flow between pages.
  4. When pasting or importing text, you have to manually tab every single paragraph. This leads to a huge potential for errors due to doing it by hand.
  5. You need to manually flow the text between pages. This means clicking a special icon on each page and then clicking on the following page to flow the text. It’s an added hassle.
  6. If you don’t pay attention, your text can flow into nothing. This is a great way to exclude text in a finished book. Say you edit chapter 3 and the last few paragraph flows into nothing because you added 20 tabs to fix their refusal to automatically indent paragraphs. I had this happen.

All of that extra work is better, in the short term, than spending days or more learning enough to produce a PDF by hand. My issue is that it seems pointless because it could be solved by better design of the application. Who on their design team thought not parsing paragraph indention in imported or pasted text was a good idea? Not to mention the idea of forcing users to mess around with the TAB character at all.

With that said, I’m still going to use BookWright and Blurb as my second PoD service, but it could be so much easier or less error prone if they would fix two simple things (paragraph intention and text flow between pages)

Here is my current process to make it work:

  1. Setup the new project in BookWright.
  2. Add a bunch of pages and apply a novel template that fits with the 5×8 format.
  3. Copy a single chapter at a time. Past it into the next available page.
  4. Flow the text by hand by clicking the special icon and then clicking the following page.
  5. Tab every single paragraph by hand.
  6. Verify that the text didn’t flow into another page and became hidden…
  7. Check for missed tabs and more hidden text flow issues.

It’s a somewhat slow process and prone to error, but sadly it seems better than any alternatives I’ve seen so far!

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OCLC Worldcat, not too sure how it works…

I recently noticed that my Scifi book, Creator Sky, is now listed on WorldCat.

I was talking about marketing ideas with a friend and mentioned the idea of asking local libraries to see if they would carry it. He said that a family member of his was an employee of a local library (one that’s in a small city of the metro area, as far as I know they only have one or two branches). It turned out to be a no-go because the book wasn’t listed in something called the OCLC Worldcat database. They apparently use it exclusively with books they have in circulation.

I had dropped that idea of getting in the small library and focused on talking with the larger library system of the city I live in. I’ll talk more about that experience in the future, but basically their response was wonderful.

It’s possible that my library system was the one that managed to get the book listed in that WorldCat system. Maybe they have some type of membership the other smaller library doesn’t. If not, it is possible that CreateSpace just needed some time for their systems to push the data into there and presumably other large databases.

The whole process is a bit hidden in layers of unknowns, but worth researching in the future.


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Free Ebook of Creator Sky!

From now until July 9th, my science fiction novel called Creator Sky is free on Amazon as a Kindle Ebook.


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Continuous Improvement

I feel that it is important to always be open to improvement. The desire to improve can come from simple or elaborate reasons. Who doesn’t want their works to be well known and well received? Do you have a big plans for something you are spending countless hours on? Do you simply want your work to be the best it can be? Take those reasons and keep them at the forefront of reminding yourself that you don’t know, and will never know, everything about your craft. It doesn’t mean to give up, but to notice and take opportunities to generally learn more and improve your technique.

My history in writing has been very non-traditional. It doesn’t necessarily apply to the novel writing that I’ve been doing more of lately. A lot of it is based in the Internet. From reading numerous articles for the enjoyment of learning to writing articles and content for the websites I’ve created over the years. A lot of them were informational or instructional, but others were journal based. A few of those I’ve turned into books, or at least used them as content sources. I did have a few composition classes in college that were really memorable to me thanks to a great teacher, but like I said, it’s been pretty non-standard.

I have a few mental walls that I am working toward lowering. At least these are the few I’ve been able to notice or are prominently placed in my mind:

  1. I’ve felt that I don’t want to influence myself in ways that could be bad by reading novels. I’ve read a small few over the years, but I’ve never been a novel reader. This is generally poor thinking if I want to make something that appeals to a wide audience. I want to walk a fine line here to keep my natural ways and also incorporate standard well-received techniques that traditionally published writers use.
  2. I’ve not put much effort into improving my technique from a technical standpoint. I have a composition book I need to get back into and a few other sources for this.
  3. Finding support. I am a very (very) independent person when it comes to some things. I’d like more feedback and to just generally talk with people interested in this.
  4. Figuring out what has worked for people who have been successful in the standard publishing industry. Though, self-publishing and other forms are important to me, I’d like to get more into the traditional side of things.

Occasionally, I visit the local “Half Price Books” outlet store. They have extremely cheap used books. The challenge is finding books that I consider useful to me in the multitude of stuff that are likely not the most desirable seeing as they ended up there. The main issue for me is lack of space and finding the time to read what I buy.


I picked this older¬†(circa 2003) book up called “The novel writers Toolkit” by Bob Mayer. There were a few similar books, but this one had a good feel to it while skimming. I’ve been reading it before I sleep since then and have started to gain new insight. It’s interesting that a lot of what I’ve done fits within his suggestions. Other suggestions such as reading best-sellers and breakout novels, with a mindset of analysis and deconstruction of their techniques, is something I’ll have to work on. So far, it’s been insightful even though a few things related to the current state of technological tools when writing is dated.

That’s it for now as I’m in a bit of a rush, but there is a lot more to be said on this subject.

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Refining my self publishing process.

This all came about when I decided to try voicing my first Creator Sky book to make an audio book. By the time that I got to chapter 4, I was seeing various issues with the text flow when read out loud. Because I want the text to be the best that it can be, I decided to revise it. It might have introduced new typos, but I felt it was necessary. I added some additional flair to sections and also simplified some odd wording that doesn’t work well when spoken.

Throughout the editing process yesterday and today, I refined the technical aspects of my self publishing process.

The first step was to revise the Google Doc. I went back and removed all formatting I had in there. Before I (re)figured out the entire publishing process, I had formatted my google doc with a non-standard page size as well as other anomalies that were not needed and ended up making the entire process more time intensive (unnecessary page breaks, wrong heading types, too many spaces between chapters, etc).

For Google Docs I format the document like this:
1. Leave the page size as standard, it doesn’t matter.
2. Do not manually use tab in the document.
3. The book title is at the top of the document with “Heading 1” applied to it.
4. Chapter titles have “Heading 2” applied to them.
5. I justify chapter text (only for readability when writing)
6. I use the “first line indent” feature (only for readability when writing, see graphic for details)


You do #6 by dragging that first line indent rectangle to your desired position. I just do half an inch. It isn’t going to be how your final result is going to look, because I still do that in Libre Office. I do this because it makes things readable while writing or editing.

Once I finished editing the text, I move on to the export. (oops: Another tip is to try to use multiple sources to spell check. I rely heavily on computers fixing my spelling and ended up using a lesser known spelling of monologue [monolog] that Docs and Libre Office didn’t pick up on, but WordPress’s post form did… Going to leave it for now because I already re-submitted the text to the publishing services.)

I export the text from Google, as I did before in my previous article, by exporting in odt format that Libre Office reads. I also do the same new-document and copy-paste special as unformatted text routine to get the cleanest output as possible.


In this case the entire text needs to be reformatted with headings and body text formatting. The main difference here is that I adjust the styles (Styles and Formatting, F11) I had used in Libre Office by setting the font to Times New Roman instead of the default because LuLu doesn’t support it. All this does is avoid their auto-conversion to the default font. Not needed, but limits any unintended results.

For the “first line indent” style in Libre office, I change the font but I also change the “Alignment” to “justified” that saves me a few extra clicks for each block of chapter text.

From that point on, I have a clean formatted odt that I submit to Lulu as usual.

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More talk about Google Docs (Drive)

Let me count the ways I find Google Docs (Drive) useful:
1. A centralized location for my texts as I work on them.
2. Easy to access from many types of devices.
3. As long as you keep it up to date, it’s your go-to source.
4. Seems pretty good at spell check and grammar.
5. Basically an off-site backup to any copies of the text you have locally (backup to as many services as you can, you will thank yourself someday).
6. Potentially offer it up in read-only/comment mode for someone to offer their thoughts on or proofread (haven’t done this yet). You can share to individuals or with a custom generated link that’s basically private yet publicly accessible.
7. It completely logs your revisions. You can go back and view them or do whatever else. It’s similar to revision control systems often used in computer programming to track source code files (I use a GIT server myself quite a bit for personal/business projects).

It isn’t perfect. Output from the service, at least for me, requires some revision in Libre Office before I’ve been able to submit it to any type of publishing service. As I mentioned in a previous post, I usually export as “.odt” and then just copy/paste that as unformatted text into a completely fresh document.

My biggest thing lately is relaxing at a restaurant and using my smart phone to edit, write new text, or take notes of ideas that I have. The goal is to chip away at that task until it gets done.

Along with Google Docs, Microsoft’s OneNote service is a good option as well.

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Website CSS style adjustments

I’ve further adjusted this site’s Style Sheet code so that posts and pages have separate formatting. My posts didn’t work well with indented paragraphs, but I wasn’t separating the CSS code between the two. I was able to create a “class” for the pages so that I could keep indenting (text-indent: 3em) on those, but have normal spacing on these posts. It looks a lot better. I’ll have to think about future writings that will allow me to have book styled formatting on only specific posts. I think it will be as easy as adding a div tag with a special class to each post.

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