Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 26, 2014

Because it All Reflects on Me

Publishing is a business and everything I put out reflects on my brand. Everything. Even if it’s something outside my usual commercial writing sphere that few people will ever see.

Most of you know I successfully self-published a genealogy book for my dad’s family. It came out wonderfully, and I was very pleased. I decided to edit the book down to end with my grandparents’ generation (to keep personal information on living individuals private) and release it to the public.

I chose to get the book professionally copy edited, because no author can catch all his or her own mistakes. I did not hire a professional book designer only because I could not afford one. However, I did research the basic design mistakes of self-published authors that make their books look amateur and did my best to avoid them.

My genealogy book is clearly a niche book. I will be shocked if it sells even 100 copies. Because of the small expected sales, and because genealogy books even by the genealogy publishers are not exactly known for their book design, I felt that the business decision of not paying for professional design was a valid one. Had this been a book I anticipated having high sales numbers, I would have thought otherwise. However, knowing the expectations of my audience, I made a calculated decision.

Because, as a business, I have to decide how to spend (or not spend) my limited money.

Time is also money, as the saying goes, and as a business owner, I need to make another decision: How much time am I willing to invest in any given project to make it “good enough.”

After I got my copy-edited genealogy Word manuscript back, I made the changes, went through it one more time, then converted it into a PDF file. I added in all the photo JPGs, checked everything one more time, and then went through the final step of converting that regular PDF into a PDF/X-1a file, which is the required file format for Ingram Spark (and CreateSpace). I had done this exact process for my family’s edition, and it had worked flawlessly.

Then I uploaded the PDF/X file and waited for the e-proofs from Ingram Spark. I got them, and flipped through the proofs quickly to make sure all the margins and layout looked nice. It did, so I Approved the paperback version and ordered a hardback version for myself so I could see the cover prior to Approving it. I got the hardcover (beautiful!!) and happily pressed Approve. My genealogy book was now available to the public.

But.

A few days later, I was at my cousin’s house, and I pulled out the hardback to answer a genealogy question. And I saw something strange in the text. A weird space in a word. Instead of Census, it said C ensus. I flipped a page—d aughters. And another. And another. Odd spaces in random words littered the book.

At home, I pulled up the final PDF/X file. Yup, there were the weird spaces. I pulled up the regular PDF file, the one I had converted from. No weird spaces. I tried the conversion again. The spaces appeared again. To this day I have no idea why they appeared in this conversion, when they did NOT appear in the family edition version. It is a technical mystery that is baffling me. But I had to find some way to fix it, because I could not let the book stay out in public the way it was.

So I went into the PDF/X file and painstakingly found every instance I could of the spacing. I went through the document twice, and used the Text Touch-Up tool to fix it. It took hours over the space of several days. But I finally had a version with no weird spaces. I uploaded the new files—even though I knew it would cost $25 per version to change the interior after I had Approved it.

The second set of e-proofs came in and I vowed to go through the text this time, not just flip through. And I found more space issues. They were more apparent in the e-proof because the font was slightly thinner, enlarging the space between letters. I checked the file I had uploaded. Yup, there they were—not as glaring as the ones I had fixed, but noticeable now that I was attuned to them.

So I fixed the PDF/X again. More (but fewer) hours. Another upload (but this time no fee because I was still in the Approval process).

Third set of e-proofs. I combed through the proof and all was looking good—until page 167. I found a space I missed. And another space on page 304. And another on page 338. But that’s all. Just three spaces.

Did I go in and fix them again?

Yes, I did. (You knew I would, right?) And I also found another space I had missed, and a misspelled name that had escaped both the copyeditor and me. And then I uploaded PDF/X #4.

I am waiting for this set of e-proofs, but I think I have finally gotten to where this result is “good enough.” Nothing can ever be perfect, so there comes a time when you need to let it go. I am at that point (barring some glaring error) with this project. I have spent all the time I want in getting this as close to perfect as I can. No doubt some of you are thinking I have spent far too much time on it, given the small rate of return I expect. But I think my time was worth it. Why?

Because publishing is a business and everything I put out reflects on my brand.

Everything.

So I have to make it good.

 

What do you think? Am I conscientious or completely obsessive? When do you get to feeling that it’s “good enough”?

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Responses

  1. Those white spaces you mention bother me to no end – I had to deal with it when a company published Twilight Healer. I do mine on regular Word (then convert to PDF for CS) and found that there are ways of tweaking the spacing between letters so that the white spaces are few and far in between. I see so many misspellings /errors on books published by the big 6. On Steel Rose, there’s an error that two editors and I missed. No one’s perfect. But I try to make it the best than it can be.
    Barbara of the Balloons

    Like

    • Yes, it’s frustrating. I just can’t figure out why they DON’T appear in the PDF made from the Word document, but then DO appear when I convert that PDF to the PDF/X. I might have to write to Adobe and ask.

      Like

  2. I fully applaud your obsessiveness and think you have a sane process, though it may not feel sane. I start dwelling on insanity whenever I have to repeat any process that involves a chase (and I get upset at inanimate objects).

    You chased it down until you reached closure (and had no errors left). I think the concept of letting it go might have to come from the publisher’s printing, where you can’t change it.

    Like

    • Thanks, Matt. I think I owe my parents a big shout-out for instilling the work ethic in me that whatever you do should always be your best. To them, it never mattered if my best was better than anyone else’s, just as long as it was the best I could do. And that’s what I bring to everything I do–is this the best I can do? Because I don’t expect any less from myself–and neither should my readers.

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