Saturday, October 26, 2013

Eating Stale Bread

If you heard a long and loud primal scream last Tuesday at about 5 PM, it was me opening to the first chapter of the hard copy Proof for my Create Space book. Two errors on the first page.  No, not huge, not life-threatening, but there they were.  Capital letters on the word math.  Twice!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I do know my grammar rules. (Mostly.)  And I'd given due diligence to choosing my two last minute cold readers, and I had total faith that my manuscript was error-free when I pushed submit.  But there they were, two errors on the first page.  And I knew better because I'd already changed a few "Math" to "math" in other parts of the manuscript. I thought I had them all corrected. 
I proceeded to whine.  Is it that bad?  Wouldn't they just be overlooked by a "normal" reader? (Apparently they had been.) Aren't a few mistakes OK?  Itsy bitsy ones????
Even though I was anxious to get this project done, my gut told me the answer.  Nope.  No way.
Would I have considered leaving the upper case "M's" if they'd been buried in the manuscript?  After all, the reader would be so "rapt" up in the story by then, they wouldn't care if it was a Math book or a math book, right?
Maybe it's like leaving the restroom with your skirt flipped up and tucked into the top of your panty hose.  Everything's OK, la la la, until you notice.  And once you notice, there is no reversing the embarrassment--even if you somehow managed to get the skirt flipped down before anyone saw it.
Up until I jumped into this self-publishing project, I've made it a policy never to read my books in their entirety once they're out in the world.  Probably for the same reason as what I just explained with this proof.  Some ugly error would rear up and bite me.  Also, by the time I've read a story, book, novel, poem over and over and over through all the early revisions and edits, it's like eating stale bread to read it again.
But after finding those two errors, I decided I'd better eat the stale bread one more time.  This was a proof, and changes could still be made. (for a fee)  I called Create Space the next morning.  (Have I mentioned how wonderfully responsive they have been on the phone?)  I asked about costs of changes, and for 1-10 small corrections, it was only $35.00.  Whew, I could afford that.  After all, it was half the price of an hour session with a psychiatrist. 
A deal.  And my husband was right when he said,"You'll feel better in the long run."
So the long run means, another seven day wait for Create Space to turn it back around to me.  Aggravating, but I'm still alive and breathing. 
And, once I wrapped my mind around the fact that stale bread was on the menu, I settled in to read the rest of the book one more time.
Here's what I found: a missed word, "the" and a repeated word: "a".  I also found two missing commas before the "and" in a compound sentence.  We can argue about this necessity, but I decided if I was fixing things, I put them in. I also found a quotation mark turned the wrong way, and a place in a quotation where I needed the punctuation inside the mark.  (It's the British and American thing that sometimes throws me because on some things the Brits make more sense.)
Oh, one more thing.  In the printed proof, there was a comma where a period should have been.  I checked my manuscript, and I had a period on my copy.  It was some kind of a printing fluke, I guess.  I made note of it when I sent the manuscript in for the umpteenth time and hoped for the best.
 The moral of this blog is, "Eat your stale bread." And if you happen to read the finished copy of this book and find any more errors, don't tell me about them.  Or humor me with a kind note that reads something like, "I think there was a little fluke in the printing."  I swear by the example above that it can happen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Pudding is in the Proof

I clicked the button.  Submit.  My hand was only a little shaky this time, and if I decide to do more self-published books with Create Space I might even get used to quivery feeling in the pit of my stomach before I click.

Book Cover by Shannon Chandler Gross. 
Ask if you'd like contact info.
 In my last blog, I mentioned that the next step after approving the mock-up was the Interior Proof stage.  This is when all the samples from the mock-up are put together into a complete book with lay-out, total page count, the way it will look when it's printed. You still have an opportunity to make changes at this point, but if they are changes that greatly affect the layout, then from this point on they cost extra.

I was ready for the final read of the proof. I did mine in chunks so that I was wide awake and didn't go too fast.  I caught a few mistakes that had been overlooked when I submitted my completed manuscript, but also couldn't resist making a few word choice changes.  When I did this, I kept them to a minimum and made sure they didn't add lines or change formatting.  If, letter for letter, I could make a replacement with a better word, I felt great. Or, as in one case, "great" became "swell."  Pretty silly change, but it fit better with the time period for the book.

It was actually a surprise how many little things cropped up, and it's a testimony to the concept of how a little stress can sometimes be good.  Stress and focus!  I probably mentioned earlier that I opted not to hire a professional editor, so this is where the hand started trembling over the submit button. (I'd only had coffee to drink.)

I decided, at this point, a couple of cold reads would not be a bad idea.  Yes, it slowed things down, but I figured it was worth it.  I asked my aunt Marlene, a retired librarian and avid reader, to read for me, and another friend who'd mentioned that she was good at picking out mistakes when she reads. 

True to her word, Jane found an comma after the word you're, but that was it. And my aunt made a couple of suggestions but didn't find anything that would stop a reader.  This is not to say that it's perfect.  My husband would say I've goofed up on a few of my comma rules, but on this, we agree to disagree.

Being queen of the project, I deemed the book finished and uploaded the revisions.  It would be seven more days before the changes would be incorporated.  Tick tock.

During this time I attended a writing conference, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI.  A friend of mine, Nancy Jurka, had her self-published poetry book with her, and we compared notes.  I watched her thumb through the book and talk about formatting.  I kept watching her open and close the book.  Blank page, title page, poems...  Blank page, title page, poems...

That blank page at the beginning started niggling at me.  Is that something I'd taken for granted would be added?  Did I need to give instructions for it?  The first page of my book started with the title page only.

What now?  I went home and started looking through my previously published books and other books in the house.  All of them had a blank page or a pre-title page before the "real" title page.  I sent a message to the design team at Create Space asking about adding the extra page at the front.  I also asked about what kind of a delay there would be, and was told that once I received the next proof, I would have to send it back again to have the blank page added. 

Groan...   Another seven day wait, and the next proof wouldn't arrive for a few more days.

I tried my hardest to convince myself the extra page wasn't needed and even went to a book store to peruse the shelves. Many of the books there started with just the title page. I tried to convince myself that it looked OK.  But the other books looked better.  The extra page at the front gave them a more professional look.


To shorten this story, my husband and I returned from a short trip and there was a phone message from the Create Space design team.  One of the team members had seen my email message and asked if I wanted to have the blank page inserted at the beginning.  Yes!  Not only that, they added an image to the front of the blank page, dressing it up a little more.

For the next steps, the cover will be submitted, and they'll send me my first copy.  For sure any changes after this will be costly, but I'm not anticipating any. There are a few things I'd would do over from the start if I had the chance, but for now, I'm ready to go forward and see where this publishing adventure leads.  I've clicked the button and my hands have stopped shaking.