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The Perilous Pitfalls of Self-Publishing: Part 1 – Producing the PDF

I’ve been reflecting on the process of self-publishing that I’ve been through this year, and this was where I was at a few months back!

Well, as I finally return to The Road To Nowhere and attempt to ready it for self-publishing – something I swore I’d never do – I encounter a learning curve that’s not so much steep as bloody vertical.

One must prepare the manuscript and export it not as a simple PDF, but as a PDF/X-1a2001. So you need to produce this via Adobe Distiller or Adobe Indesign. Not, um, Microsoft Word, which is what I’ve used to write the book with. This is fine, I use Indesign all the time, but the work I use it for bears little relation to a traditional book, so I’m kinda lost. Last year I spent many hours searching for and downloading book templates, and giving up trying to get my head around them. I’ve tried again, and I’m still scratching my head, totally bemused.

“That’s bad luck and inexperience showing there Jim, and it’s Technology 1, Author 0.”

Oh well, I’ll try just create a normal page to the publisher specs and see what happens. Oh – that was easy. Cool.

“That equaliser came out of nowhere Gary, a lucky break against the run of play. Technology 1, Author 1.”

Well, I guess I just import the Word doc straight in now.

<noise of Gods creasing up with laughter>

Blimey, it worked first time, wow! I’ll soon have this done. Wait, what… oh… oh god… no.

“Disastrous defending Jim, but they just don’t have the ability to deal with that sort of class and I really fear for them now”

Technology 2, Author 1.

So the document styles I painstakingly set up in Word don’t import well. Especially if you’ve decided to be a smartarse rather than a novelist and use bullet points and numbered lists, not to mention about 150 footnotes like a poor man’s Terry Pratchett. What I should have done is attempt to be more like Tolkien instead, and stick all the footnote information in an enormous appendix at the end, or perhaps leave them out entirely and my youngest child can then issue a 12-volume scholarly review of outtakes, footnotes and early drafts many years after my death.

The trick is in fact is to set up the Indesign styles beforehand, which of course I don’t know how to do. After an evening spent importing the first chapter and playing around, I eventually get the hang of it. Maybe.

“That’s a scrappy goal but it pulls them level, they’ll be pleased with that Gary.”

Technology 2, Author 2.

Importing seems to be a no-go, but copy and pasting into my customised styles is pretty good. But I’m being cautious and going one chapter at a time – every time you make a change it filters through the whole document and computer no likey, no likey at all.

Problem is, the footnotes don’t wanna know, and steadfastly refuse to import in anything approaching a reliable fashion. So I’m manually inserting them from scratch. Yippee!

“That’s a classy goal to retake the lead on the stroke of half-time Jim, after some cynical play in the lead-up”

Technology 3, Author 2.

I genuinely thought this would be pretty easy, which is suggesting I’ve learnt absolutely NOTHING from the adventures in the book itself. What sort of text justification do you use, what on earth is the leading on the line, how the hell do you turn off hyphenation, kill me before I have to style format footnotes again, why the hell don’t the lines line up the same on facing pages, oh great that font has a shitty capital D I’ll have to find another and well that’s the formatting shot to bits. I mean at least I’m learning, but I’m a bit shell-shocked.

“They’re looking tired Gary, this could get embarrassing”

Technology 4, Author 2.

The thing is, you discover things one at a time, and every time you find and fix something, the whole document updates and you have to go and re-check everything. Bloody tiresome does not even begin to cover it.

Anyway I’m eighty pages in, and now have finally discovered what I need to do to get the lines lining-up across facing pages, and thus level at the bottom of each page too. So now I must once again re-check everything, inserting a particular break betwixt every single paragraph as I go. Urgh. But… I tentatively begin to, perhaps, consider the notion that amongst many plausible scenarios is the chance that it may be possible to come within reach of a potential situation by way of which I might get the opportunity to get this done.

“Into the final quarter now Jim, and it’s not over yet. They’re showing some fight, but it’s a long way back to get something out of this…….”

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