A Photo Optimized Version for a Smaller File Size

When I wrote 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, I had no intention of making it anything other than a paperback. That meant all the photos were prepared for high-quality print. And that meant a very large file, which was slow to upload (or download). Eventually, I turned it into a print replica for Kindle, but even then, the file size was large.

This wasn’t a problem until I needed to send some PDF copies to folks in various parts of the world. Even though I optimized the PDF as much as I could in Scribus, it was still a large file. Believe it or not, not everyone has high-speed internet.

Lesson learned. For 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel, I decided to make a photo optimized version from the get-go. Not that I’m planning to release it as an eBook yet (maybe someday), but so that I can get it to reviewers before it’s ready to print.

To do this, I’m making copies of all the book’s photographs in a lower resolution. For print, photos must be 300 DPI (dots per inch) to produce a clear image. Most internet photos, on the other hand, are 72 DPI. This would make a blurry printed image, but it’s fine for digital viewing, and is creating a much smaller PDF file size. Then, because changing the resolution also changes the print size, I have to resize each photo before inserting it in the desktop publisher file.

How much of a difference does it make? For example, chapter one at 300 DPI is 11.5 MB. At 72 DPI, it’s 1.2 MB. That’s a big difference. The photos in the optimized version aren’t as crisp as the originals, but I think they’ll do.

I admit this is another time-consuming step, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Eventually, I’ll format The Sequel for eBook, but that will take awhile too because I’d like it to be available for ePub as well as Kindle.

Even so, I’m getting closer. After this, I can get started on the index.

Read-Through Time

Before I’m ready to order a printed proof of my book, I need to read through it several times to catch errors and problems. There are a lot of little details to catch, so each time through it, I read with a particular focus.

My first read-throughs are in the desktop publisher (DTP).

Read-through #1 is for text continuity. The DTP is where I build and format each page the way I want it to appear on a printed page. I’m working with text frames, image frames, caption frames, and page numbering, which means there is a lot of tweaking to get a pleasing balance of images, text, and white space. If it doesn’t fit on the page; cutting and pasting are required. Sometimes I have to reword several sentences to make the paragraph fit on the page. On occasion, something gets omitted or doubled. So the first read-through hopefully catches all that!

Read-through #2 focuses on small text details. Everything must be consistent. For example, sometimes I wrote 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, sometimes I wrote 5 Acres and A Dream The Book. Sometimes I miss italicizing a book title. I check to see if all paragraphs are correctly indented or not. A paragraph continuing on the next page is not indented, so I have to check. Are the temperature symbols all formatted the same?

Read-through #3 examines photo captions. These are written as the images are placed on the page, so I go back to check them for accuracy, spelling, and punctuation.

Read-through #4 checks citations. Is each one notated in the text with a superscript numeral? Are the endnotes and bibliography properly formatted?

Read-through #5 isn’t a technical read-through, but it checks page numbers so it’s a necessary go-through. A mistake means all the following page numbers must be corrected! I also make sure the page numbers in the table of contents are correct; also any pages I reference anywhere else in the text. This is the last read-through in the DTP.

The next read-through is after I export the manuscript as a PDF.

Read-through #6 is to look for key words for the index. It also serves as a double check for all of the above, but my mental focus is on keywords. I make a list of these in a text editor. When I’m done with the list, I go to the tools menu and select “sort” to put the list in alphabetical order.

Read-through #7 isn’t technically a read-through. It’s to go through each of the words on my keyword list, and using “find” on the PDF, make a list of all the page numbers for the index.

After the index is built and I know my exact page count for the book, I can request a cover template. Once the cover is done, it’s time to order my first printed proof copy.

Read-through #8 is with the printed proof. It’s amazing what you miss on a computer screen but catch on a printed page! This is also when I make notes of images that aren’t printing well. Corrections of both text and images are made in the DTP, and another proof is ordered.

Read-through #9 checks everything again!

Hopefully, everything is perfect by that point! But if it isn’t, I continue working the process until it is. Only then will I approve the book for publication.

Progress on The Sequel: Interior Design

I always feel like the biggest job in building a book in writing the text. Then I start on putting the pages together! There are soooo many steps. Each image and text box must individually be sized and positioned on each page. All of this is done in the desktop publisher.

Periodically, I check for problems and correct them.

Once the chapters and appendices are done, I’ll add page numbers, make a PDF copy, and start working on the index. The last job will be designing the cover.

I’m just finishing up chapter eight, and have five more to go plus the conclusion and then the back matter. I keep reminding myself that it isn’t a marathon; to take my time and do each step carefully. Rushing results in mistakes and even though this is self-published, I want it to be as professional looking as I can.

Between this, planting, and other spring chores, I’m busy, busy, busy! Onward!

Article for Goat Rancher Magazine

Recently, I was contacted by the editor of Goat Rancher magazine and asked if I’d be willing to submit an article about choosing goats for a homestead. In exchange, they ran a free quarter-page ad for one of my books.

I was very happy to comply. Not only to promote one of my books, but also to promote my favorite breed of goat, the Kinder.

You can read the article in the March 2020 edition of Goat Rancher. More information on where to find it here.

Next Step: Images

The text for 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel has at last reached final draft status! The next text check will be when I review a printed proof copy. This is important because it’s amazing how things you miss on a computer screen. Yet, they pop out at you from a printed page.

Before I can do that, however, I need to prepare the entire interior book file for print. This includes selecting and optimizing the images for print, designing the book interior page by page, then designing and preparing the cover.

I do all of my image prep with Gimp Photo Editor. After I open the photo in Gimp, I follow these steps:

  • Image > Mode > Grayscale
  • Image > Scale Image > 300 pixels/inch
  • Colors > Brightness-Contrast > Brightness 30, Contrast 20
  • Filters > Enhance > Unsharp Mask > Radius 1.5, Amount 1.0, Threshold 0
  • Image > Scale Image > width 1350 pixels (4.5 inches) or whatever final print size is desired
  • File > Export As > (.jpeg), Quality 100, Advanced Options > uncheck everything. This decreases the image size (kilobytes) as much as possible.

At this point, the images don’t look good on the computer monitor because optimizing them for print is very different than optimizing them for a screen. Anything that looks questionable can be run off on a printer at its desired print size. That gives me a fair idea of how it will look in a paperback and whether or not to replace it.

I organize the images in their own folders by chapter, and number them in the approximate order they will appear in the book. This is important, because when the photos pile up, it becomes confusing as to which one is next.

When I get my first print proof, I will be able to see how the photos turned out. I then make both image and text adjustments in a revised interior file, upload that, and order a new print proof. I repeat this until I’m satisfied with the proof copy. Then the book is ready to publish.

My record for proofs was 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. I ordered seven proofs, mostly because I had trouble getting the cover right. Hopefully, The Sequel will go faster than that!

Haiku Quintet

Clear sky, bright white sun
Brisk wind biting my cheeks and nose
Winter is still here.
Run to the woodstove!
Shivering from outdoor cold
Then I'm warm again.
Puffs of frosty breath
Ice caps on barnyard buckets
Robins heading north
Spring, yet not spring. Birds
twitter and chirp; winter lurks
behind the north wind.
Frost on the rooftops
Sun rises over pale blue
A warm day promise

In Praise of Beta Readers

Getting to the almost-final draft stage of a book always feels like an accomplishment. But that doesn’t mean the work is done. It just means that it’s ready for the next phase, that of making sure I’m communicating my thoughts and ideas in a clear and understandable way. That’s where beta readers are a tremendous help.

Since this book is a sequel to my first, one of my goals is that it read like the first. To make sure the tone and mood of the second book match so that the two fit together as if one book. Because of that, I asked folks who have read 5 Acres & A Dream The Book to have a read-through of its new sequel.

The feedback is starting to come in, and it is wonderfully helpful. My beta readers are catching things I missed and pointing out phrases and paragraphs that need clarification. This is exactly the help I was hoping for.

I’ve been collecting photographs for each chapter while they read. Then I’ll go back through the text and adjust it with the help of my beta readers’ suggestions. Then comes building the pages, one at a time! Step by step I’m getting there.