Learning Curve: Vector Drawings

One of the things I’m going to need are scalable vector images. Mostly I’m working with black and white photographs for the book itself, but there are a few things for which I will need vector images.

One is the format for the title of the book. It will include the name of my blog, 5 Acres & A Dream, and I thought that for the cover and title pages, it would be nice to use the same font.

blog_title

I could certainly do this as a jpg image, but if I want to change the size of the image easily, vector would be better than raster, or bitmap, which is what jpeg images are. A vector image is created differently, so that it is easy to change the size, or scale, of the image. A raster or bitmap image is made of pixels, little dots. Because of this, changing sizes of the image also changes its clarity. The larger jpeg images are sized for example, the fuzzier they appear. I could scale the title as a jpg as needed, but it would take more steps.

What I cannot do, is use the font as text, even though my word processor recognizes it. From what I’ve researched, printers use standard fonts, hence this one would not render properly as text. It would be converted to a standard font. As an image, I can get the look I want, which will help keep the book visually consistent with the blog.

The other purpose I have for a vector drawing program, is my publishing identity, Kikobian Books. I need a logo and scalability is a must. I haven’t even started on that, however.

Using a vector drawing program though, is a learning curve for me. Because I use Ubuntu Linux for my operating system, my choices are different than for say, someone who uses Windows or Mac. I have found two such programs, Xara Xtreme and Inkscape, and both are available in the Ubuntu repositories. Xara Xtreme, however, is configured for the Unity desktop, which I do not use. I prefer Xubuntu’s Xfce desktop environment. That means I’ve been concentrating on learning Inkscape.

For the record, here are the best resources for this I’ve found so far:

I’ll add more as I find them.

Why A Print Book?

There seems to be quite a bit of encouragement these days, for self-publishers to produce their books as e-books or in a Kindle edition. Perhaps it’s my age, but I do not find these recommendations the least bit enticing.

Perhaps it has to do with not particularly liking to read off of a screen for hours on end. Or the fact that I can’t flip back and forth easily to things I want to reference. Perhaps it’s fond childhood memories of riding my bike once a week to the public library, of pouring over titles in the stacks, of carefully choosing what I wanted to read. I was an avid reader as a child, usually reading three or four books at a time, depending on my mood at the moment.

Perhaps, though, it’s how I view the written word. A good book, a good story, good information, is a work of art. It deserves a place in permanence. The computer world is not permanent. A glitch, a hijack, a virus, a wrong key hit, a power outage at the wrong time, can wipe it all out.

There is something sensually delightful about a print book: the feel of it in one’s hands, the smell of it, the interaction with it as one turns the pages. It makes a book a real thing, a tangible thing. Shelves filled with books create a pleasing ambience, a calming atmosphere in a room. None of this exists with a screen and a keyboard.

Saving trees? There are some things I accept this argument for, for packaging only destined to be thrown away for example. But books? No. A book is a worthy destiny for a tree.

Those are the reasons I want my book to be a print book. I want it to be a part of that legacy, even if only a few people ever read it.

Building A Book

I have learned that there are many steps involved in preparing a print-ready book for the printer. Writing is one thing, but it’s only the beginning. Editing, formatting according to printer specifications, photos, cover design, pdf preparation, marketing; all of these are necessary to produce a print-ready book.

All of these steps can be obtained as paid-for services, either from one’s online printer, or by hiring professionals. I understand these can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars for the author, one estimate being in the neighbourhood of $25,000. This is fine, I suppose, for those who can afford it, or for those who do not feel knowledgeable enough in these areas and want a professional quality book.¬† I’m game, however, so I’m going to tackle all this myself with one exception, proofreading.

I am very, very fortunate that Benita has experience as an editor and volunteered to proofread for me. I always thought I had a fairly good grasp on grammar, but have been amazed at how many errors she has caught. Also I have my husband, son, and daughter-in-law proofreading for me, so I am getting feedback from several points of view. This has helped me not only correct problem areas, but clarify terminology and concepts.

Benita and her husband Scott are both familiar with self-publishing, another tremendous help. It means I have the benefit of someone else’s experience as I begin this daunting journey for myself.

All the chapters have been written, being based on my 5 Acres & A Dream blog. I did find, however, that writing a book is different from writing a blog. Blog posts are chronological, so reading through a blog is like jumping back and forth between topics. Consequently, I want my blog posts to be concise and pretty much complete within themselves, because not even regular readers read every post. Plus there are many one time readers who find me via a search engine or by following someone else’s link. Chapters in a book, on the other hand, don’t have to be that way because a book is reading differently than a blog. One usually expects to read a book from beginning to end. Putting related blog posts together required quite a bit of work to make the chapter flow logically.

The next step was to email them off for proofing. As they come back, I make the corrections and then start on the formatting: chapter number, title, page size, margins, etc. This has meant I’ve had to learn to use my word processor as I never have before. It’s been a lot of frustrating trial and error, but definitely worth the effort.

Next I add photographs. It’s true a picture is worth a thousand words, so I add the photos to clarify the text. Photos must be rendered grayscale and at a specified resolution (dots per inch). I’m hoping my photos will add interest and personalize for the reader, what I write. They not only give a visual aid to what I am describing, but I can give additional information about the topic as well.

After the photos, the formatting has to be corrected. This sometimes mean adding or deleting text to give a proper visual perception of the page. I actually feel fairly comfortable doing all this, because of my art background. I think I have a grasp on composition and balance. In addition, I’ve found online articles with tips and pointers, plus I have scoured many books produced by professionals with an eye to formatting details. I’ve noted little things that I have tried to incorporate myself. One suggestion that has helped, is to print out copies of my pages to see how they look. This has helped me with photos, and especially with diagrams. I learned that what is legible on a computer screen, is not necessarily legible printed out.

Once all the individual chapters are done I’ll put the chapters together to number the pages. Then I can begin writing an index. Also I have a few appendices in mind for related material. Another biggie will be cover design. Since I’m the publisher as well as the writer, I have the option of developing an identity as a publisher. To me, that means name, logo, etc.

Some of my chapters are tentatively done, some need specific details attended to, and a few are written only. Progress is steady, albeit slow. But that’s okay as long as I’m diligent, building my book one step at a time.

My Introduction to Self-Publishing

A number of years ago, my husband and I wrote a children’s inductive Bible study on the Book of Mark. I don’t recall what inspired us to do it, but we had a lot of fun: the lessons, the questions, and the illustrations. We did not really have an audience for it, other than our own kids, but the idea of having it published became foremost in our minds.

Submitting it to a publisher didn’t seem realistic, but when I found an ad in a magazine for a printing/publishing company, I wrote for information. I believe it was a standard deal for the time; the writer paid to have it printed and for a minimum number of copies. I don’t remember what that minimum was, but I remember that it would have cost us $6000. We didn’t have $6000 so that was the end of that.

Since I have started blogging, I have learned about online print-on-demand publishing. There is nominal upfront cost and no minimum books to order. The books are printed “on demand,” i.e. as they are ordered. The publisher retains the printing cost and has either a precentage they keep on each book, or an annual fee to keep the book listed in their catalogues.

On the plus side of self-publishing is being able to retain the rights to one’s own work including content and format, higher royalties, and no middle man (agent). On the negative side, the self-published author is responsible for delivering a print ready product, which, I am discovering, is a lot of work. Advertising and promotion fall to the self-published author as well.

In spite of all the work involved, I find that I love the process. It is a creative process every step of the way. I don’t feel like I’m writing a book, I feel like I’m building a book. Step by step it is beginning to take shape.

The Seed Is Planted

I admit that I’ve always loved writing and have, at times, entertained the idea of becoming a published author. Blogging, however, helped fulfil that desire. It wasn’t until fellow blogger Benita (BasicallyBenita.com) suggested that I use my blog as the basis for a book that I considered taking my writing a step further.

My husband was instantly supportive of the idea, as was anyone else I mentioned it too. That’s about as far as it got for a long while. But Benita kept nudging me, until at last I gave it a serious start. Even then it was very hit and miss in terms of writing. Gradually though, a purpose began to take shape. After letting it lie for almost a year I picked it up again, finally seeing how the whole thing should fit together. My motivation has kept me diligent ever since.

Why This Blog

I need another blog like I need another hole in the head. So why do I want an author blog? Firstly, it just seems that nowadays authors ought to have blogs. I’m not technically an author yet, because I have nothing published. I do, however, have a work in progress.

Blogs, though, are a good way to keep track of an interest or activity. They are a good way to challenge oneself; if I tell the world I’m going to do it, I’m more likely to actually do it. They are also a good place to store information. I’ve been researching writing and self-publishing, and collecting a lot of links. There are a lot of a lot of resources I want to keep track of and a blog is one way to do it.

I won’t promise to post here frequently, but maybe I can start to tell my story and how I cam to be writing a book. It will be a good way to keep track of my journey.