Creating An Index

The most important part of a non-fiction book, in my thinking, is the index. Nothing is more annoying than a scanty one, nor one that didn’t seem worth the effort to do well. I confess it irritates me if, for example, I want to look up “cherry pie,” only to find that entry telling me “see pie, cherry”. It would take less characters to simply put the page number in both places!

Granted, it is a huge task, as I’m learning. I don’t think I could do it without my computer, word processor, and spreadsheet. Not as easily or thoroughly anyway.

My procedure is this:

  1. Read through each chapter and appendix, and make a list of words and terms on alphabetized index cards.
  2. Type the words from the cards into a spreadsheet.
  3. Click on A to Z order to alphabetize.
  4. Select all and copy from the spreadsheet. (For a list of the software I’m using, click here.)
  5. Paste into simple text editor to remove formatting.
  6. Copy and paste onto my book index.
  7. Next will be to put all the chapters into a single document. This can only be done once the proofing, editing, and last minute changes are complete.
  8. Then add page numbers.
  9. Finally, use the find feature on my word processor to find the terms in my index, and copy the page numbers.

True, this will still be time consuming, but I hope will be worth it for the reader.

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.


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.