Unsharp Mask – Woot!

After what seems like forever, I was finally able to order my first print proof of Critter Tales. Besides checking things like page numbering, formatting consistencies, overlooked typos, or even blatant mistakes, this is my first look at the photos, both cover and interior. Like 5 Acres and A Dream The Book, the cover was too dark, but the interior photos were better than I hoped. Still, they all needed some work.

What needed to be done to most of them was to increase contrast. I do this with the “Brightness-Contrast” tool in Gimp. Both are increased to give a sharper contrast, which translates as better grayscale images in print. For the record, I’m increasing brightness by 30 and contrast by 20. Only a second print proof will tell me if this was right. I should mention that I save the adjusted image with a different name by simply adding a “b” to to it. I’ve learned the hard way to always preserve the original images, plus each of the changes.

Photos that were taken with a camera set for a sharper photo were the easiest to do, but some of them were taken as 640 by 480 pixel images for email or the internet. I’ve learned how to enlarge these by first increasing PPI (pixels per inch) to 300 and then resizing to, say, 4.5 by 3 inches. Most of the times that works, although some still end up looking rather pixelated.

I was researching this the other day, and learned about “Unsharp Mask.”  In Gimp it’s found under  Filters > Enhance > Unsharp Mask. It’s a tool folks use to sharpen photos that are soft-looking. For print, the recommended settings are 1.5 for radius, and 1.0 for amount. I’m leaving threshold at 0, because I don’t know what it does. I don’t actually know what any of them do, although I found an excellent article explaining it – “Understanding Unsharp Mask.” Once I’m not pressed for time, I’ll give it a read so I know what it is that I’m doing!

Here’s an example from “Kitty Tales” to show you the difference that the tweaks have made.

cats9_blog

cats9b_blog

After I finish tweaking all the images, I’ll order another proof. Hopefully no further adjustments will need to be made, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nifty LibreOffice Trick for Hyperlinking an eBook TOC

MS Word offers a split screen feature, where one can work on two parts of the same document simultaneously. LibreOffice doesn’t have that feature, but it can do something similar to make the job of creating an eBooks table of contents just as easy.

LO_nifty_trick1

By selecting “New Window” in an open document, a second copy of the document will open. I can create my bookmarks for the TOC on one

LO_nifty_trick2band create my hyperlinks with the other.

LO_nifty_trick3bChanges are made on both copies; I only have to save on the original. The beauty of this is that I can easily see which sections have been hyperlinked, and which ones haven’t.

A Schedule To Write By

For someone who likes  to sees herself as an efficient person, I have to say that that in reality, I’m anything but. While I was working on 5 Acres & A Dream The Book I was diligent to get up early to work on it (between 4 and 5 a.m.). I admit there were numerous times I felt like chucking the project, but I had committed myself to my editor, so I kept at it.

Between a love of writing and a little success (over 900 copies sold in less than 6 months), I’ve been wanting to do a companion volume based on the blog posts I’ve written about our animals: goats, chickens, cats, guinea fowl, llama, and puppies.  It’s been fun blogging about them and I’ve learned a lot. Plus folks do love critters.

This project has been approached with the same haphazard style as the first, but with a little less time committed due to other happenings.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it would be great to have it out by next Christmas, but at the rate I’m going, you can forget that.

Then I had a brief email exchange with fellow author and blogger Garrett Alley. He asked if I’d come up with a writing schedule for my second book. A writing schedule? Okay Ms. Self-Proclaimed Organized Person (I said to myself), why didn’t you think of that?

I decided to begin with just a small schedule, just a snippet of a complete schedule. If I can manage to stick to it, then I’ll expand and commit myself to the next steps, which would be the rewriting of the blog posts into chapters. For now, I’ve made a schedule for collecting a list of potential blog posts, organizing them according to critter:

      Week 1 – Guinea fowl – done
      Week 2 – Chickens – in progress
      Week 3 – Goats
      Week 4 – Cats
      Week 5 – Puppies
      Week 6 – Llama

That takes me through the first week of June. If I manage that, I’ll move on to step two, and make a serious schedule for the rest.

Gradually Expanding Sales Channels

I finally got listed on Barnes & Noble. That means my participation in expanded distribution is kicking in. On the one hand it’s good, because it means more options for people. The way the expanded distribution is set up, however, it means lower royalties. No matter, the point is to sell books. Not that I’m expecting to make my fortune, but getting it into the hands of others who like it is a rewarding feeling.

I also signed up to participate in Amazon Associates affiliate program. Apparently quite a few CreateSpace authors do this. It means that if someone clicks through on the book link on my blog or website and purchases the book, the associate gets a small percentage. The percentage is calculated on the entire purchase, which could be nice. For selling one to seven items through that link I can get 4%. If I sell a total of 8 items, I can get 6%. I confess I have mixed feeling about monetizing my blog, and have turned down every request for an ad or guest post I’ve received. Since this is my link, or links for products I’m pointing out to others, I’m going to give this a try. Again, no fortune, just content with every little bit that helps.