Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review Review Reviews

The most important thing your book can have are reviews.  People don't know your book exists and reviews is how they will not only learn it exists but become exited that it does and maybe buy it.  Ads don't work - people don't like ads.  What people do like are reviews to get them exited about a product.  There are a lot of dos and don't with getting reviews and approaching people to write a review.  If you are interested in a newspaper, magazine, blog, or writer to read your book and write a review, most likely 500+ other people are too, so think of a creative way to get noticed.

While my book is not with a well known publisher, I am doing all I can to get reviews even though I am obviously small-game compared to anything a well-established author can carry.  Sending to big newspapers would be a waste because they don't care.  I emailed a freelance writer who was laid off from a city newspaper about reviewing my book with a very nice email personalizing the book work and my unique title.  This person's response:

"Yes, I certainly know about The ******* decreasing its workforce. They laid me off in 2008...I just freelance for them now. And last year they stopped commissioning reviews...they have to use a prepackaged review page supplied by Tribune Co., which owns the *******.
  
So I cannot review the book, no matter how good it is...."

So the lesson is: any big name doesn't care about you no matter what. Think of a way around the wall.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

INTERIOR LAYOUT

As mentioned before, I chose 1106 Design to layout the interior of my book.  It took a lot of hunting but as I noted, this company offered many options all under one roof, which was appealing.  Plus, looking for a typesetter, interior design, book layout artist (all the same title) was a difficult task.  Internet searching and online postings do not lead to anything ideal, which is very surprising.  In fact, many of my postings online led me to email inquiries from people saying that are "awesome" with designing pamphlets.

While my blurbs about the cover design with 1106 have been rather unpleasant, this process was extremely pleasant and satisfactory.  In fact, this service made the cover design 2x as damaging since I started to see terrific results of the layout first, being amazing and delighted by the company before receiving any cover concepts.

The process was quick and easy.  I sent my WORD file and within a week they sent me two samples.  Each sample was the same random 30 pages of the book, each displaying different formatting options.  It was up to me to evaluate and gives notes: what option of each sample do I like best, and what, if anything else, do I want to see.

This was the first time I saw my book as a real book.  Albeit printed from a printer still on 8x5 x 11 paper, but it was formatted for 5.5 x 8.5 and the layout was in book form.  It was very exciting.  Reviewing the two samples brought up many issues I had not thought about - placement of book title per left page, what should be placed on right page (story title, etc) page number location, chapter intro pages, margins, positions, and everything else.  My comments were minimal and for the most part, laid within choosing between the options presented to me.  I only had three minor comments: I needed the interchapters to look more like interchapters, the font used to display the name of each story was tacky, and the voice of the alien entity in con-science was not CAPS enough to stand out.

The solutions to these three additional notes were simply carried out.  I emailed them SCALA-CAPS, the font for the title of each story.  I gave them a few ideas for the inter-chapters, which were carried out, and the con-science alien dialog was perfectly fixed.


A few more samples were sent to me over the next few weeks until there were no more question and no more comments on my end.  The entire process was nearly flawless and my updating of the illustrations (I found MORE crap on the illustrations that needed fixing) were easy swapped and fixed.

I am extremely pleased with how the interior layout/design was created and completed, which makes my experience with the cover design that much more confusing and depressing.  It would be quite interesting if the same person on their end did both jobs, but I'd guess probably not, but it's always a possibility.

If you are looking for someone to design the interior of your book, I would highly recommend 1106 so long as you stay clear of their cover design department.  My only suggestion for their interior layout is to be skeptical of their chapter font choices, as they were all bad fonts that did not look professional or creative, but as tacky curvy fonts that don't belong in a book.

MORE FUN WITH MY ILLUSTRATOR

It was a complete pain trying to get Antonio to send me things on time.  And by on time, I mean at least one a week.  Initially with our determined deadline I was aiming at 2-3 a week, which after several weeks of not hitting that demand, escaladed to 5-6 week.  It would vary between getting a complete illustration without need of any further editing to ones that were bad pen drawings that needed to be traced and completely re-done.  It was really getting on my nerves.  Either he would send me an amazing sketch...but a sketch and nothing more.  It was 72dpi (not 300) and 3" x 3" (not 8"x8") and it was an obvious scan and not a finished digital illustration.  Plus, to make matters worse, they were also all flattened images, most of which had distinct borders. 
 
To clarify, I needed the backgrounds to be transparent (non-existent) but many of the images he sent me were off-white, which would show up when printed.  This meant that the majority of images sent to me I had to zoom in 400% and trace them, then delete the background.  This became even more problematic when I wanted to use the background, but needed to edited both the background and subject - but since they were flattened, it turned it into a timely editing challenege.
 
I also requested that the illustrations be borderless, which means that they would be free floating on the page vs. something that was cut off by a border.  Below are some of the many furstrations I dealt with when preparing the illustrations I received verse the final rpoduct after hours of editing.
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH OFF-WHITE BACKGROUNDS
(with ALL PICS, please click to enlarge)
 
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH LOW-RESOLUTION FILES
 
 
 
 
 
PENCIL SKETCHES VS FINAL DIGITAL IMAGES
 
 
 
 
 

PROBLEMS WITH BORDERS
 



 
OVERALL PROBLEMS IN MOST ILLUSTRATIONS

 
 
 
 
Lastly, I want to point out one of my last frustrations - wasting my time with pointless humor.  While I don't regret for one second Antonio doing these illustrations, he really pissed me off, and this final pointless act really tested my patience - adding stuff as gags and for his own amusement, knowing that they could not be used in the book.



While some were funny, some where not.  In fact, some were damaging, which might be funny if they didn't take an hour of detailed design to carry out.  So while adding a McCain Palin sticker to the hillbilly farmers outfit was a funny gag (and only took me 5 minutes to delete) he decided to add somepletely insane crapthat not only took him a long time to do, but took me even a longer time to erase.  And it only got worse when he didn't follow my directions to begin with and after me asking him to go back and get me what I originally wanted, came back even worse. 





 While I could go through each of the 37 pictures and explain what additional work I had to do to complete them, I think the above sums up my frustrations.  I truly think I spent more time cleaning up the pictures than he spent making them.  ON THE OTHER HAND, yes... it was worth it.  I am SO HAPPY with the illustrations in this book.  Antonio is a true talent and while I have plenty of things to complain about, I have more things to rave about:
1 - He did this for very little money upfront
2 - His illustrations look amazing
3 - His illustrations gave my book exactly what I needed and will surely help it sell
4 - Any other artist would not have produced such neat illustrations and surely would have cost a LOT MORE

Going in to this process, I knew it would be a struggle to get things in on time.  I did NOT think I would have to heavily edit 25+ of the 37 illustrations.  I knew the entire time it was worth it, and it was.  Amazing Stuff.