Mar 24 2019

Proof copies are on the way…

Rosemary

I finished the conversion of The Steerswoman to the larger paperback format, recreated the cover, and uploaded the whole shebang to KDP.  I’ve reviewed the result online… but you just can’t trust how things look on the screen, as I found to my chagrin on other books.  So, I’ve ordered some proof copies, to check how things look before I publish.  They should arrive any day now.

And the cover really does worry me… it’s not just an issue of making it bigger.  Since I’m going for a uniform appearance across all four volumes of the paperback, I thought it was worthwhile to try to fix some problems with the original cover.  And for that, I needed to redo it almost from scratch.

Here’s why:

The cover used on the smaller paperback was based on the cover image for the ebook — and that cover was created in something of a rush. I wanted at that point  (for various reasons) to get the ebook out as quickly as possible.  For the sake of speed, I simply took the actual physical version of the map that was used in the book, and plopped down a real gold chain, an actual example of the “jewel,” and a mobius band ring on top of it. Then I lit  everything as well as I could, and took a photograph.  The camera was just a  middling-quality digital camera, but amazingly, the resulting photo was not terrible.  With the help of the GIMP image-editing software I trimmed it to the right size, added a title and author name and voila!  Instant ebook cover.  On sale in time for Christmas.

 

Ebook cover completed in a flash.

Once I had that design, I did the covers for the other three ebooks using the same concept: Map showing where the action takes place; object from the storyline placed on top of the map.  I could not, however simply take another photograph for the other ebooks — mainly because things like redgrass and dragons do not exist in real life.  So I did the whole thing digitally, starting from a professionally-scanned version of the master-chart, and creating adding the elements as needed.

And as you can see, there’s a big color difference between the first book and the other three.  I discovered that it was impossible for me to reproduce the tone of the photographed map, and after much fuss, I finally settled on merely fading the map a bit, to keep it in the background so that it wouldn’t overpower the other cover elements. As ebook covers, they seemed to work okay…

When it came time to do the paperback of The Steerswoman, I went ahead and used the same photograph as the ebook as a base.  I added a black bar behind the title for better contrast — for a physical book, the cover looked too busy, and too bare with the letters sitting directly on the map.  And I removed the heavy shadows on the lettering.  Those shadows seemed to work for a strictly digital image seen on a screen — but on a real book, the effect just came across as sort of hokey.  It was much better without them. And once that was done, I did new covers with similar designs. I found that I didn’t need to fade the map into the background.  I like the result:

But what you can’t see clearly in the photo above (taken with a mere iPhone, after all), is the very real color difference that still remained, between the first book and the others.  It was still impossible to match the tone from the photo and reproduce the same color and tone onto the digital-image covers.  Because it’s a photograph.  I could not just select and block-change.  The color and shading alter, literally from pixel to pixel, in subtle and unique ways.  The best I could do for the other books was to get something close to the color of the top edge of the image, and have the image shade progressively darker toward the bottom.

But now, with a new edition — well, here’s my chance.  I figured I could recreate the cover of the first book digitally, and back-match the color to the covers of the other three.

Right? Problem: The ring, chain, and jewel are still a photograph.

I’m much more nimble with the GIMP software than I was when I first started using it.  I was able to remove the background entirely, leaving the ring, chain, and jewel.  It was insanely painstaking (pixel by pixel), but I got it done…

And then I used the digital version of the master-chart to create the a new background for the cover (with shading toward the bottom), and put the jewel there… add the bar, lettering, and back-cover blurbs,  and  —

 

Yeah, it looks okay on this screen.  But as I discovered with The Lost Steersman something that looks good on a screen can be very different when printed on an physical object.  When I have it in my hands, will the difference between the photographed element and the rest of the cover be noticeable?  Will it just look horrible in person?

And on top of that, the other books were made through CreateSpace, and this one was executed using the Kindle Direct Publishing’s paperback production process.  It’s possible that there are going to be slight differences between the quality of paper, the clarity of printing, even the feel of the book in one’s hand…

Yeah.  Gotta have that proof copy.

Oh, and guess what?

I literally just now realized that I selected the wrong cover finish.  I set it for matte instead of glossy. The other books are all glossy finish.

Damn.  Too late to cancel the proof order!  Pardon me while I go and reset that option to the correct one, and reorder a proof copy. And spring for two-day shipping.  Worth the cost.

 

 


Mar 20 2019

The equinox

Rosemary

Yep, it’s here.  Oops, there it goes.

Don’t worry.  Spring itself lasts for whole months!

 

Via Astronomy Picture of the Day, time-lapse courtesy of geosynchronous satellite Meteosat.   And a very nice view of what a geosynchronous satellite can actually see…


Mar 15 2019

Please don’t download from the pirates!

Rosemary

Periodically, people let me know about pirated copies of my ebooks being sighted in the wild.  Alas, it does happen, partly because I choose to not use Digital Rights Management restrictions on my books.  DRM-free is a moral stance, but you know: being good does not mean people won’t take advantage of you…

I have to send out takedown notices when I learn of pirate sites — so if you spot pirated versions, please do feel free to tell me about it!  (Thanks again, Barbara, for the latest heads-up!)   I have an automatic Google search set up  that often points me at the pirates as they pop up, but it’s not perfect.  It missed that last one in Canada.

And by the way — the most pirated version of my works is the omnibus edition of the first two books, that were combined into the volume called The Steerswoman’s Road.  And the interesting thing about that is that the only digital version that ever existed was one created for blind people using screen-reading software.  Yeah, think about that.    Stealing from authors is bad enough, but scamming blind people to do it?  That’s a new low.

As a general principle:  There are currently no free ebooks of the Steerswoman series available anywhere. If they tell you it’s free, they stole it from me.

In other news: Finally got free of that second bout of the same damn massive cold.  Living on DayQuil and NyQuil for days on end has little to recommend it.  Being weak and stupid gets old fast.

I’m still coughing, but not constantly, thank goodness.  And I made it back to my office  as of Monday, although I wasn’t much use until today, really. I actually wanted to go for a nice long walk on Tuesday, but when I arrived at the local linear trail (the only route I thought I could handle in my weakened state), I was hit with a massive coughing fit. Meanwhile, two women were loading a toddler into a stroller from the car next to me, and I realized that I’d be coughing my way down the trail more or less in tandem with them for the whole way.  I thought this would be unkind; even though I do believe I’m no longer contagious, they would not know that, and I’d inspire all sorts of worry on the child’s behalf and glances askance cast in my direction.  I didn’t want to just sit in the car until they were out of sight, so I gave up and went straight to the office instead.

Alas, my sister caught the cold, too, and has been miserable for the last few days.  I’m trying to be especially nice to her.  At least the pals who jetted to Florida one day after being exposed to me have managed to avoid the plague, and seem to be having a lovely time in the sunshine, according to their Facebook posts.

Meanwhile, I arrived back at the office, where I had left things over a week ago, thinking that I’d be gone just for the weekend.  Dead flowers!  Week-old trash not tossed out!  Piles of stuff everywhere — things I had assumed I’d deal with shortly, but I can now not remember what I intended to do with them.

I spent the last couple of days, as my brain slowly came back, dealing with all that.  Plus financial analyses and bills, before those get out of hand.

Happily, I find that the book cover for the full-size paperback of The Steerswoman was rather farther along than I had recalled, and I should be able to complete it in a couple of days.  And then the acid test of using KDP’s paperback generation software for the first time, which I am not looking forward to.

My next publishing task after that will be to finally update the ebooks with typo corrections!  I’ve been receiving notes from readers for the last few years, pointing out typos (and thank you all for that) and I’ve incorporated those corrections into the paperbacks (since that’s what I was working on at the time).  With that done, I’ll use the paperback files to create better versions of the ebooks —  exactly the reverse of how one usually does these things.  As is typical of me.

And looming: taxes.  Yow.  Multiple revenue streams equals high level of fuss and bother.  Well.  I’ll worry about that next week, when I hope my mental RAM and bandwidth will have recovered more.


Mar 7 2019

Revenge of the return of the son of the not-the-flu-but-might-as-well-be

Rosemary

Inexplicbly, that thing I had in January came roaring back.  I expect to be out of commission for about a week.   Catch you on the flip-side…