I tried a hopeful experiment today: uploading a Scrivener-formatted PDF of Blue Daunia Issue #1 to Kindle Direct Publishing (henceforth referred to as KDP), for the purposes of creating a print-on-demand paperback.
Scrivener compiled the text beautifully, as I suspected it would. The PDF looks quite professional, with every-other page of text shifted to the left of the page and every other page shifted to the right (as to create the “gutter” of the book). The copyright page looks legitimate, as does the title page, acknowledgements, introduction, etc.
So I headed on over to the KDP website. The metadata from the Kindle book was intact, and usable for the paperback as well (I really like this aspect of KDP), so the first step was to create a cover. I’m pleased with the cover for the Kindle edition, but it just so happens that paperbacks also have a back cover as well as a spine! No worries, though, since KDP has a CreateSpace cover designer for paperbacks as well as ebooks (CreateSpace itself an Amazon derivative).
I experimented with a few of the cover options, using the same awesome image from Donna Chiofolo Photography which the ebook cover incorporates. I even managed to get the front cover looking fairly identical to the ebook cover. The back cover was also a breeze to set up.
But the pleasantries end there, and the headaches begin.
Whenever I click on the “Preview” button after designing the cover, it sometimes loads. It did so the first time. But I wasn’t quite pleased with a few minor details (one just has to be a perfectionist when it comes to things like this), so I clicked the “X” or whatever they had, rather than hitting Chrome’s “page back” button. I altered a few things, made some adjustments to the Title font and the font color of the back-cover blurbs, and hit “Preview” again. I got the “loading” spinny-wheel for about three minutes.
I don’t have the patience for that sort of nonsense, but I didn’t want to mess anything up, so I waited. Finally, after another three minutes (now a total of six), I got to see my preview. I still wasn’t quite happy with a couple of minor quibbles. So I Xed again, made the adjustments, hit “Preview” again. . . and an infinity of spinny-wheel ensued. After a cup of coffee and a few YouTube videos, fifteen minutes had elapsed. Spinny-wheel kept on spinning. I felt I had no choice but to hit Chrome’s “back” arrow.
It went back to the cover editor fair enough, but damn if it didn’t take four or five tries to get a “Preview” back up on the screen again. I know when it’s happening correctly because the correct procedure seems to only take roughly 15 seconds.
After the frustration of all of that, my cover was finally “Successfully Uploaded.” Yay! Next step, uploading the PDF file. That was a breeze. . . sort-of. Yes and no. Ultimately no. Let me explain. No. . . no time to ‘splain. Lemme sum up.
The uploading of the PDF file took all of 4 seconds, which seems about right. Now, on the KDP website, once you’ve uploaded a file as the body of text for your paperback or your ebook, you get the same message below the “success” blurb: “Formatting the File. Your Preview Will Be Ready For Viewing Once We’ve Processed the File.” Or something along those lines. The idea being that the program they use gets everything converted and then you get to take a look and see what it will look like to your customers before you finally click that “submit” button.
For the Kindle ebook, this process of formatting took about a minute to a minute and a half. Excellent. . . good on ya! For a paperback, this takes understandably longer as you’re dealing with various selectable trim sizes which you must ensure match the trim size of the compiled PDF, and other technical things I as a writer don’t like to worry over as well.
But when you’re waiting for over an hour. . . and you spend that eternity googling whatever search terms you can think of to see if it should be taking this long, and you’re sifting through forums and you find one in a hundred where someone else has had the same problem. . . the blood tends to boil just a bit.
Now take that boiling blood frustration and add this little gem to the equation: Finally, finally, the website says something different, other than the spinny-wheel of waiting. And what does it say? Why, “An Error Occurred During the Formatting Process, Please See Error Message For Details” of course! Because why not?
And what exactly did the error message say? Whatever it was, I could fix it. I could go back into Scrivener and make any adjustments necessary, and have a new PDF within 5 to 10 minutes tops (5 seconds if you just count Scrivener churning out a compiled PDF. . . the added time is on me, as a user, making the adjustments).
This is what the error message said: “Error.” That’s it. Just “Error.” No buttons to click, no tiny little down-arrow to hover over. . . just “Error.” What. . . the. . . .
Hey! Ya know what, I’m a fairly upbeat guy when it comes to things like this (he lied). And I’ve got nothing to do for the next few hours. I’m gonna look over the PDF as well as all the Scrivener formatting tabs, compile a new PDF just for the halibut, and try this again.
Two. . . Hours. . . Later….
Okay. It was a bad night to be a nearby blanket on the couch. I picked that blanket up and stuffed it over my pie-hole and still screamed loud enough to get a few neighborhood dogs barking. If self publishing were a video game, I would have broken the controller.
To be quite fair (and this is where I try to turn this post around, and hope that you as a reader will join me in not hating KDP), the “paperback” aspect of KDP. . . that whole side of it. . . is still in “beta” mode at the moment. Granted, it has been there for nearly a year if not longer, but it is still openly a testing-stages thingamajig.
I remembered this, suddenly, foolishly, dawningly (I just invented a word!), and I went there, to that mighty CreateSpace, and things seem to be going much better now.
It’s still a work-in-progress, because they have actual flesh and blood human-peoples looking over your PDF or whatnot, making sure everything is good to go, and tell you flat-out (or up-front, or other hyphenated words that sound immediate and open) that they will review your stuffs and respond to you within 24 hours during a business week.
Long story short (as if I haven’t surpassed that point in this post already), it looks like my dreams of holding a book I wrote in my hands. . . an actual paperback book with a barcode and a spine. . . might be coming true within a few days.
The moral of this lesson is as such: If you have an ebook, and want a legitimate paperback copy of said ebook, go to CreateSpace, and not KDP (which is supposedly powered by. . . CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon, who owns KDP. . . or something).