Monday, 6 March 2017

To Sum Up the Last Six Months...

Gird your loins and pull up a chair. Hello there. What follows will seem like a rambling stream of consciousness but don’t be fooled. Look closely and you will see more book information and updates than you can shake a stick at. It's all falling into place, or in the words of Liz Lemon, ’Life is happening’.

A bit of context first. Back in September, I read a bajillion blog posts and websites that talked about Ingram Spark. This is a Print on Demand company, that take your uploaded manuscript and front cover and send it out in book form to anyone who orders it. The book can be sold via Amazon, and they list on bookseller websites too. In theory, this means that anyone can walk into their local Waterstones, ask for my book, and it can be found by their systems and ordered. (I’m not sure I believe that, but the Internet tells me it is so.) 

Ingram Spark had some less positive reviews too. The main complaint from authors is that it is really hard to use. It’s an automated process so no one is there at the end of a phone to help when you are stuck. I thought about it, but decided to go with them regardless. My reasoning in these situations is basic but effective. I passed my driving test despite finding learning to drive difficult. Nothing I want badly enough can be beyond me.

Yeah right. My cocksure bravado was brief. It soon became apparent that Ingram Spark was oh so hard it hurt. In order to prepare my Word Doc to their specifications, I had to understand things like bleed margins, trim and how to embed my fonts. (The downloadable ‘File Creation Guide’ they provided was 35 pages long!) Once again I mithered Google to death and found lots of advice from people who had been there and done that. Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer website was invaluable. Between his articles and the readers’ comments, I learnt a lot. Also, it transpired that Joel Friedlander sold book layout templates into which I could insert my Word Doc. They were pre-set with Ingram Spark’s specifications and would save me from screaming ‘I hate technology’ into the silent void every few minutes. I chose the Pulp template as it was compatible for ebooks too, and happily paid my $59. 

It’s fair to say the template was a great investment. The process of uploading the Word Doc into it still took some time and could be a bit fiddly, but the guidance used terms I understood - phrases like ‘copy and paste’, ‘highlight’ and ‘insert’. A week or so later, I had a document that had started to look like the inside of a book. That in itself was a pretty good feeling.

The Pulp template from The Book Designer.
It's got chapters and everything.

The next sentence I am about to type will never be able to do justice to the levels of frustration I felt at the time - here goes. It took several more weeks to convert my book’s Word template into a PDF file (which Ingram Spark required) because every time I did, something would change within the layout and I’d have to go back to the template and move things around. A blank page would suddenly show up in the PDF that didn't look like it was in the template. Always at the end of a chapter, I would have to go back to the template, find the place the page had appeared in the PDF, and make sure the page break at the end of the chapter said ‘Section Break (Next Page)’ instead of ‘Section Break (Odd Page)’ and then re-save as a PDF once again. For a long while, every time I did that, a different issue would then appear in the new PDF, and the tinkering and re-saving process would happen again. This went on for quite some time and even remembering it now makes me want to have a lie down or eat a biscuit.  Or both.

Around this time I started chatting to my man at Portal – Design & Illustration about the front cover. Ideas and drafts of potential designs started being emailed between us over the weeks that followed. I was working on the interior file, he was working on the cover, and when both were ready, I could go ahead and upload.

Right. There’s the context. Now for the events of the past ten days. I know! We haven’t even got to the bloody updates yet. I fully understand if you need a toilet break or short nap before continuing. Do what you need to do, and we can regroup in a bit.

All back? Grand. Let’s continue.

The first thing that happened last week was that the front cover of Carry the Beautiful was finished. All complete with spine and back cover, and fully formatted to the Ingram Spark demands. I uploaded it to their website, and with a little bit of tension, waited to see it was all OK. It was! The front cover was accepted and was good to go. (Clearly the benefit of having a professional do it. Thank you, Portal – Design & Illustration!) It was now all left to the interior document. By this point I had played about with the template so many times, I had no idea if it still conformed to the Ingram Spark standards. I fully expected it to be rejected straight away, with a whole list of formatting issues to amend. But here’s the thing - it was accepted! I, Nicky Bond, with only grade 2 cello to my name*, had created a properly formatted manuscript that was now ready to print. It was 5pm and I had just made a cup of tea when I got the confirmation email. I did the only thing I could think of to celebrate. I found the dregs of an open bottle of Prosecco in the fridge and swigged away, as I silently congratulated myself on what IT literate people would presumably describe as ‘a piece of piss’.

*I do have some other qualifications, but they have been as equally useless as my cello skills during this whole process.

1. This was the moment of dual drink celebration.
2. Check out my dough proving in the background.
3. I am not 40, I just like that mug.

Ingram Spark was pretty much finished with now. They emailed me a proof to edit, which I did. (Obviously I found typos, because that is the law. There will always be typos.) Now it is waiting game for them to say when it is available via their distribution channels, i.e Amazon. 

They also asked me to choose a publication date. Apparently it can take a month or so to appear for sale, so I looked at the calendar and randomly picked the 7th April. I’ll just repeat that for everyone - CARRY THE BEAUTIFUL IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ON THE 7TH APRIL 2017. A date for everybody’s diary, there.

With the print version in hand, the next stage was the ebook. In contrast, this was a doddle and done within minutes. I uploaded my book template to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon’s digital publishing arm) and they converted it into the appropriate type of file. It was accepted, although quite sweetly they pointed out potential spelling mistakes it may contain. Most of these were not mistakes, rather onomatopoeic words - for example ‘bleugh’ - but it was nice that they did this, and gave me the chance to edit. I also had to upload a jpeg of my cover (no spine and back required now) and that was that. They then sent me a link to download a preview of the ebook.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not really an ebook type of person. Paper books are my preferred method of literary consumption. Yet look at the first page of Chapter One. This is what it will look like on your e-reader!
Zoom in closer for a sneak preview.

It was another moment in the midst of all the technological headaches that made me think, ‘Wow, shit just got real’. Sadly there was no flat Prosesso lying around that day so I just had to smile to myself a lot.

And so here we are. The last few days have been spent with me trying to write an author bio for Amazon that doesn’t make it sound like I have died. (‘Born in Liverpool in 1978…’ is the start of a paragraph that can’t end well.) I’ve also got a few more things to sort with how and where the paper version gets distributed.**

If you made it to the end of this particular ramble with me, many thanks. There were a lot of not necessarily interesting things to share, but after months (years?) of it all plodding along at a slower rate, it's super-duper to feel like it's happening now. Let’s all be upstanding and raise a glass of flat Prosecco to perseverance, bloody-mindedness and over-long blog posts.

Have a great week, folks.

 **If you are reading this to get tips on what to do (God help you, there are better sources of info out there), I’m looking at using Createspace alongside IS, as that seems to ensure constant availability. However, this article was invaluable in helping me understand which POD company to use and when.  Also, it's UK focused. A lot of information I've used is US based. This is not always a problem, but it needs bearing in mind depending on your location.


  1. 7th April is in my diary! What date will the ebook version be available? Thanks.

    1. It will be available on 7th April too. Thanks for asking! Over the intervening weeks I'll be giving a bit more info about the plot and themes. As a subscriber, you'll be the first to know. Nicky

  2. I've already pre-ordered the Kindle version at

    Can't wait!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I plan to use IngramSpark to publish my memoir (in a few months) and will print out your post to help slog my way through it.

    1. Thanks Linda, I'm so glad you found it useful. I would say Ingram Spark was worth all the headaches once I'd seen the finished result. Keep going and you'll have a gorgeous book at the end.