Tag Archive | life hack

How to Format Paperbacks Without Createspace’s Interior Templates

Formatting is one of those things every independent author must learn to do.  For most independent authors this means learning the quirks of publishing with kindle direct publishing, Smashwords, and Createspace.

In the last five years since the initial publication of the first edition of “The Great Succession Crisis” I have published dozens of paperback editions, including an experiment with QR coded paperbacks connected to an elaborate website built around the Complete Data Files.

Across the years I would typically create paperbacks by first creating the kindle edition, then copying/pasting the contents into a pre-formatted template file generated by createspace for my chosen trim size (usually 5.06″ x 7.81″ or 6″ x 9″).  No doubt many of you do the same.

But what do you do when that template no longer works and scrambles your book content when you paste it in?

When this happened to me in February 2017 while publishing “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Five Acts” I went nuclear–as in the nuclear method of formatting where you copy your book into a plain text editor and then back again into MS Word.

On a regular book that uses the same basic format across every paragraph, the nuclear method is more or less a minor annoyance.  However on books like stage plays where formatting is rigid and complex, the nuclear method means weeks of tedious work restoring the formatting on a line by line basis.  I did this once; I will never do it again.

So what is the alternative?  Simple: change the page layout in your original kindle file to match your chosen trim size.

When making this change you want to go into Layout tab of Word.  You will be changing two parts of the layout:  page size and margins.

 

How-to-paperback-layout 3Begin by deciding on your trim size. The above graphic from the Createspace website shows your options and the page constraints of each trim size.

Next go into the Layout tab in Word and set the paper size.  This needs to match your trim size exactly.

 

How-to-paperback-layout 1

Finally with the page setup screen still open choose “margins” (also found at layout – margins – custom margins).

How-to-paperback-layout 2

First set “pages” to “mirror margins” generate the correct margin options of top, bottom, inside, and outside. Set your top and bottom margins to 0.75″, your inside margin to 0.75″, your outside margin to 0.5″, and your gutter to 0.13″ and apply to the entire document.

These margins are the same regardless what trim size you choose which is why setting your paper size first is so important to formatting your paperback.

Once both of these are set your document will change from its default 8.5″ x 11″ with 1″ margins that you are using on your digital book interior to the correct settings for your paperback — no separate template required and no scrambling of your book file. Create your front matter table of contents, copyright, and ISBN front matter as usual, add in whatever headers and footers you prefer, insert page breaks as needed, and viola! You are ready to save your book to pdf and upload for publication.

This method works equally well for both Createspace and Babelcube and should work with other paperback publishing platforms as well.

 

Formatting your book can seem daunting.  But with a little creativity and patience anyone can format a professional-grade paperback book.  It’s all in the layout!

 

 

 

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I love Ebags Packing Cubes

I move around a lot.  I also enjoy travelling (as long as my birds are well looked after).  I’m an old-school historian who prefers to physically be where history happened before I write about it.  This means I’ve packed a lot and have learned what works really well.

ebags packing cubesBar none, the best tool for moving or traveling are Ebags brand packing cubes available (no surprise) exclusively from ebags.com.  These cubes have been out for a while — I bought my first packing cubes circa 2002.  Though the buying options have expanded and there are some new sizes available today that were not available when I first purchased them, the quality has remained consistent and they’ve handled the abuse I’ve put them through over several moves since really well.

The classic packing cube (there are now ultralights which have slightly different features) come in slim, small, medium, and large sizes.  These can be purchased as a single four piece set (see left) or in sets of three of the same size.  There’s also a new slim set of slim cubes in three different widths (14″, 10″, and 6.5″). Since my wardrobe is primarily skirts and dresses, I do not find the slim set all that useful.  Most of what I wear fits into the medium and large bag sizes with the slim and small sizes working best for socks, underwear (bras fit very nicely in the standard 14″ wide slim cubes), and accessories. Since they come in several colours, you really can colour code for each family member, making it easy to organize and locate every thing for every one.

ebags shoe boxFor those situations where I’m actually packing shoes, there’s a nice shoe bag that holds a lot!  Depending on how you pack and the type of footwear, you can actually often put two pairs in the same bag and keep everything else nice and clean.

These essentials (standard slim, small, medium, and large cubes, plus the shoe bag) are the core of the product line and bags I’ve had for nearly ten years.  The classics are the best!

But there is a new member to this classic line that does really get me excited as a traveller: the pack it flat toiletry kit.  It’s the essential I didn’t know I needed.  After all, I’ve been very successful in keeping my toiletries in the slim cubes.

This toiletry kit is not bulky.  I use a designer brand toiletry kit for my cosmetics at home.  You know the type:  it’s basically a slightly elongated cube that is as high as it is wide and a little longer on one side.  I never take it with me on trips because it is so difficult to cram into my checked bag — and why would I when I have my slim cubes for the purpose?  This new toiletry kit lets me save my slim cubes for other things.  It’s very organized with a plastic lined left compartment and a slim compartment on the right.  In the middle is an expandable compartment perfect for putting my non liquid cosmetics and of course the main centre compartment that has two zippered compartments and plenty of storage for almost anything you can think of (see photo above). There’s a hook in the top for hanging on a towel bar which I don’t use; I prefer to lay everything flat.

Once closed, this kit lays VERY FLAT. It’s designed to cram into that tiny space we all struggle to find and it works really well.  I don’t have a trip coming yet that I know of and yet just a few hours after receiving my toiletry kit in the mail I feel compelled to fill it up and get it ready for the next trip — grab and go with only a few small additions needed — like medicines where it’s important to pay attention to use by dates.  I am really surprised how much it will hold.  I haven’t figured out the best place for my toothbrush yet — maybe you have some ideas for me?  If you do, just comment below!

As much as I love these for travel, I really love them for moving.  The cubes are DURABLE and you can put so much more than clothing in them though I don’t suggest abusing them; they are still made of fabric and their are limits to what they can do. But for organizing the small “day one” essentials (I pack these in my luggage sets so I can find them among all the boxes) they are fantastic. Cutlery, can openers, and basic utensils fit in the slim cubes with ease so you can find them immediately. Slim cubes are also great for tea cups and most coffee mugs. Layer a couple plates between clothing items in the medium and large cubes.  And of course pack these breakables with small clothing items and kitchen linens.  The same skills that make you a world class traveller make you a world class re-locator.

Where ever you are travelling to this year, I hope ebags packing cubes are part of your travel organization strategy.  Bon voyage!

 

 

 

The Great Purge: Spring Cleaning

It’s March and that means one thing:  SPRING CLEANING.

cleaningNow if you are like most people those two words send shivers up the spine far worse than anything our recent mild winter produced.  You may be thinking of this mountain of work and indeed depending on your household, spring cleaning may involve anything from simply tidying every room  (including scrubbing the shower, toilet, and every sink in the home) to something much more drastic.

 

For me, spring cleaning is the first of two yearly household purges where I look through everything in every cupboard and closet and decide what to keep and what to throw out or donate.  It’s been this way for the last two years as I anticipate moving overseas.  Because let’s face it:  the more stuff you have, the more it costs to move it.  When it comes to a long distance move, that becomes prohibitively expensive!

So here’s the standard I’ve adopted:

  • Anything expired gets tossed.  Some people argue that food, medicine, and cosmetics are still good past expiration dates.  I refuse to risk that.  My health is worth more than whatever the replacement cost is.  To help prevent food loss implement better storage plans where fresher items are at the back and older items are at the front of your shelves and cupboards.
  • cone threadAnything that is not worn or enjoyed at least ten minutes straight in the last two years gets tossed, donated, or downsized.  For example chinaware.  Keep only the number of place settings used in the last two to five years.  A family of four which rarely entertains using chinaware does NOT need twelve place settings. Purge it to one to two place settings above the number of people who live in hour household and/or you entertain regularly.  Likewise if you sew or enjoy crafts, go through your supplies and only keep the items or colours you actually use on a regular basis.  Remember that unused supplies often degrade with time.  Keep your stash fresh!
  • Throw out or recycle any electronics or small household appliances that no longer work — including holiday lights.
  • Digitize vital records (birth certificates, passports, etc.) and keep copies in a safe place.  Mementos should also be digitally copied so you can preserve them against loss (storms, moving, etc.).
1-1034d

Brother 1034D overlock machine.  I gave away mine as part of my spring cleaning because I no longer sew.

Most of the things you think you need and cherish you actually DON’T.  Does it really matter what your daughter got on a test in the third grade?  Do you really care how much money you spent on a pair of eyeglasses in 1992?  These sorts of things seem important when you file them away, but lose most of their importance as time goes on.   Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your stuff.  For example, I used to sew.  I don’t now and I don’t particularly enjoy it; it was my mother’s thing and not mine.  So I recently gave away my overlock machine.  I don’t need it and it was taking up a lot of precious space while being too heavy to move easily.  Same with fabric.  If you don’t have a project for it, either designate it to a project with a set deadline for completion or get rid of it.

Remember that space is expensive in both time and money.  Take this opportunity to purge your home of what you do not need.  You’ll be happier, healthier, more organized, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of your home.

 

 

Getting saucy for long haul flights

I’m flying to London!  I am so excited about the coming trip, a chance to get out of Pennsylvania and see at last somewhere I’ve dreamed about since childhood:  ENGLAND!

london-flag

Flying out of my local regional airport and connected at Washington DC Dullas, the main flight will be approximately ten hours in the air.  Door to door time: eighteen hours.  How much will United feed me?  A snack on the flight to Dullas and probably just one meal of unknown design maybe two hours into the main flight plus a follow up snack (if I’m awake to get it).  That’s a long time without food.

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on  bag has been with me on every flight I've ever taken.  It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

Following the advice of many travel blogs and my own flying habits since the airlines both decreased overall services and started charging for nearly all of the ones that remain, I plan on packing most of my carry on bag (oddly enough the one gifted to me for high school graduation more than 20 years ago) with FOOD.  After all, when I get really hungry, nausea tends to follow and no I really don’t want to deal with that on a ten hour flight!

Now yes, I’ve seen a dozen guides about using the carry on as the one and only bag — understandable given how much airlines now charge for a checked bag — but I’ve always seen the carry on as what I need on the plane itself and okay, fine, I’ll pay the fee to check my bag.  For me, this has two very important benefits:  1)  I am able to use the above soft sided carry on and keep it under the seat in front of me (important when you are short and cannot reach the overhead bins), and 2) I have much more flexibility about what I can and cannot bring on trip because many items not allowed in carry on luggage are allowed in checked luggage.

For me, using the checked bag is just less hassle.  Plus on most international flights, the first checked bag is FREE.  So use it and keep the carry on to stuff you actually need close at hand during the long flight.

This established, here are some key things I’m bringing:

Pack medicines and first aid kit into the carry on.  Band-aids, prescription medicine (B2 & Feverfew are dr. prescribed for me), motion sickness pils, and anti-allergy pills are critical.  I also packed plastic cutlery, a seafood fork for my veggies, and a soda can opener.

Pack medicines and first aid kit into the carry on.

napkin power strip

  • Band-aids.  One is in the photo, but I packed about 20 in assorted sizes.
  • Any supplements or medicines you take daily.  For me, B2 and Feverfew are prescribed to control my severe chronic daily migraine.
  • Anti-allergy pills.  Often packed to help you sleep on the plane, this is obvious to anyone with a food allergy.  No, I don’t care to die mid-air!
  • Motion sickness pills.
  • plastic cutlery
  • a seafood fork — yes it’s metal, but it’s TINY and likely to pass the TSA.  And if not — it was cheap and I can throw it away.
  • A soda can opener.  Especially when I really need a beverage I have difficulty opening bottles and cans!
  • A linen napkin.  Linen is durable, washable, and less hassle than paper choices.
  • Travel power strip (people love you when you share)
  • Comb, hair pins, and pony tail holders.

That is all the front pocket stuff I’m bringing.  On the outer back pocket goes a folder with photo copies of my passport pages (as recommended by the US State Department), my state issued identification, original copies of key documents, and a print out of all important names, addresses, and phone numbers. Adding a copy of both outbound and inbound flight information is very helpful too, especially traveling out of the US so you can prove when you are returning to USA.  My outer pocket also holds my in flight reading material which I want to keep close at hand.

All this is pretty mundane.  But what about food?  That is, after all, the bulk of what I’m bringing in my carry on.  And what about the TSA 3-1-1 rule which limits liquids, gels, and creams to not more than 3 ounces (100 ml) per item and not more than what fits in a sealed 1 quart zipper bag?  Since most of the usual items are in my checked bag, this is filled almost exclusively with foodstuffs.

1 oz tupperware cups for allowed foodstuffs and 2 oz disposable salad dressing cups for USA only sauces and salad dressings readily fit in your 1 quart zipper bag.

1 oz tupperware cups for allowed foodstuffs and 2 oz disposable salad dressing cups for USA only sauces and salad dressings readily fit in your 1 quart zipper bag.

Here you want to be thinking about what is allowed within the USA and what is allowed at your destination — the UK in this case.  Under UK law, no meat or dairy products may be brought in from a point of origin outside of the EU.  That means that anything I bring for consumption on the plane itself has to be thrown out before I land at Heathrow.  The solution:  disposable salad dressing cups (2 oz.).

As you can see from my TSA bag, I have three 1 ounce tupperware containers which I’m using for pickle juice (a common muscle spasm remedy). Two disposable salad dressing cups will be filled with ranch dressing and thrown out during my flight.  My one ounce hand sanitizer also goes in there per TSA rules.  Hand sanitizer is an effective eyeglass cleaner, believe it or not.  Finally I’m including a small tube of toothpaste as a just in case.

jerkyapricotsThese of course go into the main section along with zipper bags of fresh mushrooms, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, and perhaps some broccoli if it’s fresh at the store.  Fresh veggies are a great choice for long haul flights because 1) they are healthy, 2) their high moisture content helps stave off jet lag through hydration, and 3) they are not messy to eat.  In addition, I’m also bringing trail mix, dried fruit, and a bag of beef jerky (which yes, must be consumed before I land in London).  Two empty bottles for water also make the essentials list.

And then what?  That depends on remaining bag space.  By focusing on in flight needs, I lighten my bag, make it easy to keep under the seat in front of me, and reduce my travel stress.  That makes a truly bon voyage!

Reblog: An Active Author Brand

Today’s book marketing post comes from Richard Ridley of Createspace.

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If I had to describe the key to succeeding in indie publishing in one word, that word would be “active.” For a profession that involves a great deal of sedentary activities, those who rest on their laurels find it very difficult to sell books on a consistent basis. You have to keep moving in order to grow your author brand. Here are the three crucial areas where you should concentrate most of your activity:

 

ABW – Always Be Writing: If you want to get noticed, you have to have a track record in today’s publishing world. One book will most likely not help you gain widespread notoriety. You need multiple books to create an author brand that will get you noticed and bring in the sales.

 

ABM – Always Be Marketing: You can’t have books on the market today without an author platform. A platform is simply your online presence. That presence in today’s digital age includes your own website/blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And this presence requires you to be present in order for it to be effective. Contribute to your online presence multiple times a day.

 

ABI – Always Be Interacting: When you have your platform up and running, your readers are going to reach out to you. Don’t ignore them. Interact with them. Let them know how appreciative you are for their support. The more you connect with them, the greater the support they’ll give you.

 

The world of indie publishing is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It requires boundless energy to succeed. It requires that you be active.

 

-Richard

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

Repost: How Not To Request A Book Review

negative emotion isEarlier this week DA Bale sent me her blog post from BookDaily.com on what NOT to do when requesting a book review.  As always I do not like anything phrased in the negative because that has you thinking in negative terms instead of focusing on everything in the positive.  With that caveat in mind, here is her post in full.  Enjoy!

———————————–

You’ve sent out hundreds of emails to reviewers. You wait. You wait some more. Months pass. Impatience grows. You’re tempted to re-contact to ensure they received your request.

Don’t.

Seriously. DON’T DO IT.

Once you’ve sent out that initial request, you’re done. Most reviewers only respond if they’re interested – months later. It goes back to the flood of daily requests and a day’s limitation of twenty-four hours. Cross it off your list and move on.

As a fellow author, I make a point of responding to every request to avoid leaving others hanging in the dark. Yes, my response is usually a canned email (I know yours is too). Yes, I turn down the majority of requests.

Here’s why.

1. Genre: It’s obvious when an author sends romance that he/she hasn’t taken time to read my instructions. I make it very plain I’m not interested in romance, erotica, or horror. My favorites are thriller, mystery, and suspense followed by occasional fantasy. Check a blogger’s likes and dislikes. We put lists out for a reason. Don’t waste time sending romance to a thriller enthusiast.

2. Book title: Missing. If a reviewer has to spend time searching a massive email to discern something that should be in the first paragraph, it’s pretty much going in the trash.

3. Author name: Missing yet again. It’s frustrating not to have any idea to whom you’re corresponding. Even email addresses are just cutesy with no sort of identifier. If you’re going be an author, create an identifiable author dedicated email. Then remember to reference your name at least once, even if only at the close.

4. Book blurb: Excluded! Many authors place a link to the purchase page or website and expect reviewers to click on it. Not happening. Then again, sometimes the blurb is simply boring, long and convoluted descriptions that don’t say anything. I’ve even seen a book blurb with another section to state what the book is really about. Seriously? If you need to describe your description, something’s wrong.

5. Honest review: Telling a potential reviewer you seek an honest review is like telling them all their reviews up to yours have been less than honest. Reviewers try to keep opinions straightforward without outside influences. Saying you want an honest opinion is a slap in the face.

6. Free book: You’re asking me to review your novel. Of course you’re going to give me one. Stating you’re offering a free or reduced price book projects an unprofessional image. I’ve even had authors send me the link to buy their book. Understand this if you didn’t already – if you’re requesting a reviewer to spend personal time reading and reviewing your novel, a free copy is expected. End of story.

7. I’m new: Quick question – would you ever say this to a potential client in your day job? Don’t short-change yourself. You may have been writing novels for five minutes or five, ten, twenty years and just decided to plunge into indie publishing. Approach a reviewer with confidence regardless of how long you’ve been writing. You’re a legitimate, bonafide author.

8. Accomplishments: If you’ve won awards for novels in your publishing quiver, a reviewer would love to know. If you’ve won awards for poetry, journalism, or employee of the month – in other words anything outside of novel writing – don’t mention it. It means nothing to most reviewers. Cold truth.

9. Other reviews: Emails pile into my inbox incorporating excerpts of other reviews a novel has received. Share these with family and friends – not potential reviewers. Goes back to number five about avoiding outside influences. Reviews are subjective, the opinion of the individual reviewer.

10. Links: Unless a reviewer requests website links in your initial correspondence, don’t include any.

11. Attachments: Once again, unless a reviewer’s guidelines specifically state to do so, do not attach your book cover, author image, eBook or PDF file with your initial request. When we want them – if we want them – we’ll ask.

12. Reviewer instructions: Self explanatory. Reviewers put instructions up to help you and save everyone time. Read it. Do it. If you choose not to, shame on you because your request is heading for the trash bin. This leads me to another thing – always check to see if a reviewer is currently accepting reviews. Reviewers close submissions when the reading pile gets too big. If a reviewer has closed submissions, abide by this please. Otherwise it’s a huge time-waster, and your email is another great big delete.

Stay tuned for how to get on a reviewers must read list.

About the Author:
In her previous career, D.A. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes “not so pretty” reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.

She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.

You can find out more about her on her website www.dabalepublishing.blogspot.comand on Twitter

Repost: Six Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts

permission to walk awayBack in December I received a great article from a law of attraction newsletter called “7 Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts.”  The seventh tip was a sales pitch, but the other six tips are good and useful.  Here is that article, minus the sales pitch, in full.

#1. Think about something or someone you like

 Maybe even write a list of ten things that you like, and spend your time thinking about them. This can help you put a smile on you face easily and distract the negative thoughts.
#2. Be grateful
Write down the things or people in your life that you are grateful for. Being grateful helps appreciate what you already have and move your focus to gratitude. The mind can only hold one thought at a time, so if you are thinking about the things you are thankful for, there is no more room for negative thoughts to exist.
#3. Go out and help someone
By helping someone, you move your focus from the negative thoughts you have to the solution thoughts that help solve someone’s problem.

#4. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. For example, instead of thinking, “We are going to have a hard time adjusting to our living situation,” think, “We will face some challenges in our living situation, but we will come up with solutions that we will both be happy with.”

#5. Surround yourself with positive people
When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking.
#6. Read positive quotes
There are plenty of places online that you can go and look for positive and inspirational quotes. These quotes are powerful because they can change your emotional state quickly.