abiatarfestus | May 5, 2021, 7:24 p.m.
Let’s continue where we left off with Part I of the Journey of Patience. I figured there’s so much to say about challenges and how I overcame them. That will be the focus of this post.
Writing itself can be hard. No doubt! Of course there are days when you write and ideas flow like water flowing from a tap. You don’t even want to stop writing. But there also come days when your brain seems empty and dry. I can’t even count the number of times I sat before the computer and left moments later without writing anything. And it’s even worse that I have internet at home because every writing session is preceded by an hour-or-so of internet browsing. I try sometimes not to open an internet browser when I sit to write, but that’s a temptation probably only “Job” can beat. But that’s writing. When it comes to publishing, it’s a whole new ball game.
Choosing a printer
One thing about taking the self-publishing route is that you will need to read a lot. But there’s a caveat to reading a lot: you’ll get confused. You will have to sieve through loads of information and you’ll have to make critical choices out of innumerable options. For example, choosing how to self-publish your book, who to print it with, how many copies to print. It can make or break your dream!
Perhaps the most challenging thing after finishing writing/editing (although one is never really done with editing until that manuscript is gone to the printers) is choosing where to print. There are basically hundreds of options out there. You could print in Namibia, in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, like USA. Yes, the United States of America. You might think that’s going way too far, but I almost started printing from there. So trust me when I say it can be a challenge trying to figure out how or where to print your book.
With the availability of print-on-demand services (where you only order the number of copies you want, even just one, as opposed the traditional offset printing, where a large number of copies need to be printed in one batch) one could print a small number of copies virtually from anywhere in the world. As I started exploring available print-on-demand options, I was intrigued by CreateSpace due to its seemingly hassle-free process. But then there were issues of shipping, accessibility to my target readers and payment methods. So continued exploring other options, but I did get some skills from my interaction with CreateSpace, and that was the formatting of the manuscript.
As I proceeded with my exploration, I started asking for recommendations and requesting for print quotations from local and South African service providers. At last the options of ‘where’ were down to just two: Namibia or South Africa. What made it a little tricky to choose between the two options was prices and convenience. Printing in Namibia was, at least, two times more expensive than printing in South Africa–at least according to the quotations that I obtained. But the worrying part of printing in SA was how to get the books to Namibia. Couriers can be costly, and using a private person can be a huge inconvenience for them, especially with the declaring of goods at the border. But I had to print in South Africa. I could save a few bucks there than printing at home. Besides, the budget was tight, and I didn’t want to make a huge investment on my first project.
So I settled with a printer in South Africa. But one thing I noticed when I requested for quotations is that I was already required to give specifications of the book: number of pages, trim size, type of paper, cover type, binding method etc. What this meant was that I had to go back to the internet and learn what these specifications entailed. So again trust me when I say I had to learn a lot of new things.
Printers take print-ready manuscript and cover; they don’t do any editing (unless, of course, you wish to hire them for that editing and design service as well). Therefore, I had to make sure that both my manuscript and cover match my chosen specifications, the main one here being the trim size or book size. Book size is like the starting point when it comes to manuscript formatting and cover design. As I said in my previous post, when I started formatting and designing, I started to learn new things and caring about things I took for granted before.
Formatting and Designing
Manuscript formatting and cover designing are so critical as they are prerequisite to printing. I could spend some money and hire someone (a professional) to do that work for me, but I like to get my hands dirty. I decided to save the money and spend time, instead, to learn how to do it. There is a wealth of great free resources on the net. All one needs to do is look for it, read and practice. That’s what I did.
Although there’s a need to pay attention to details during this process, for a novel, there are really only a few things one needs to master, things like setting the actual size of the page to match the size of the book, mirror margins, margin sizes (inside and outside, top and bottom). Also with the cover design the only important things to master are matching the page size to the book size (although here one needs to make it double to include front and back cover, and add the spine and bleed), calculate the spine length. All these things, by the way, can be done in MS Word.
All this was a matter of trial and error; I didn’t master everything on the first try. I remember when I sent my first files to the printer, I was told it didn’t match my book size. I was confused and disappointed. I was in a meeting in Windhoek at the time, and I’d emailed the files with my phone. Now it had to wait until I’d returned to Outapi to get back to my PC and rework both the manuscript and cover. I figured the problem occurred when I converted the files to PDF. I resolved the issue and sent the files back. Again when the proof (the first book) was printed, the words on the spine were not smack in the middle of the spine as I’d intended them to be. Again I had to retouch the cover and resend. But through it all, the customer service from the printer was great.
With the printing done, there came the part that bothered me most, getting the books to Namibia. I was basically scrambling to get someone to transport the books to Namibia at a reasonable cost. A number of people (my friend Rosalia, my cousin Mrs Mavetera, my colleague Flower) tried to help by recommending people in SA. And I’m really grateful for their effort. But like I said earlier, getting a private person to do such kind of job for you can be a long shot, especially where there are time limits and the consignment is not so small. In this case the books needed to be picked up in something like five working days after printing. And it wasn’t just one box, but a few. So despite all these recommendations, none could actually make it. But just when I was about to despair, Ms van de Merwe came through again with another unbelievable recommendation. Suffice it to say from there it was smooth sailing–well, until I had to face the reality of marketing and getting the sales, of course:)
Let me end this part here. In part three, I will share with you the lessons learnt through this journey (which I suppose you can already deduce from what I’ve shared so far) and what’s next from here. Watch this space for more, and don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list, that’s if you haven’t already done so. Ciao!