POD reflections

It took me half a year to finish my first book for Lulu, a print-on-demand (POD) printer. I'm not saying it took half a year to write it--that was actually a much longer journey and happened four years before. No, it took me six months of taking the formerly published novel in its rawest form (individual files converted at least six times based on the Format of the Week™) and getting it ready to be published by Lulu in a manner that I could feel proud of it.

Now, I did some things that I suspect the average would-be-POD'er wouldn't do: I thought a long time on it. The first question? Should I even be doing this? Self-publishing, even as an effort to republish a book, is an act of Ego and vanity and pride. I'll fully admit it and cherish it. This book was a physical manifestation of my pride. Yes, it is a highly niche market and would never sell well, but in the end, it was sheer pride that I did this.

The second was the reputation of someone who self-publishes. It is easy. Too easy, actually. I could have had my novel (MG) in hard-copy a week after I decided to publish it again. But, I didn't. There were many reasons, many of them based on the same pride that got me started. I wanted a certain cover, I want to do it "right", and I wanted to understand what I was doing.

I also made a decision related to all this: I would not self-publish for anything written by D. Moonfire, i.e. me as myself. Well, I don't consider putting my stories on my website, that is advertising and also to hopefully get opinions from others. No, my efforts on Lulu and these writings are going to keep separate. Obviously, I'll tell people about what I do, but I feel this need to have my mainstream books to accepted by a "real" publisher, not the imaginary one in my head. There needs to be a person who I am not sleeping with, living with, friends with, or even associates with that decides the fate of my book.

Call it Ego or vanity or pride.

When (more Ego, yay!) I get published and see my book on a shelf at Barnes and Noble (yep, there is pride too), I will know it is because I am a good writer (got to get that humility in there). Not because I have some skills at typography and following directions. But, for a niche book that will never be on those shelves, even if printed by the largest of publication houses, I had to revert to another aspect of Ego.

Doing it myself.

And if I do it myself, with the skills I had, it better be the best thing I could ever produce.

For much of those six months, I waited for the artist to finish the illustration. The part I wanted the most, the cover, naturally ended up being the last. But, I'm patient. Very patient. I wasn't idle those six months. I went over the book, editing and re-editing, combing it for any mistake I could find. I removed some paragraphs, rewrote a few sections, and edited everything from cover to cover again. I trolled through the directions for the PDF and obeyed every one. I found a font I loved and then rejected it as unreadable somewhere around page fifty. I found a second font which worked and fit nicely with the character of the book. I changed things to try making it the best piece of work I could.

I even bought a bar-code reader to make sure I did even that correctly.

When I uploaded it, that book was the best piece of work I could produce.

It was also completely me. My decisions, my choices, everything else. Which means, if it bombed this time, it would be entirely, 100%, and utterly... my fault.

And I'm comfortable with that.

Now, I learned in my psychology class that we assume others act like us. I assume that books on Lulu are created with the same love and attention to detail as my own. Yes, I'm sure mistakes got through, but they would be as minor as any other professionally printed book.

Somewhere in that, I bought a book on Lulu. I won't review it here, but I realized that not everyone had the same belief. It was typographically horrible. Things that a spellchecker should have found, chapters that start on the bottom of the page, using returns for spacing instead of proper page breaks. They even had a few paragraphs where the left margin stood an inch to the left of everything else. I found three of them just paging through the book, not even reading it. It didn't even have page numbers, which means I dog-eared it to keep my place.

And that wasn't including the actual story itself. I saw so many errors, like emotional states practically based on the paragraph of the moment, and two main characters switching genders for ten pages (I read it three times to make sure I wasn't getting confused). It was so bad in places, I had to page through MG again just to make sure I didn't make the same mistake.

One thing that someone once told me is that POD and self-publishing can have the gems. However, there is a lot of, well, crap piled on top of those little diamonds. I can only hope MG is one of those diamonds, or at least a sapphire.