It’s July 21st and I’m due at the airport in 3 hours. I’m in a booth at IHOP, lingonberry pancakes pushed aside to make room for my laptop, coffee precariously close to the edge of the table, the person beside me staring in horror at the computer’s screen.
We’re making a schedule, and it ain’t pretty. We have two months to edit five novella-length stories, get covers designed, get table giveaway stuff designed, buy everything we need to stock a fair booth — from bowls to a cash drawer to a tablecloth — and to finally get two new books into print in time for the Word on the Street festival.
What I’m getting at is some things were bound to go wrong.
When you submit files to CreateSpace – one of the many indie author-publisher platforms out there, and the one Mere and I chose for her books – it gets run through a quick file check. (The little progress bar says File Check, anyway. I think it’s just CreateSpace’s equivalent of hold music.) Then you get to look at your book in a slick, fancy digital proofer where everything is laid out all pretty-like in book form. If that looks good you submit to CreateSpace for another review. This one takes about a day, and when it’s done, they either tell you everything’s OK, or tell you something’s wrong when something is most definitely not wrong. Like:
“There’s stuff on your cover that’s too close to the edge!”
“Really, what stuff?”
“Um, well, actually nothing. Sorry about that!”
– Conversation that took three days to play out.
Finally, you get to order a physical proof, which is basically the final book except with PROOF stamped on the back page. Once you’ve gone through that, you finally get to approve the thing and sell yourself some books.
Which would be great if you ever got a physical proof and thought it looked perfect, which you never will, because there are typos that hide in the Wired, obscured by the digital mists, that can only be revealed when you’ve got an expensive tree corpse in your hands. So you find problems, and you fix them, and you go back through the whole process again. And again. And again.
Which is when our brains took their revenge. It wasn’t a full-on attack, exactly. We didn’t know they’d gotten sick of 7 day work weeks and crappy pay, and we’d already stopped listening to their whiny cries of, “You’re tired! Please sleep!” So, with no avenue left to them, our brains hit us where it hurt. Right in the books.
And they almost got away with it.
It’s August 17th, and I’m at a tech conference when I get Mere’s text: she’s gotten her physical proof of The Blood Room and she’s found some problems. On my next break, I head out of the convention center, dash the five blocks to my office, and get on Skype. For the next hour, I take down just under five million notes. I go through the notes that night, fix the problems, and resubmit the files to CreateSpace.
The next day I get an email from Mere: She’s looked at the final proof and I missed one of the changes. Somehow, one of the fixes I very clearly wrote in my notebook, and had very clearly not checked off because I hadn’t done it, had slipped past me. That should have been my warning. That should have been a sign. My brain was getting cranky. It was getting tired.
I ignore it, make the fix, and resubmit the files to CreateSpace.
It’s early the next morning when I see the error. Barely conscious, I think Wait, what? All I did was fix a typo! I open the error list and see a problem CreateSpace has never flagged. The title on the Title Page does not match the title of the book.
Nonsense! Bullshit! I hadn’t changed the title page! The title page is perfect! The title page is– oh. Shit.
Well, that isn’t good.
It turns out I hadn’t changed the title. I looked at my change log and I’d typed that title on July 26th. The title page of the book had been THE BLOOD ROOOM for three weeks. We looked at that title page dozens of times; as a pdf, in the digital proofer, printed on the flesh of a dead tree. We looked, and we read, and we never saw it. Neither had CreateSpace, apparently, since they didn’t catch it until the fifth time it was submitted for review.
The scariest part: If I hadn’t missed that last change and had to submit the files to CreateSpace one last time, we’d have gone to print as THE BLOOD ROOOM.
And we still had the whole second book left to go.
It’s September 2nd, and we are very close to done. We have a physical proof in our hands for Cowface and Other Hilarious Stories About Death. It looks fantastic, we caught the errors early this time (by the way, never edit a book where God is a character unless you want to spend hours fixing incorrect lower-case pronouns) and everything is finally done.
Except for one little thing. The cover.
The cover on the physical proof is perfect. No problems at all. Bizarrely, it’s the digital version of the cover that’s the problem. There are little white lines around part of the image where there should be no white lines. There weren’t white lines on the image we submitted, and they weren’t there on the physical copy, so why the hell were they on the website?
I ignore it at first. Who cares about what was on the website as long as the books looked good, right? Oh, except…people buy your books through websites.
What ensues is a bit like if Abbott and Costello had done their Who’s On First routine through the mail. I explain what’s wrong. Two days later I get a response. The wrong response. I explain what I really want. Then it happens again. And again.
“Hey, the physical proof looks great, but on the digital proof and on the website, there are white lines around the image. Can you fix the image on the website?”
“Your physical proof should be fine!”
“I know my physical proof is fine. I sent you a picture of it. The problem is the website. I need you to fix the white lines there.”
“We don’t really see any white lines on the image you submitted, just on the digital proof. Your physical proof should be fine, though!”
“I’M NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE PHYSICAL PROOF! LOOK AT THE WEBSITE!”
“As we’ve already told you, your physical proof should be fine.”
This takes two weeks.
Finally, after a long conversation with someone at CreateSpace – and another day’s wait – someone from technical support emails me: Hey, there really are white lines here! But we can’t fix them so you need to submit a new image and go through the whole proofing process again. Sorry!
It’s September 13th and I’m on the phone with a manager from CreateSpace.
It turns out if someone higher up the chain tells tells technical support to fix the image, they can do it. What a surprise.
It’s September 17th, I am surrounded by boxes of books, and I am very, very tired.