Scribus Success Story: A Gingersnap Cat Christmas (paperback print novel)

Indie Publishing Friends, Writing

 

Scribus Success Story - book interior with epigraphs and illustrated title page

Epigraph and Title page for A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS. Scribus actually had an option to cameo the image like that!

Indie authors, paperbacks can be done in Scribus, and they can be done beautifully!

A Gingersnap Cat Christmas is a holiday fantasy I wrote for middle-schoolers. The POD paperback (whose interior I formatted in Scribus) is available through Amazon.com.

About the project: Having just missed my Christmas 2017 publishing deadline for the Gingersnap Cat ebook, I vowed to use the extra time in 2018 to teach myself Scribus, with the goal of having Gingersnap ready for print before Christmas 2018.

 Before this project, the last time I’d touched the Big Name desktop publishing program was back in college for a single assignment in a single class…so I really felt like I was starting from scratch! I learned the basics using the Getting Started with Scribus tutorial, and also by working on a single-page newsletter for my church.

I used Scribus 1.5.3 on Windows 7, and chose 5.5.x8.5” for the trim(overall book) size.

  • Completed Size: 199 pages
  • Initial Margins: Inside = 0.875in, Outside=0.625in, Top =.625in, Bottom =.75in. (Note! While these are the settings I used at the beginning of the project, they had to be readjusted after the author proof showed the body text getting sucked into the gutter, see “Challenges” below).
  • Typefaces (fonts): the interior body text was done in Fanwood Text Regular 13 with a fixed 19.5pt line spacing. The interior heading typefaces are Firefly 11 (title), and the Classiq Regular Italic Choix 11 (author).
  • Cover: Designed in the open source vector program Inkscape, but Scribus took care of converting the exported PNG to print-ready PDF. (The kitties were painted in the open source raster art program Krita)

This project was completed just before Amazon migrated all Createspace projects over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and was so created according to Createspace specifications.

Scribus Success Story - book interior with a running header and a chapter heading

A sample of the novel’s interior.

Challenges: Though I thought I had automatic hyphenation turned on, but I don’t think I ever saw automatic hyphenation function work, so when needed, I inserted the hyphenation manually.

After setting up my left and right Master pages, I started by making each chapter its own file, applying paragraph and italicized styles (my italics weren’t transferred from MS Word), then adjusting the tracking (spacing between words), widows, orphans, etc. Once finished, I added each chapter to the main book body file.

This worked well initially, but since this was my first typography job, I wound up tweaking the tracking inside the much larger main file, which meant I had to deal with a slowdown in program speed. But if I had completed all my tracking 100% to my satisfaction in the individual chapter files, then added them to the main file without touching them afterwards, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Scribus was still usable during this time—it just required a little patience.

My biggest technical hurdle was shifting text blocks—first when my corrective tracking caused pages to switch from left-side to right-side pages (and vice versa), then shifting the text blocks away from the gutter and down from the top after I got my first author proof back. (I recommend all authors set their inside margin wider than you think you’ll need!) Luckily Gregory Pittman came to my rescue with his very helpful shifting script! (He was also kind enough to modify the script to include vertical shifting after an email exchange. Mr. Pittman is a gentleman and a scholar!)

I found Clif Graves’ previous Scribus Success Story   invaluable as both guide and inspiration, along with John Osterhout’s Scribus templates  and DJ Mills’ “Creating Print-on-Demand Interiors and Covers Using Scribus” tutorial.

I’ve had numerous compliments on the look of the Gingersnap Cat Christmas paperback—and now that I’ve done it once, I look forward to using Scribus to publish print versions of my other short stories and novels.

 

A little about branding book spines for DIY Indie Authors

Thoughts on Entertainment, Writing

As an indie author on a shoestring budget, you may be wondering how you can make your print books look like they belong on your readers’ shelves next to the “big boy” books published with gobs of money and professional art departments behind them.

Using my Visual Arts BA powers and some slightly blurry photos of our booka nd DVD shelves, I thought I’d try to explain some of the elements of good spine branding. Spinal branding? Ouch. Sounds painful.

Let’s get started.

Spines of the AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER DVD boxed sets

AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER (Asian-influenced animated series)

Here’s the three-volume set of the marvelous fantasy cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

At the very top we have the logotype for the series itself, which any fan recognizes from the show’s intro sequence. But even if you’ve never seen the show, there’s a lotta info packed into that itty bitty logo: first, the Nickelodeon logo (in its signature orange) lets you know the station its from…and all that that implies (animation, kid-friendly, playful, positive energy).

Ah, Word! You and your quote smart unquote quotes!

Finally got smart and added in a new AutoCorrect rule in Microsoft Office 2010: replace —“ (which is what it loved to do to me, all the time) with —” (which will save me a lot of backspacing. In case you have this problem:

File>Proofing>Autocorrect Options (it’s a button near the top).

To make sure you’re getting left double quotes and right double quotes, use the Character Map to insert those marks in the appropriate fields.

Writing

(From a comment over at CoverCritics.com)

“I think this cover would not pass my test of imagining it with a title in an unfamiliar language. If you were to do that, would you still be able to tell anything at all about the nature, themes or even genre of the book?”

That’s a great idea. If everything about your book cover was the same (pics, typefaces) but the words were foreign/lorem ipsum, what assumptions would your viewer make?

Cool book cover design tip!

Indie Publishing Friends, Writing

My scary cat story epub validated on the first try!

Writing

To celebrate, I hereby post this Lego Batman gif, as tradition dictates.

Lego Batman using a batarang to hit a button on the FIRST TRY

I validate my epubs with the free program Pagina, which means I don’t have to command line anything. Drag, drop, cross fingers, DONE! Just make sure your Java is up-to-date.