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 frequent MuseScore user reviews LilyPond with Frescobaldi

Music, Music Composition, Reviews

Once I got into the flow of text entry, I *really* wanted to like LilyPond (and Frescobaldi). And when I say flow, I mean the full-on Csíkszentmihályi experience.

Black kitty with white paws typing like the wind! (From Aaron's Animals on YouTube)

Pictured: me inputting musical notes in LilyPond

Never in all my years of writing and adapting music in MuseScore did note entry go so fast. The notes flew out of my fingers.

When done, I pressed the little green lily pad button in Frescobaldi to see my plain text turned into beautifully-engraved music in the tiled window just next to my text editor.

If I had never coded before in HTML and CSS, I’d say it was like magic.Screenshot of an old version of MOUNTAIN BELLS, being worked on in Frescobaldi

That’s the promise of the free program LilyPond: beautifully engraved sheet music made with fast (text-based) input. And when you pair it with the free program Frescobaldi, the “coding” becomes close to What You See Is What You Get, once you hit that lily pad button. Plus, Frescobaldi played the music back to me.

Yes. Once I got used to it, the text input was MIGHTYFAST and I loved it and wished it would go on forever.

BUT I don’t think it’s a good tool for piano sheet music.

Because 1) setting up the right hand section in paragraphs in separate-but-parallel sections to the left hand got old quickly, despite Frescobaldi highlighting which text part corresponded to which printed notes. This was extra apparent when adding new notes and phrases in the middle of completed measures. One note gets shifted, then—bazoom!— both staves are misaligned and it’s very heard-wrapsy to fix it all on the text side.

2) Though the documentation claims there’s a way to set up staves one atop another, I just couldn’t figure it out. And folks, I just taught myself how to typeset a novel in Scribus from the ground floor. If you look up “self-taught” I’m at least in an example sentence.

While shifting notes and phrases around can also be a pain in MuseScore, it’s a nuisance-pain, not an MC-Escher-word-puzzle-being-solved-through-a-laparoscope pain. Mess up in MuseScore, you can directly cut, paste, and adjust on the score. In LilyPond, you have to go hunting through text, run the engraving process again, then pray you aligned everything correctly.

If input speed were my sole consideration, I might try using LilyPond and Frescobaldi for banjo tabs, or something else with only one staff.

But my understanding is MuseScore can do tablature too—and editing a multi-stave piano score makes far more sense to me in that program than it does LilyPond.

Sorry, folks. For this piano composer, MuseScore is just easier to handle.