Get Over Yourself (Please): Letter from a Writing Teacher

Dear Class,

Thank you for the last ten weeks. You have all worked hard writing and rewriting and editing your own work and your fellow writers’ works, all the while growing in knowledge and experience, which was evidenced in your writing, which has been better and better every week.

I look forward to publishing our Let’s Write! class anthology, our collection of this class’s unique and original memoirs of which I am very proud.

Since I’ve already extensively shared with you my gratitude and appreciation for your patience with me for the duration of our longer-than-usual class due to my inopportune accident, let me jump right in here with what’s rambling through my mind.

Sometimes I think people take themselves a little too seriously (or a lot). “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (from the Holy Bible, Galatians 4:16)

Yes. If you want to clear a room or empty your life, tell the truth. And you could say this is the story of my life, both personal and professional. People say, “Val, you’re so real,” but then when I am “real” (in other words, honest), they hate me for it and call me names and run away.

But here’s the thing of which I’m really guilty. I’m going to really clear the room, now, maybe empty myself of all students/clients, present and prospective, “because I tell you the truth.” Here goes: It’s not my clients/students for whom I work (they just pay the bill), it’s their writing.

My concern is not for the poet, it’s for her poetry and its effect on those for whom it’s meant. And therein lies the problem. God gives us a gift with which He expects to use us to reach others, whether that gift be music, public speaking, sewing, writing, carpentry, or any other number of specialties.

So when all the while, a writer is concerned more about him- or herself than the writing, all I’m thinking about is will anyone ever read this out there somewhere? Paperback? eBook? blog post?  Will any of those ever happen so the memoirs, stories, essays, poetry so full of wisdom and experience ever be allowed to live? I try.

Writers Who Got Over Themselves for the Sake of the Writing:

I practically begged student Gayle Peebles to write a book because the potential from an essay she’d tentatively started in class was overwhelming. She fortunately took the bait, and I got to help her give life to the story wanting to be told and appreciated by all who read it. The result, Best Friends Worlds Apart is a real classic book, receiving high accolades from the judges at Writers Digest in 2017 when Gayle entered it in an eBook contest, and enjoyed by many here in the United States and in Russia.

I cajoled Lily Allyson Liu, a lovely Taiwanese-American lady who was afraid her English wasn’t good enough (It was, with a bit of editing.) into writing her memoir about falling in love with a man involved at the time in a regrettable gay relationship. The result, a touching little 60-page paperback and eBook Lily called A Rhythmic and Melodious Friendship: A Memoir because one thing they had in common was a strong love and knowledge of classical music. It was a true story being written even as it was being lived by her (and him). 

It wasn’t easy, but I coerced Shirley Ann Moore into writing the family story of her mother, a Wiyot Indian, after she had submitted a three-page essay about herself growing up with her mom. Then I convinced Shirley into including a brief history of the Wiyot tribe, complete with a map of the tribe’s home of northern California. Shirley named the memoir A Lick and A Promise: Remembering Mom, Descendant of a Wiyot Tribe. The title came from Shirley’s mom’s favorite line about how she’d clean the kitchen when in a hurry, with “a lick and a promise”. Shirley included a family recipe at the end of each chapter of her book, a delightful aspect readers appreciated.

Like Gayle, Shirley, after the classes ended, began to come weekly to my studio for private sessions with me. Also like Gayle, Shirley would bring family photographs she’d collected which we painstakingly labeled and scanned into my computer to be part of the history her characters were unraveling for her, little by little, in the book Shirley never believed could happen.

Shirley’s favorite line was, “Do you really think I have a book here?” (Gayle had asked the same question early on.) “Of course, you do,” I’d say. “How can you not see it?” I’m truly shocked and often frustrated when students seem blind and deaf to their own stories trying to be told.

Alix had already written about three hundred poems and had posted them online to a poetry website when he saw a Let’s Write! ad in a local paper. He asked if I could help him put his poems together into a book, editing if and when necessary. It took time collecting, reading, and editing, and it’s a book of which I’m very proud and honored to have been a part of getting into publication. Alix called the collection Transcendental Highway after the title of one of the poems contained therein. As we put it together, we would both cry as we read through some of the 150 poems he’d chosen to include in this volume. Then he cried when the book was finished and the published paperback (with a beautiful photo of his son on the cover) was in his hand.

These are everyday people who show up in my classes and private sessions and are open to their own writing (and my suggestions), and with some egging on and a lot of encouragement, come to realize their story has to be shared, has to see light, and that it is very doable. The stories want to be told. These authors come to realize they don’t own their words. They have to be put together and allowed to express the life they already have, for the sake of others.

It’s That One.

Will it be a best seller read by millions? Probably not, but then it’s well known that many best sellers are such because their rich authors purchase copies of their own books in the thousands and millions thereby pushing their book into best-seller status based on the number of books sold. There are all kinds of tricks in this trade.

But that’s not the point. Maybe ten people will read the story, poem, essay. Maybe fifty, maybe a hundred. But it’s just that one in whom I’m interested. It’s that one who is really touched by what they read, what you wrote, that story that brought them to tears or made them laugh out loud. It’s for that one potential reader that the writing had to see daylight. It’s what writing is for, to be read, the way art has to be seen.

Parents, Let Your Children Go!

Dear Writer, Let your children (writings) go free so they can be read by others. If not a book, learn how to do a blog. Sometimes you will get feedback of readers’ appreciation of your writing. But lots of time you won’t, but that doesn’t mean somebody didn’t read it and it was just what he or she needed just when it showed up.

Don’t be a helicopter parent. Like our real children, we don’t own our works of art or creations of craft; we just bring them into the world. As they mature and become complete (ready for publication) we can’t hold on to them but must send them out into the world so to affect those they touch. That’s what writing is for.

I always pray that those who’ve been given a gift by God, will not only use it, but let others benefit by it as well. The writer’s gift of writing is what I work for. The writer is just the venue (and the one paying the bill). The writer is the vehicle through which the writing (story, memoir, poem—in other words, the message) is passed on to those who read it. That’s why writers need to put their fragile egos aside so others can read what God has given them to say, to write.

And if I can help you write, edit, publish it, I’m thrilled and honored. That’s what I do. I help give life to stories that need to be shared. We do it together. And how delighted I am when one of you decides it’s worth the work, and you’re all in, for working on your writing so it can be at its best (the way we clean and dress up our children before we present them to others), with the goal of letting them go out into the world to be appreciated for their gifts by others.

As I’ve said, but can’t say enough, it’s frustrating when people of true talent lock away their art and craft (manuscripts, artwork, whatever they create) and stubbornly fight this kind of encouragement, even seem to resent it.

So There You Have It.

Here’s the point: I’m delighted with students invested in their writing wholeheartedly (like the no-fear, non-ego writers listed above did) because that makes my job of helping clients bring their writing to professional publication standard so much easier and more enjoyable. It can get old to constantly try to convince writers their stories, memoirs, essays, poems are worth publishing, whether as a book or blog posts (or both) when I know from years of professional experience and education that it’s true.

When writers don’t want to do the work and prefer, instead, to argue in defense of their egos (fears) constantly (though they don’t seem to realize that that’s what they’re doing), these fears and unteachable egos get in the way. Then I get the extra job of wasting time and energy (and Writer’s money) placating Writer, so Writing can continue in its best direction in order to come alive on the page. Therefore, the essence of my message to you today, Dear Writer, is as follows:

Dear Writers,

  • Get out of your writing’s way!
  • Stop placating your egos (fears) and feelings.
  • Go ahead and cry if you have to.
  • Stop trying to own the story/poem/essay/memoir; stop trying to keep it locked away, in a drawer, digital file, or inside yourself—What are you afraid of?
  • Realize the writing has a life of its own.
  • It doesn’t belong to you.
  • Its life is not your life.
  • Let it live its own life.
  • Let it go free.
  • Don’t be a helicopter parent to your writing.
  • It will do just fine out there.
  • Trust God.
  • He’s the one who gave you the gift in the first place, for the purpose of your giving it away.
  • Give your gift away.

Thank you for listening. Warm wishes for your writing life ahead.

Your caring teacher,

Valerie Serrano

KDP Hates My Paperback, Part 3

KDP Hates My Paperback, Part 2, and  KDP Hates My Paperback

This is a final update to my prior sad stories regarding attempts to bypass The KDP Previewer with my paperback version of my novel The Archangel of Hamilton Beach.

If you’re sick of this story, imagine how I feel. This is the last one, I promise. I’ll try to be brief.

Selz

Okay, so I said I was going to try it and I did try Selz and it seems okay, though I’m passing on using it to sell books and services on my site. Or I should say I tried Selz halfway, for the purpose for which I wanted it, which was to get the widget for my WordPress site and sell my eBook from there and also my paperback, when I get it printed (happening as we speak).

I did give Selz my best shot. Also, though I had chosen the free version of Selz, [UPDATE: I learned that the Selz free option is only a 2-week trial.] WordPress requires that you have a Business plan which costs considerably more than I’m paying with the Premium plan. But I went for the investment to enable the Selz plugin.

Try as I might for hours – killed the whole day – I could not get the source code to work in the WordPress site as it was supposed to with a quick copy paste from Selz to WordPress.

I had Selz people in chat for help and then I had WordPress people in the chat room for help. When all was said and done I contacted WordPress to remove the Selz plug-in and to refund my investment in the Business plan and put me back on Premium, already paid for not long ago. 

You Deserve A Break Today

A side effect was that when I had downloaded the Selz plug-in I lost my Follow button which I didn’t like. (That has since been reinstated.) With all the pop-ups demanding e-mail addresses wherever I go, I figured I’m probably not the only one it annoys; so I felt like giving my visitors a  break from that, so if they want to follow my site they still just have to click on the little blue button.

I would like to be one of the few sites left which don’t require any signing up or having to fill out any pop-ups. Besides, Followers get notifications by email or otherwise, so whatever I have to offer, I’ll post, and they’ll learn about it.

I’m sure it’s bad business not to collect e-mail addresses, but I’m a writer, teacher, and editor, not a high-tech, code writing, Internet expert, nor to I aspire to becoming the next Internet Biz Billionaire.

If I sound sarcastic, I’m sorry. It’s been a long day. All I wanted to do was embed the Selz plug-in that was supposed to be so easy but turned into a mess. However, I still maintain that it wasn’t me. Even the Selz people were stumped. It just wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. For starters, what it was supposed to do  was for the little purple S (for Selz) to show up in the Editor on Page/Post pages on my site, but, Nope.

By the way, I also tried the store that apparently comes with the WordPress Business plan, because all of a sudden it was there and I’d never seen it before. Well, I got all the way through the process only to see that the price for the customer is in pounds, not dollars! I’m telling you, it was a long day. So, I’ll continue to sell my eBook through Amazon (with my much-talked-about—and resented—Cover Creator cover—The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, Part 2, The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback.

Meanwhile Back at the KDP Ranch

My paperback that was $106 went up to over $300 and only available from third party sellers, ditto on the novel by previous name but at the normal price. So I did a fast Cover Creator cover and repubbed the old paperback, and did same for previous title, only because I’m learning you can’t unpublish without the book remaining up there in all these bizarre ways. But at least this way they will be at normal prices and not sold by third parties.

I Figured if it’s going to stay in the public eye I’d rather it be on my terms and not sit there with a ridiculous price tag on it and a screwy manuscript and/or terrible cover (of course, there are gradations of terrible).

But my new paperbacks are on order from the printer with the new cover, so that’s my backup. I’m also learning none of this is a perfect world.

“Good Enough Is Good Enough,” said Jane Fonda

Through the whole process I had to let down my deadly perfectionism (see my post Perfectionism Can Kill…A Blogger), especially when I discovered you can never take a book down from Amazon. Actress Jane Fonda’s quote above, which she said in a 2007 interview, came from her struggle to please her demanding, perfectionist famous actor father Henry Fonda.

So I said to myself, “Yes, in this imperfect fast-paced world of self-publishing I must relax my standards,” especially when, in the reupload, my novel was missing a header  here and there or had one in a couple of places where there shouldn’t have been any, such as on chapter title pages—the kinds of things, as an editor, I’d have dinged someone else for.

Enter at Your Own Risk

So, fair warning to anyone who publishes on Amazon.com: The monster never removes your published books. When you click on Unpublish, it tells you the book will still be available by third parties, which is why my old paperback was at over $300 at last check (though it can also be offered by other parties at normal prices. Somehow the length of time it’s in the Unpublished category causes the price to continue to go up exponentially).

So don’t ever publish anything on Amazon.com that you’re not okay with your name being on forever more, kind of like how you can’t delete anything on your YouTube channel (i.e., don’t Like or Subscribe to a video you’ll later regret anyone knowing you watched, much less liked or subscribed to, because, even if you unlike or unsubscribe, it stays there forever).

Steuben Press

When I get my paperbacks printed, God willing, I’ll also sell them directly from my website using the aforementioned PayPal or credit card option which I already have, and get around Amazon, my original motive in all this (since KDP Still Hates My Paperback). In fact, since I started writing this, Steuben Press which I think I mentioned in The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, Part 2 that I was going to try, got back to me and I spoke via email with not one human, but two! Whoa! Slow down!

I’m starting with a small order and going from there, but they do offer a proof (for $50) which I’m happy about and they have a set up fee of same, but the setup fee is one-time and not payable for any future orders of the same title and they’ve already made two changes to my cover at no extra charge, bless their hearts.

Selz Versus Sweek

The Selz platform is much more user friendly and moveable within it, unlike Sweek, which I had written in my post (The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, Part 2) was stiff and stilted and I felt locked in and never knew what was happening. Nothing against Sweek. It just didn’t work for me.

However, once I got past the uploading of my book, etc., the Selz store was not easy for me to maneuver. They use blocks, which I don’t get, but again I’m no expert. The bad news is I hear WordPress is going to blocks soon, too and that will be a sad day because I dislike it strongly, though WordPress said you’ll be able to opt out of it, at least for now….

I found the Selz store setup, here come those words again, stiff and stilted and locked in. Why can’t anybody leave well enough alone and why do these changes always go in the direction of less and less user friendly, not to mention less user creative?

You may do better than I did in embedding the Selz code into your own platform, but aside from that, if you want to sell from somewhere besides your blog and use the websites they offer, with a lot of themes to choose from, etc., it’s a free platform from which to do that, which is how I’ll end up using it, though Selz people are still emailing me to sign up for a paying site.

Sweek has the equivalent in a store, though I didn’t get as far as trying to set one up before I quit the process.

Also, Sweek seemed slow to load and reload, where with Selz that was not an issue at all. Sweek requires an IBAN from European countries, and a BIC, not the pen, a banking identifier code, also referred to as a swift code, like a routing number which serves nationally, but BIC is an international code that allows money to be wired into the United States from abroad. I was able to find a PDF form from my bank online with the swift code. If I were going to pursue Sweek, I’d use the code, but it’s unlikely I will.

Selz, which is based in Australia, doesn’t require any of that and deals in dollars not British pounds.

Enter Calibre for Epub

In the process, I learned a few things, such as how to download and use Calibre to change my Word document into an epub or mobi file (or an epub to a mobi or vice versa). It’s a very handy program. When you download it (free), there’s a great video in which the creator of Calibre explains it well.

My Conclusions:

  1. I’m forgetting Sweek, though it may work for you.
  1. I will maybe sell on the Selz site when I have some time to fool around with setting up the “store”. I will probably take advantage of their help to do so.
  1. Leave all books up on Amazon.com instead of unpublishing the old titles so they don’t stay up with errors in them and at weirdly high prices.
  1. I published my paperback and my eBook with the Cover Creator on Amazon. I will perhaps revisit the covers on Amazon again at another time but for now, at least they’re there.                                                                                                                              PS – Proofs came back from the mean old Previewer w/a big, ugly strip across front and back covers, saying Not for Resale, whereas CreateSpace used to discreetly print the word Proof on the back page inside, which is why I (stupidly) got more than one Proof, thinking to save some money, before I realized the Author’s Copy is the same price). 
  1. I ordered a printed batch of my novel in paperback with my own cover, which is available via my website.
  1. Eventually, I’ll offer my eBook via epub from my website, and perhaps in PDF form as well.

Well, these are just my thoughts on the whole thing, just me being honest, with the hope of helping somebody out there with this bit of information without going through it.

The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, Part 2

The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, Part 1.

The self-publishing scene has changed dramatically in the past couple of years. It’s not so easy anymore to upload a file for free without having to jump through fiery hoops that, even when you do jump and get burned, you still don’t get in. More and more, artificial intelligence runs the show, and less and less of anything is done by human beings.

That means there’s no room to step to the left or the right (as in getting around The Previewer) for paperbacks which is why, as I’ve said, even though I do everything KDP tells me, the mighty and powerful Previewer still refuses my paperback manuscript.

Sweek

Since I’d said I might go with Sweek after my episodes with the dastardly KDP Previewer, I thought I’d do an update. My approach was to first try the eBook version before attempting to upload my novel manuscript in order to sell the printed paperback, which was my point for going to Sweek—to avoid Amazon.

I found out they’re based in Sweden, which could explain the name. I don’t like dealing in Euros and mm’s instead of dollars and inches, though I was willing to give that a shot. But I had to choose from book sizes in mm’s which didn’t convert to 5 x 8 inches. The closest in mm was to 6 x 9, so I reformatted the eBook version of my novel and a cover to fit into it.

Play It Again, Sam

But, as it stands, I don’t think so. I had a terrible time uploading files to Sweek and felt the site was stilted and as if I were in the dark throughout the process. Also, I had to do everything twice before it would “take” for some strange reason. The uploading platform felt very stiff to me, and I kept not knowing if things were going through or not. I wrote to a contact person but I didn’t hear back.

I then deleted the first try and started all over again. Long story. But, unfortunately, it’s a no-go with Sweek. The site is user-unfriendly, at least for me. No easy way to undo anything, and I always felt as if the machine knew something I didn’t (which was true). In the Sweek store it finally showed the title of my book, the price in Euros, and the description, but no cover. After two tries and a lot of lost time, I gave up.

A Long Day Can Feel Like A Month

On my publishing attempt of my eBook on Sweek (I wanted to try it before trying a paperback), it showed my publication date as May 10 (it’s currently October) and the second try was June 10 (well, that day did feel like a month, but…). I finally gave up, though my book is still in there, though the cover still wasn’t showing in the store on last check.

I guess it’s different for everybody. A lot of people must like Sweek; it’s very popular, and if you have that experience, please let me know in the comments. But I’m still operating under the craziness I encountered which I wrote about in my article not long ago entitled The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback, and don’t have a lot of patience for shenanigans.

Selz

My next endeavor to sell eBooks from my website without KDP will be to try Selz, though they don’t print paperbacks, which Sweek does, though after my eBook experience with them, the thought of pursuing a paperback with Sweek will give me nightmares.

Selz is based in Australia. (I wonder if there are any US platforms offering a way around the beasts. Let me know in the comments, please, if you’re aware of any.) Selz is a platform for businesses that offers a way, similar to Sweek, to sell from the business’s own website. Unlike Sweek, Selz doesn’t produce paperback books, but does offer a widget or other options to sell either physical items (which for me will be my paperback), and digital (my eBook). I’ll report back on Selz after I put myself through it.

KDP Still Hates My Paperback

I have since attempted every which way but loose to upload further (edited just for them) PDF files of my paperback manuscript to KDP (which were somehow perfectly fine when I went through CreateSpace two years ago). I readjusted my margins several times to suit KDP. It still won’t accept it.

Then it keeps saying something about they removed some kind of unprintable markup. I wanted to say, “Well if you removed it then what’s the problem?’’ I don’t know what it could be. Lint? What’s an unprintable markup? No explanation. And if the Previewer says it fixed it, then what’s the freaking problem.

It’s beyond human comprehension why my simply formatted novel is ding-ed with countless “errors” by KDP and when I fix them, it acts as if I never did a thing and rejects it all over again. I can almost see its tongue wagging at me as it watches me try over and over and then it rejects the MS yet again and keeps that Approval button grayed out so I can’t bypass it. (see The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback).

Head(er)s Up

Then I almost capitulated to using the KDP interior template which gives me hives to think about, being locked into something like that, especially from Amazon, but halfway through I said, “No, I can’t do it. Too cookie cutter. Too AI.’’

For example, the headers they put in are author’s name on one side and title on the other, alternating pages, odd and even. But in my manuscript, I did book title on the even pages and chapter title on the odd pages, which of course have to be changed from one chapter to the next and are a real pain to do when you’re setting the book up, and I worked hard to get them just right in my manuscript without the page numbers getting all screwy, but it’s a detail that I prefer (and appreciate in books I read), and am not willing to change it for the KDP Previewer Machine, especially since it won’t approve it afterwards, anyway!

In my frenzy, it also had occurred to me to remove all the headers altogether, but that also would be submitting to the beehive, and I refuse to do it, unless, I get to the point of absolutely no choice, in which case I might just leave it as a PDF, which I’m thinking of doing anyway, cover and all. Why not? Lots of people go that route and it seems just fine with me, a lot less complicated.

My $100 Cover Creator Paperback

So my plan now is to leave my e-book on KDP (I did have to cow-tow to their Cover Creator, as The Previewer lied and said there weren’t enough pixels when the cover I uploaded has more pixels than it requires).

And, as I think I mentioned in Part 1, the KDP Cover Creator now has much more limited choices (fonts, styles, everything) than two years ago, but since it accepted the eBook manuscript, and there are no header or footer issues in an e-book, I went ahead with it, so I can continue to sell the eBook there with the cover I managed to complete on their Cover Creator, which isn’t what I wanted but will have to do if I’m to have an eBook version out there somewhere, until I come up with a better way.

While my eBook is available, my paperback remains unpublished at Amazon, except its title is still there, but with only the old, very first (terrible) cover I made with their Cover Creator. For some reason none of the several covers I’ve experimented with over the past two years, including the most recent, “took” in their AI’s memory. And the original cover remains on Amazon (different from the eBook cover).

But even funnier is that my paperback is on sale for $106.16. Think I’m kidding? Here’s the link: The Archangel of Hamilton Beach. (Clicking on the Kindle box will take you to the current eBook with its Cover Creator cover).

My frustration is that if I had left it at CreateSpace until the time was completely up, I could have made my changes to the interior and cover and re-uploaded while still in CreateSpace and have been done with it, and when KDP switched them over, it would all already be intact. Take this as a warning, which is why I’m writing this. I foolishly made the switch over to KDP at their nudging, not knowing what dangers awaited me. If you have books in CreateSpace, leave them there until you have no choice.

Bad Vibes

I’ll wrap up with an excerpt from an article I found written by a very frustrated artist/writer who did, in her word, a rant about her experience. These lines below are from a very long account she gives about her bad experience with her printed book of artwork with Ingram Spark. This part of her rant (below) hit home with me with what I’ve been feeling about the direction this whole self-publishing thing has taken in just a couple of years, and that it’s getting worse.

Bad IngramSpark Review, I Lost Thousands, Audra Auclair, under “Update 3”:

I have realized that I have a distaste for the book industry. I get some bad vibes from it. I don’t like how publishers treat their writers/illustrators, I don’t like how they draw out payments, they don’t let a lot of writers choose the covers they want, I don’t like how printers work and that could all just be my experiences but I don’t like it.

Short and sweet, right to the point of what I’ve been trying to say. I guess she lost a lot of money and it took 90 days for her to get paid by Ingram Spark. Time for us to wake up from the self-publishing fantasy of “ain’t life grand”, and start looking at what’s really going on.

I Give!

After a lot of research, I finally decided to go with Steuben Press, and pay for some paperbacks to be printed to have as promo and to give out to my writing students and other locals; and I’ll focus on selling the eBook version online.

At least that way I won’t have to wrestle with some unmoving, stuck-on-stupid machine for a well-formatted paperback, or have to pay large amounts of money to “vanity presses”, and I can get the paperbacks the way I like them and maybe even speak to a real, live human being in the process who actually cares about how the book turns out.

Book Ends or Books End? (Except Digital)

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but in a word, it’s just no fun anymore. Too many gatekeepers, most of them not human. The squeeze is on. For eBooks, it’s factory time; for paperbacks, it’s bye-bye.

I’m finding in my research that the whole self-publishing industry has gotten much less user-friendly, in fact, more like user-antagonistic in the extreme. I think the traditional publishing giants of the past have joined heads and it’s revenge of the nerds all over again. Only these nerds aren’t cute or funny, they’re treacherous.

While eBooks are going strong (until the gatekeepers change the tune to which we dance), as I said in my previous post The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback (Part 1), I strongly believe all this “Let’s-make-it-as-difficult-as-possible-to-publish-a-paperback” (especially one from outside the Cookie Cutter) is in line with the push to discontinue the production of paperback books (and hardcover) altogether.

Maybe they’re misguided enough to think they’re saving trees? But trees are the easiest resource to renew (despite all the hype). Just plant new ones. But books can’t be replanted. They’ll just disappear, so all that’s left will be the digital in our kids’ future. Hope the lights don’t go out.

The KDP Previewer Hates My Paperback

Like other self-publishers, I have been bit by the Amazon KDP Monster as it gobbles up CreateSpace which used to be a mostly dignified organization, at least by my experience.  I wouldn’t have switched except the KDP site says CS will be gone in a matter of “weeks” at which time, they will automatically switch my titles over.  So I figured I’d do it myself, and then make the changes I had planned for my novel’s cover and some minor interior text edits, then re-upload the manuscript and cover.

But I was almost in despair after switching over, as I anticipated the upcoming battle with the artificial intelligence that KDP calls THE PREVIEWER.  All of a sudden the text doesn’t fit and there’s a problem w/the font, even while KDP says on its site that it will be “the same printers and the same people” printing the paperbacks as there used to be.  Hmm… So what’s changed?

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

And when I do try to accommodate the changes The Previewer wants, it doesn’t accept any of the adjustments I make to the interior or cover specs for a book that was two years ago accepted by the CreateSpace printers and has been for sale on Amazon as long.  So I wrote and complained.

I then received a long email from KDP quoting directly from their website’s Help pages to tell me what I already knew and had accomplished two years ago, as mentioned.  I could understand if there is a bit of tweaking for the manuscript to now go through a different system, but this is ridiculous.

The Previewer is a Gatekeeper.  You can’t approve your book’s layout online and get a physical paperback proof like you could with CreateSpace, and KDP won’t move forward at all with anything, unless and until the all-powerful Previewer approves and un-grays the Approve button for you the author to finally be able to “approve” it.  

Derek Murphy Nails It

Derek Murphy hit the nail on its head in his article called Kindle Direct Publishing paperback option is (nearly) unusable, stick with Createspace for print on demand”.  

Well, the title says it all but see what he writes (below) about the specs he was attempting to correct (exactly as I was) to satisfy KDP’s online Previewer for a book that, like mine, had already been selling on Amazon.  Murphy says, after giving us a detailed description of his many attempts:

“With the new cover at the right spine width, everything looks good (yeah!) Unfortunately, there are still 28 more errors. [emphasis his]

I can’t approve the file until the previewer says it’s OK, but I’m also not going to waste any more time trying to make the previewer happy. I understand the reason for being picky, but this also means most non-designers won’t survive this process – even if they have more patience that I have.”  (emphasis mine)

Did you get that?  The Great Previewer must approve your book or it’s a no-go, dear author.  And if it doesn’t, the machine grinds down to a halt. 

For a simply formatted 250-page novel like mine to be rejected for more than 20 reasons (like Murphy’s) after it’s been in print for 2 years, and when adjustments are made but not acknowledged by The Previewer as having been made, you come to realize you’re going round and round, until you give up and say (as I did initially), “I’ll just go eBook and forget the paperback altogether.  It’s so much easier.”

Sweek

So I was grateful when I came across Sweek in my search for an alternative to Amazon.com while there’s still an option for others besides the Monster called Amazon.

Now, I admit I haven’t dealt with Sweek yet, but they offer me hope because through them I can still offer my books both in eBook format and paperback without fighting an unfriendly artificial intelligence, bent on killing my paperback, and sell them via my website and other venues. 

Sweek’s gotten a high rating in reviews: https://nextisbest.co.in/a-platform-for-book-lovers-aspiring-authors-and-sweekers-app-review/ by Vikas Singh and https://selfpublishingadvice.org/allis-self-publishing-service-directory/self-publishing-service-reviews/ by the Alliance for Independent Authors.

So, before I grapple with an unflinching robot, I’m preparing to sign up with Sweek and offer my books, present and future for sale from my website. 

Ain’t No Sunshine When Paper’s Gone

Do I sound foolishly dramatic?  Maybe, but I fear that the way the paper newspapers are disappearing across the lands is the same way the non-eBook publishers will eventually disappear.  Digital is where it’s at, baby.  And pretty soon it’s going to be the only place it’s at.  And with the press of a button (or the loss of electricity) it can all disappear.  Reading Kindle by candlelight will only last as long as the battery.

Digital is great for lots of reasons, but should we lose all paper-bound books and be without a choice, it will become a dark world indeed.  And even if Amazon is pushing toward digital-only, it should have some respect for those of us who still value the good old paperback.  As it gobbles up CreateSpace, I wish KDP would empathize with us in this big switch and keep the publishing process at least as easy as it’s been with CreateSpace instead of turning it into something impossibly cumbersome.

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