After publishing my epic tome as an eBook a few weeks ago, I decided to go the whole hog and also make it available in print. So, as a new kid on the block, it seemed like a good plan to hunt down some appropriate how-to info,  layout guidelines and a book template.

Pro-Tip: For anyone setting out on the formatting journey,  I’d suggest you check out sites like the book designer for some really helpful pointers instead of reinventing the wheel. Do this before you start your layout decisions as it’ll save you time in the long run.

I confess I’m a kick-the-wheels-and-double-check-things sort of person so, once I’d uploaded the formatted text file and added my fabulous background cover image to one of the Create Space (CS) cover templates, I went ahead girdle_layout checksand ordered a proof copy of the book. I wanted to be able to recheck every page for errors and to actually see what people would be spending their dollars on before I went live with publication. Besides which, the idea  of having a physical copy in my hands was very compelling 🙂

When it arrived about 10 days later it was so shiny and book-like and real that I got a major case of the warm-and-fuzzies just looking at it (and still do). In some ways simply holding it in my hands was enough, and I could have called it a day right there. But the whole point of ordering it was to check for errors – and I’m really glad I did.

Considering how much time and effort I’d put into the layout, I was (very) disappointed at the number of issues I appeared to have either overlooked or been unaware of – and was grateful to have the opportunity to fix them.  Most were minor, largely to do with the joy of using a Windows product, and simple enough to correct. My biggest newb mistake was my margins. I’d selected 3cm all round, but realised that it’s really much more visually pleasing for the top and bottom margins to be slightly different (to each other). For a print layout, it’s also important to have the inner (gutter) margin wider than the edge margin – unless you’re intentionally providing space for reader annotations!

Pro-Tip 2: Be sure to order a proof copy of your book and go through it meticulously. Check everything while you’re about it, since the gremlins seem to have a bad habit of sneaking the odd gotcha in. When you find issues, tag them with post-it notes and then go back to the electronic version of your document and resolve each and every one. Note: this takes a while and is best done when mind and eyes are fresh – not at 2am when the puppies are finally asleep and some quiet time is finally available!

Asleep at last!

Once I was satisfied, I uploaded the revised file for conversion and this time launched the online review option. To my surprise I found that CS appeared to havevery ‘generously’ introduced a few additional anomalies to the layout, such as adding in a couple of blank pages and losing my page numbers on even pages. This was irksome, but gratifying in a way since it confirmed my suspicion that many of the layout errors I’d found in my proof copy (coincidentally, missing page numbers and the insertion of several blank pages) were externally inflicted.

After triple-checking the master document – and even printing it to pdf – it was obvious that the errors visible on the online viewer weren’t of my making. So I shot off a query in to CS. The reply was illuminating, if disappointing:
“The interior reviewer is an automated system, so when you upload your file it goes through a slight conversion which from time to time does not translate very well. As you have indicated that your original manuscript on your PC does not present the issue, I recommend converting this file to a PDF and thereafter upload the PDF document… I have found that a PDF document translates better on the interior reviewer.”

I’ve an idea that this is CS for ‘oops‘ or even ‘we messed up‘ and ‘try this instead.’

The conversion to high quality pdf was not without its own minor host of issues, and the online help from CS was of limited use. Fortunately the comments on the community forum, on the other hand… were useful, and I’ve finally had confirmation from Amazon that Girdle of Bones is now available in paperback. And there was great rejoicing!


After endless procrastination (an art at which I excel), my deadline of 31 March is almost upon me. The fabulous Sandy Lim has completed her (very thorough) edits of my manuscript and has provided me with extremely valuable insights and suggestions. If anyone out there is looking for help with their book, I heartily recommend contacting Sandy. She’s happy to work with you to create the book you know you have in you, or to edit your existing manuscript with elegance.

I’ve been admiring the cover art for my book ever since Lisa Rye delivered it a couple of weeks ago. She even went as far as to provide me with an A3 colour print, which immediately made me feel like a ‘real author’! Such happiness. It’s really helped to keep me focused on the goalposts and able to resolutely ignore my tendency to shift them.


What’s the book about about?  Well, it’s a journey of self-discovery and transformation – an uplifting story about the transition from being a person at the mercy of medical science and high self-expectation, into someone more at ease with herself and in harmony with the ups and downs of life. It’s funny, heart warming and poignant.

I started Girdle of Bones several years ago, after a traumatic series of hospital stays and surgeries, and we’ve had an on-again, off-again sort of relationship since then. Currently we’re definitely on!

I now have a ring-bound copy of the manuscript (cover and all) so that I can do an oral edit, reading it out loud to myself to find the clunky bits and to hunt down the last of the ‘gotchas’ … those annoying things where a cut-and-paste has left something in or overwritten part of a sentence, resulting in weirdness. Then I’ll make all the changes in one go and be done. The manuscript will be traveling around with me wherever I go for the next few days and I’ll be reading it aloud (quietly) in coffee shops, parks, train stations and in the garden. I anticipate a few odd looks 🙂

Memoir is an illumination of everyday life, a slice-of-life window into another’s experiences that can be enlightening, uplifting and, often, very entertaining. I love it! Among my favourites are Autobiography of a Face, On Writing, The Liars Club, A Year By the Sea, and Shake Hands with the Devil. Each of these authors has informed my writing process, as has a deep love of story telling.

More info on release date for Girdle of Bones soon.

After something of a hiatus, my epic-tome is finally moving forward again. My adventures in Tasmania have left me renewed, refreshed and only somewhat exhausted – but ready to focus on the final stages of production.

Since my plan is now to try self-publishing the tome as an eBook, there are a few hoops I need to jump through to get to launch point. First of these is to make some tough decisions about the cover design.

Given the number of eBooks in the market place, I feel that my cover image will need to be really eye-catching. This will (hopefully) get potential buyers to pause for long enough to become actual buyers. This sounds easy in concept but, for a first-timer in particular, it’s a little less so in implementation.

As is my way, I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the research phase, looking at book covers, both in book stores and online. Whilst there seem to be just about as many different styles as there are books,  only a fairly narrow range of these appealed to me and this had led me to the following conclusions:

  • there really isn’t enough space on a cover for more than a single image, the title and the author’s name
  • there needs to be a reasonably clear link between the cover image and the title – otherwise the potential reader is likely to move on to something less challenging/confusing (I certainly do)
  • the image needs to ‘pop’ as a thumbnail, to be sufficiently clear and eye-catching as to attract attention
  • the font selection needs big enough and clear. Crisp lines seem to work better, overall.
  • likewise, the cover needs to be one that can look good in colour (if used) and also in greyscale.

No presPhoto with permission, Lisa Ryesure, really…

Luckily it’s the end of the convention season, which meant that the creative talents of Lisa Rye have become available – much to my delight. Based on discussions over lunch at our first business meeting, she roughed out seven thumbnails and emailed them through for me to look through while I was in Tasmania. Super efficient.

Suddenly the tome has taken on a whole new dimension – it looks like a real book!

Choosing which image to run with took me much longer than expected, which is amusing since I ended up choosing the one I’d liked best when I first saw them! Lisa is currently developing the concept and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Watch this space for the grand reveal soon…

Of course, once a potential buyer has paused for long enough to admire the cover they need to find the text engaging as well. To this end, editiPhoto courtesy of Sandy Limng is all-important. I had the manuscript professionally assessed over a year ago and have had feedback from a number of beta readers since then, resulting in a number of minor revisions for clarity or consistency.

I think I’m on the home stretch now, with the help of talented writer/artist Sandy Lim. It’s been very interesting to have a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript. Sandy’s careful, professional editing and comments – some of which also reached me on holiday (!) – are proving to be most insightful and will result in a tighter, more readable product. No wonder she’s in demand 🙂

With all of this in mind, I’m off to a half-day self-publishing expo this coming Saturday. I’m hopeful that some gem(s) of information/insight will be forthcoming to push the process along. Maybe I’ll see you there…

writers expo_5dec2015

A packed lecture theatre with air-conditioning set to Arctic+, three publishers and 15 opportunities to pitch – what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, nothing and everything…

At the start the daylong publishing seminar, everyone interested in pitching their book was encouraged to put their name down on a list – and many did. The list was closed mid afternoon and the names were put into a large box as individual strips of paper. Once the actual pitch session started, 15 names were selected at random across the course of the hour. This meant we didn’t know if we’d been chosen until our name was called, at which point we had no more than three minutes to impress.

The best possible outcome was for one or more of the publishers to say something along the lines of ‘I’d like to hear more; send your manuscript to me’. Next best was to be asked questions that showed engagement and interest of some sort. Less good was if the comments showed either no interest or were really feedback to say that the book was an unlikely contender. Worst was to stand up and freeze – or simply choose to not pitch even though your name was drawn.

One person left before it even started and one other chose not to pitch. That left thirteen slots – and a room full of anxious hopefuls. As I listened to each of the pitches I was reminded of a number of things: speak clearly, don’t ramble, be prepared to answer whatever questions are thrown your way, don’t try to tell the whole story, and use humour if you can (but only if you can do it well!). Of the thirteen pitches I heard, four appeared to get the nod – I wasn’t one of them

By the time the second last name was to be called I’d accepted that it was unlikely that I’d be pitching. Then event MC read out my name – and the world got a bit fuzzy for a moment. I could claim that my chronic sinus infection and (very) annoying cough played a part in my less than stellar performance, but it was probably nerves more than anything else. I rushed through my piece and was left in a well of silence for a moment before anyone responded. My brain went into meltdown trying to figure out whether the silence was a good thing or a bad thing, so when the questions finally came my answers took a moment or two to formulate. The questions the publishers asked and the comments they made led me to understand that my pitch hadn’t informed the audience in the way that I’d intended. Although I spoke clearly, didn’t ramble and was more or less prepared for questions, I hadn’t provided enough detail – or perhaps the right sort of detail. Just as well I’d avoided humour… and possibly a pity I didn’t resort to cookies!

Actually, the most entertaining part of the afternoon was seeing the MC dip her hand into the box of names, recoil slightly and then discreetly call the sound engineer over to her table. After a quiet chat, he put his hand into the box and came out with… an enormous cockroach. By now my attention was riveted on the by-play and on the MC’s combination of tightly controlled horror and suppressed giggles. These only increased when the A/V guy looked around, casually placed the granddaddy of all cockroaches on his arm, then turned and walked quietly out of the auditorium. It was excruciatingly funny, particularly as it took place during one of the pitches and most of the audience and all of the publishers were focused on the speaker and appeared oblivious to the entire incident.

It may be time for me to get back into formal public speaking in order to hone the rusty skills and quell the butterflies. Meantime, I have an elevator pitch to work on, and author bio to update and a book proposal to submit.

With all my major edits done for the moment, it’s a given that one of the events I’ll be going to at the Perth Writer’s Festival next week is the one-day publishing seminar. This is a great opportunity to hear about various aspects of the publishing process as well as alternative pathways to publication, including e-books and self-publishing. It also provides a chance, however slim, of pitching my book to representatives from three WA publishing houses.

This means I need to come up with a plausible elevator pitch – a 30 to 60 second sound bite that will provide enough information to engage the interest of a prospective publisher/editor and allow me to give them my business card, at the very least.

The elevator pitch seems to come down to the WIFM principle: What’s in it for me? If I can’t grab a prospective ‘buyer’ in those first 30 to 60 seconds by answering that question, then I’m effectively out of the game. So I really, really need to showcase whatever my unique selling proposition is as quickly as possible. To do this I need to make every word count, to ensure that every gesture and intonation supports my word choices and that the pace of delivery is pitched just right. It’s a package deal aimed at making the audience care, whether that’s one person or a room full of people. Simple, right?

Well, according to my insomnia, not all that simple. It actually reminds me of the first few months of my postgrad project, when everyone kept asking me what my thesis was about. For a while there my answers were a bit rambling and got bogged down in detail, but they slowly distilled to the two or three sentences that captured the essence of what I was trying to achieve. This is no different. I’ve spent the past few days talking to myself in the car, testing out variations on a theme to see what sounds right, what captures the essence of this story, and it’s slowly starting to come together.

Last night I did a test run on some friends – people who haven’t read the book and only had a vague idea of what it’s about. It was very interesting to get their feedback, to hear what caught their attention and what didn’t, where they felt I should perhaps add some detail and what I might want to consider leaving out. The bottom line is that I got them – and not just because I was feeding them dinner either! Although that is a thought… perhaps I could take some tasty treats along to the Writer’s Festival…

P.S. Yes, I do have business cards (now) – and rather attractive they are too 🙂