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Frustrated – Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

On Tuesday, June 1st, after I failed to access my business e-mail account at rosalienebacchus.com, I called Tech Support. My tone must have been belligerent, because the guy at the other end of the line kept saying, “I’m trying to help you, Ma’am.” I snapped when he told me to download the Google Chrome browser. Another browser was the last thing I needed. I refused to comply and ended the call.

How wrong I was to believe that I was coping well with my frustrations over the past seven weeks!

Following my action plan, I contacted Lulu Publishing on April 15th to begin the self-publication process of my second novel, The Twisted Circle. Their reply was devastating. The One-on-One Author Support Plan that I had used when publishing my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, ended in July 2020. I assume that this service was yet another victim of the 2020 pandemic lock-down.

It took me a week to get my bearings. The prospect of working with another self-publishing service provider was not at all appealing. Besides, I am very satisfied with the services that Lulu provides for the global distribution and sales control of my first novel, Under the Tamarind Tree. I made my decision: I would proceed on my own with the help of Lulu’s Book Creation Guide. Their Knowledge Base also provides helpful resources throughout the process.

During my years working in international trade, the computer and I have had a shaky relationship. I mastered only the essential. Book design and production demand new software skills. I can do this, I reassured myself. Just take one step at a time at my own pace. No pressure.

I faltered at the first step. The Adobe PDF file containing the cover-to-cover interior files of my manuscript did not successfully upload to the book creation system. My file contained “transparencies” due to missing embedded fonts. My free-of-charge Acrobat Reader was not up to the task. The time had come to upgrade to Adobe Acrobat DC at a monthly fee of US$14.99. What a difference!  All fonts embedded. Success on uploading the new PDF file. On to the next step.

I downloaded Lulu’s master template for the book cover: a one-page PDF file with the front and back covers, and spine width based on the number of book pages. After opting to use the ISBN generated by Lulu, I also downloaded the ISBN barcode for inclusion on the back cover. After a week of trail and error in working with the Adobe Acrobat, I finally created a book cover to my satisfaction. Despite frustrations with the learning curve, I enjoyed the creative process. Inspiration for the back cover design came from four novels published by major publishing companies. (In my next Writer’s Life post, I will share the background to my front cover art design.)

After successfully uploading my book cover PDF file, I returned to completing the pesky formatting details of my manuscript. My copyright page was also incomplete. I have yet to receive permission from the publishers of The New American Bible, Revised Edition, to quote Matthew 23: 27-28 in my epigraph. In their response to my April 23rd request, they alerted “some backlog” due to staffing limitations following the Covid-19 restrictions. Thankfully, it’s the only biblical quotation used in my novel. To avoid any setback in my book’s publication, I decided to use the King James Bible Version of 1611 that’s in the public domain and, therefore, not subject to copyright. The English may be antiquated, but its message about the hypocritical Men of God remains clear.

The Library of Congress Control Number was also missing from my copyright page. After failing to find my way around the Library of Congress website, I contacted Lulu’s customer support system for assistance. With the representative’s step-by-step guide, I was able to locate the current direct link to the Author Portal and complete the application form. Another task accomplished!

Time to face the demon of transforming my manuscript into a print-ready file. I have a basic knowledge in working with Microsoft Word documents. The same applies when adding headers and footers (page numbers in my case). Book design demands much more. The pages in the front section of a novel have no headers and page numbers. In the main section of the book, odd and even pages require different page headers and are numbered consecutively. Pages with the chapter numbers contain no heading but are numbered. MS Help offered little guidance that made sense to me.

My greatest frustration was unlocking the secret to making headers disappear from the opening pages of each new chapter. I spent days scouting the Internet. Again and again, I found instructions that forgot to mention the secret key. Then, I found the article “Microsoft Word Page Numbering: 4 Steps to Perfection” written by Paul@Lulu, dated June 21, 2019. At last, someone who understands well the pain and frustration that less tech-savvy writers face when dealing with computer files. The secret key? Each new chapter needs a Section Break. Thank you, Paul!!!

Think me crazy, but I jumped up and down, shouting “yay.”

My celebration was short-lived. Adding the headers and footers increased the number of total pages by eight. This will increase the width of the book spine, however small. I will have to re-do my book cover. Round and round I go again…

Then, on Friday, June 4th, an e-mail from the US Library of Congress chased away my self-inflicting gloom. My copyright page is now complete. The Twisted Circle now has an official Library of Congress Control Number. They did not charge a fee, but have requested that I send “a complimentary copy of the best edition of the book immediately upon publication to (address provided)…. Copies sent to the Copyright Office for copyright deposit and registration do not satisfy this requirement.”

With my copyright page now complete, I wasted no time in exporting my MS Word manuscript to the Adobe Acrobat PDF format. All fonts embedded. Checked. In the days ahead, I will be busy working on the revised book cover master template. I promise not to snap at you if you call.