Everyone loves print books on real paper, even ebook readers like me. It’s always been tough to keep older books in print, but it has gotten easier in recent years. Twenty years ago, the only way to bring your backlist back was to get a regular publisher to purchase the rights. But unless you were a big seller, that was a difficult thing to achieve. And these days, forget it. The publishing world has been stood on its head. For most of us poor shmos who never achieved bestseller status, the way to do it now is either to get a small press to do it, or to do it for yourself. And the latter is what I’m doing, via my imprint Starstream Publications.
It’s way more doable than it used to be, thanks to new print-on-demand technologies, which are available through Amazon KDP and the distribution giant Ingram. You do have to start with a good, super-clean manuscript file, and thankfully I have those from creating ebook editions years ago. For the current projects I’m using a program called Vellum, which handles a lot of the difficult typesetting chores automatically. It’s not quite as good as manual typesetting, but on the whole, it works remarkably well, except when you want it to do something it isn’t programmed to do. Then you have to work around its limitations to outsmart it, which is something I’m having to do with the print layout for From a Changeling Star. (In my madness, when I wrote the book, I used all sorts of specialized layout settings to convey different forms of communication and levels of consciousness. These are proving something of a challenge in Vellum, but I think I’ve finally wrestled it to the ground.)
Vellum, by the way, is a Mac-only program, and I’m a PC guy, so to use it I subscribe to a service called Mac in the Cloud, which lets me run Vellum on a virtual machine—i.e., someone else’s Mac. Pretty cool.
Setting the type is only half the battle, of course. Once that’s done, you need the cover. Now, I already have good ebook covers, some with art I commissioned, some with art from the original trade publisher’s editions (properly licensed from the artists), some with stock art. But the art needs a type overlay, and needs proper formatting for the PDF file that ultimately becomes a print-on-demand book. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, who has been expertly creating my cover layouts for years, is happily creating my new print covers. But sometimes there’s a hitch. Like with Dragon Rigger.
The Dragon Rigger cover, for some reason, has been refusing to cooperate. Maya creates a gorgeous PDF for me, and when I upload it to the Amazon publishing platform, it returns with a muddy mess. We’ve been at this for a week, with Maya trying every trick she can think of to convince the KDP platform to cooperate, but so far no joy. We haven’t given up, but it’s delayed the release of Dragon Rigger in print, which somewhat plays havoc with my intention to make complete autographed sets of the Star Rigger books available for holiday shopping. I may substitute the original Tor edition (I have lots of hardcovers stashed) in place of the Starstream paperback.
Here’s a shot of the cover Maya gave me:
And here’s what I got back from the KDP book previewer, ugh:
Breaking news! Suddenly the Dragon Rigger cover started working on the Amazon publishing platform. No change in what I did, only in how their system processed the file Maya gave me. It would seem they had a problem, and fixed it.
Good news for my plans. I hope to have new print editions of both Dragon Rigger and From a Changeling Star available real soon now.