Saturday, March 7, 2015


Yesterday a print-on-demand paperback of Porcupine County, the omnibus edition that gathers in one volume the first three Steve Martinez novels, went on sale on for $25.95 list. That's steep, but Amazon's POD entity, CreateSpace, insists on setting mandatory prices according to the number of pages in a book—and Porcupine County checks in at a hefty 768 pages.

This is a bit of an experiment to see how do-it-yourself print-on-demand works. and its allied outlets don't have to carry a large number of copies in inventory—nor does the author if he wants to hand-sell the book— but can just print new ones to order. That saves warehouse space and nobody gets caught with a lot of unsold inventory.

I decided to go with a cover different from the ebook version simply because it was easier to use CreateSpace's electronic templates rather than to puzzle out how to transfer the ebook cover design.

At 2.8 pounds the finished paperback seems awfully thick and heavy. After a while I'll redo the text with 10 point Book Antiqua rather than the present 12 points in the same font. That will likely shrink those 768 pages down to fewer than 600 and will also result in a sharp drop in poundage and list price, probably to $22.95.

Putting the book together was a lot of sweaty busywork. I downloaded a 6 x 9 template from CreateSpace and poured the electronic manuscript into it, then tweaked it for upload. The problem here is that the template doesn't quite forecast accurately how CreateSpace will actually format the text once it's uploaded. The book ended up at ten pages longer than the template said it would. Getting it publishable required about six or seven tweaks with the template, then the same number of re-uploads.

I kept trying to get rid of "widows"—those lonely one-word lines at the top of a page—but this was like trying to trap puppies under a rug. Zapping one widow tended to create another on a following page. There is probably an efficient way to de-widow one's electronic text, but I haven't found it yet. And so Porcupine County still contains a few widows.

Otherwise the POD paperback is of surprisingly high quality, with a handsome cover and sharp print in an attractive font on good paper.

Over-all, the experience with CreateSpace wasn't bad at all. It's not only for amateur self-publishing. When a professional author has won the rights back from his original publisher for out-of-print volumes, as I did, he can re-publish the books himself in a new form and extend their earnings.

The royalties from the POD version of Porcupine County, as with those of the ebook version, will all go to the Friends of the Porkies, the civilian auxiliary of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in upper Michigan.

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