The #WattPadWednesday section of my bullet journal for last Wednesday was comically overconfident.
- post last chapter on WattPad
- post afterword [pending link to PayHip]
- fix/update PayHip page
- finalize cover/save-as
- test hyperlinks on eReader
- export final PDF/ePub
- zip & upload
- publish WattPad chapters with final links
- post links to FB/Twitter
This wasn’t Dunning-Kruger talking; after all I’ve made ePubs for Grace & Victory and others. We used PayHip because it came recommended as easy and simple. It linked up with our PayPal account easy-peasy. It let us distribute both PDF and ePubs with one click.
But that was several years ago.
And since several years in the internet translates to epochs, I should have known better than to rely on old experiences. Either PayPal or PayHip changed something; when I went to put the finishing touches on my updated PayHip page I noticed that my PayPal address wasn’t linked any more. I tried to relink it, discovering that to do so I’d have to upgrade my PayPal to a Business account. Which would mean paying a monthly fee. (The monthly fee is only $5USD but that’s $60USD per year which is way more than Creampuffs will make, since most people are going to continue to read it on WattPad for free.)
This was not… part of the plan. But that’s okay; I had a back-up. I’d use Smashwords, which didn’t need me to connect a business account, and which would automatically upload my content to various sites like Apple and Kobo so I wouldn’t have to do them individually. I would still have just the one link to share and maintain (which was the appeal of PayHip).
Problem: Smashwords doesn’t want people to upload ePubs or PDFs. Smashwords wants people to upload Word docs so that it can automatically turn it into all the ePubs needed for the various sites, which all have different specs.
Additional problem: I no longer had a Word file of Creampuffs to upload.
In another life, I used to be a graphic designer. I specialized in print, and I was a whiz with InDesign. I still use these days, mainly for editing, in a complicated Rube Goldberg-esque set up that horrifies other writers and delights other print designers.
So when I decided to release Creampuffs on WattPad back in January, I took the Word file that I had been sending to agents and imported it into a custom Indesign template. I could edit in a far more readable format than Word’s absurdly long line-lengths; it could automatically generate a table of contents, letting me keep track if I reorganized chapters; I could format it with stylesheets as I went, so that if I ever decided to release it as an ePub I could do so with a single click.
I did line-edits over the next six months; reorganized chapters, splitting and stitching them together to improve pacing and serialization; formatted the manuscript to make a good-looking PDF with the intention that maybe one day I would send it to a P.O.D. publisher and get a lovely paperback to put on my bookshelf. I didn’t bother to track changes. Why would I? If I ever needed a Word document to send to someone I could just export an RTF from InDesign.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Wednesday afternoon I had a dentist’s appointment. I love my dentist, I travel across the city every six months rather than find a new one in the neighbourhood I’ve lived in for seven years, I don’t care. This appointment I had a new hygienist. I won’t bother listing the ways that the appointment went sideways but I will say that at one point she accidentally punched me in the mouth with a heat gun.
I staggered out of the dentist’s with a bruised lip, a stain down my shirt from dribbled impression goo, a filled chip in a back molar, and a head full of ePub concerns. (The impression goo was for getting a night guard made. The chip in the tooth was from clenching my jaw while I sleep, hence getting a night guard made. “She seems a little stressed,” said the new, young, chronically upbeat hygienist to my dentist, shortly before she punched me in the face. And I haven’t told you what happened while she was taking the x-rays.)
To take my mind off the streetworks in my mouth I had debated with myself the pros and cons of PayHip vs. Smashwords. Smashwords was more labour, but PayHip thanks to PayPal would cost more, with no guarantee that I’d make it back.
Being the economical person that I am, I decided I’d go with Smashwords. I’d forgo having a beautiful PDF to sell in favour of accessibility. All I had to do was export to RTF, then open that in LibreOffice, save as a doc, upload to Smashwords. Right?
I started reading Smashwords’ list of formatting needs on the transit ride home and discovered with horror that they didn’t accept doc files exported from InDesign. InDesign exports to RTF with a whole lotta junk XML that gums up SW’s automated system–junk XML that’s almost impossible to get rid of. In their own words they recommended “the nuclear method”: copying the entire file to Notepad to strip it of all formatting and then starting from scratch.
I didn’t get home until about 4pm, and all of my bullet points remained ahead of me.
Smashwords is successful partly because it automates a lot of the process, and what it doesn’t automate it spells out so that the most basic, n00biest, hunt-and-peckiest writer out there can take advantage of it. I had to abandon my beautiful InDesign layout and start from scratch with a format-less (and yes, that includes italics) 56,000 word document. (Cutie helped me immensely here using GitHub and programming necromancy to give me a Word File that had, at least, all the italics still in place. But everything else had gone.) Even with italics taken care of I still had to go through Smashwords’ 100+ page Style Guide to make sure I was doing everything correctly, using a program that’s only kinda like Word (LibreOffice) to do things that Word turns into several-step battles and that InDesign literally handles automatically.
It was like being told to type something up using only my nose while being upside down and. it. hurt. me.
Even with Cutie’s necromancy saving me from having to compare my new document with the old to place italics, it took me hours to go through the manuscript, far longer than should have taken even a n00b, since they wouldn’t have been fighting with Word over correct space-afters and drop-caps (only to find that Smashwords doesn’t support drop caps anyway). I ended up being hoisted by my own design-sense’s petard.
I called it quits at 10.30 because I was making stupid mistakes (like discovering somehow I’d lost chapter 10 and now had two chapter 9s). I went to bed without accomplishing anything on my list (besides the dentist appointment), feeling especially defeated because I had no one to blame for this work but myself after feeling smug for six months. And I wasn’t going to get to use my beautiful PDF.
The following morning, I looked it all over and then uploaded the Word document to Smashwords over my morning coffee. It was accepted in under 10 minutes with zero formatting changes required or warnings generated.
All things considered, a successful launch.
You’re probably thinking that I am going to talk about learning a lesson but you would be incorrect, unless that lesson was how much Word is a garbage program. Still going to use InDesign for editing, moving forward. Just means formatting for Smashwords adds an extra layer of complexity to my Rube Goldberg machine for next time. That’s all. I’ll solve this yet.
That’s how much I hate Word.
THERE IS NO OTHER LESSON.
So as you might have guessed, I am pretty proud of this paperback PDF that no one will get to see, so if/when you purchase Creampuffs, send me a DM or an email with the deets, and I’ll send the PDF to you free if you like. Promotion! And thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy and/or tweeted and shared links. Next week is the start of Camp Nano July 2019, so expect this space to become Fletcher & Cooper Town, population: gifs. Happy long weekend, too!