Saturday, July 31, 2010

Writing in an open source world

The story of how Icarus Falling is being written and published is almost as interesting as the book itself - that is if you are nerdy kind of writing geek. The book was originally written in MS Word 97. Over the last several years, our computers have been upgraded a few times and my wife migrated permanently to Linux, Ubuntu specifically.

Most self-publishing books describe the process of publishing by utilizing various commercial software packages - MS Office and Adobe InDesign. You may also need Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. And don't forget Adobe Acrobat Pro for PDF creation. These are the packages that print house and publishing firms work with and they want your manuscript done exactly the same way.

BUT, those software packages are very expensive and big, far too much for most of what we needed. And thus we entered the world of open source software. Many software packages have matured and are competitive with their proprietary counterparts. Icarus Falling was prepared almost entirely with open source software.

Open Office
The manuscript had to migrate to a more up-to-date word processor and Open Office was it. When we tried to copy and paste or import from Word 97, funny things happened during the transition. We also keep the books with the spreadsheet Calc.

This package is similar to Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress or PageMaker (of yesteryear). This program let us create the layout and look of the interior pages and the cover. We used the stable release which still has some bugs, but worked pretty well. The development releases look pretty spiffy and my wife can't wait for them to be released as stable.

One word of warning about Scribus. It will choke on large files, some kind of memory problem. IOW, we couldn't lay out the whole book in one file. We had to break up each chapter into it's own file. Each chapter was then exported as a PDF. Printers require that your book exist as one large PDF. For that you will need a different utility.

This is the open source version of Photoshop. It does nearly everything that Photoshop does except for one important thing. Gimp doesn't have the ability to save your image with a CMYK color profile (I think the developers are working on it). Printers require CMYK in order to print color images. We managed a workaround for one printer. We did the image editing and tweaking in Gimp then pulled the image into Scribus, which was later exported as a PDF. This seemed to work pretty well. The second printer we tried didn't like it. Another possible work around is to custom make the colors in Scribus to compensate, but we still need to play around with this.

We used Inkscape to design and draw the logo of our publishing company and imprint, Parking Orbit Publishing.

PDF Shuffler
This is a smart, little utility that allowed us to pull all of our separate PDF's into one PDF file. If we go back and edit one chapter, we can open this up and replace just the pages we need.

We still have the book trailer to produce and the e-book. Again e-book tutorials show how to prepare your book using proprietary sources. We are working through the process now with open source and perhaps we will create a tutorial when we're done. In any event Amazon makes the process look very simple and it isn't really. At least if you want something that looks good and is easy to read.

And all of this was done on an Ubuntu desktop.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Temporary Delay For Improvements

Some changes are coming for the novel from when it was first put up for purchase. Because of unforeseen circumstances the release date has been temporarily postponed. This is to give a chance to improve on the customer satisfaction in the ordering processes. Changes will include how the product can be obtained, an easier check out process, and improvement to the text for an even better reading experience. An online book trailer and added online content is also in the works.

Many thanks are given to those who have shown interest in the project. Don't worry, you will still have the opportunity to get the book before the rush of the holiday season. please post any questions you might have or if you still want to order a pre-release copy.

Thank you for your patience. It will be well worth the wait.