Uploading two PDF files to IngramSpark didn’t sound too daunting.
I took on the challenge, converting my e-book version of Little River to print, because I encountered a significant number of readers who asked for a physical book. SALT Media Productions, my publisher, and I worked out an amended contract to speed up the print release, if I took on the work. I selected IngramSpark as the print and distribution point.
IngramSpark offers more trim size options for your book than I thought possible. I settled on a 5×8 inch size after taking a ruler to the books on my shelf. That means your text file needs another edit for the new margins, headers, page numbers and page size. The page breaks tend to appear in places you didn’t see them in your original version. So, fix, fix, fix.
The File Creation Guide pulled from the website was a bit intimidating. I was trying to upload a document to a printer, not navigate the Mars Rover around a rock pile.
The guide warned against using Microsoft Word’s PDF export via print functions and provided a workaround running the document through Adobe Acrobat. Word poses a few problems, with graphic conversion and the way the fonts are displayed (embedded) in the final PDF.
Since I didn’t have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, I needed a program to convert the text document to an acceptable PDF. I have Apple’s Pages and that program includes an Export to PDF function, so ta-da. The file did convert and save as a new PDF document and when opening in Adobe Reader, the fonts were properly imbedded.
I uploaded the newly created PDF file into the IngramSpark web interface and got a rejection from the system immediately. The PDF text file I uploaded was not in compliance with International Color Convention (ICC). A Convention for colors? WTF? Was I going to be tried for war crimes for a convention violation?
Turns out that a black and white text isn’t simply black and white. Apple uses a spot color process which doesn’t translate into the IngramSpark print system.
So, while I let that percolate in my print lesioned brain, I went to work on the cover. I figured since my publisher already had the e-book cover together, this would be a piece of cake. (note to self – buy more antacid) Ingram provides a cover template generator based on the trim size you select and the number of pages in your PDF text file. I knew that in addition to the cover, I needed content for the spine and back cover too.
The template, at first looks like a map encoded by the Illuminati to conceal the holy grail. Trim lines, safety zone, bleed lines, spine folds – I only wanted a book cover. But each line is a guide for what is visible, in the correct place, and what is allowed to bleed off the edge of the cover. It’s actually pretty cool, once you get your head wrapped around it.
The e-book cover went on the right side, some text and a photo on the back, and my name, title and publisher’s logo on the spine. Copy and paste, snip, resize and save as a PDF.
Boom – rejected. Cover images too low resolution, fonts not embedded, transparency layers visible and I’d somehow altered the template. I tinkered with the cover and got a rejection notice from the system saying the cover was too close to the trim edge, and the template was altered.
Stuck – Double stuck.
Some of my best ideas come in the shower (and the shower hides your tears). Every problem I encountered was my fault because I used the wrong tool. I attempted a half dozen different workarounds and came up short because I didn’t follow the File Creation Guide to the letter.
IngramSpark doesn’t list a phone number for help, so I reached out on Facebook and sent a message . I wish I knew who the Facebook contact was at IngramSpark, because they were responsive and would check on the file.
Secondly, I decided that I needed Adobe Acrobat and Adobe InDesign to make this work. I downloaded trial versions of both programs and converted the text file into a PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 version. Who knew there were different versions of a PDF? IngramSpark did, they said so in their guide.
With InDesign, I was able to create a better cover, re-scan the original art work, embed new fonts, and get all the graphics to the proper resolution. InDesign let me adjust the cover content so it all fell within the trim size borders, without inadvertently changing the cover template.
Unstuck. Files uploaded, submitted and validated by IngramSpark.
I learned a few things on the way:
- Use the right tool for the job. In this case, the the Adobe suite of products was the best solution for the job. I may invest in these tools as a result of my experience in this project.
- Trim size impacts your page count and the print cost. The more pages, the higher the cost. Simple concept, but one you really need to think about.
- If your not comfortable using Adobe Acrobat, or at least willing to learn, go somewhere else. The frustration potential is an 8.5, but Adobe has online tutorial videos to take the sting out of trying something away from your comfort zone.
- Don’t settle. Your book, for better or worse, will be a reflection of you. So don’t settle for a plain brown wrapper, or a “floating head” cover you see on a metric-crap-ton of books released. Be different, be you.
- Do your homework. While IngramSpark was a good fit for me and my distribution needs, it might not be for everyone. Find the printer/distributor best suited to your book project.
- If solving puzzles renders you into a quivering mass of printer toner and sorrow, be ready to have someone design your book cover. There are hundreds of talented graphic artists who specialize in this sort of thing and if you’re not into the time and resource commitment, do yourself a favor and contact that work out to someone else.
In the end, my project was a respectable, professional looking, printed version of Little River, available through a respected global distribution network. The issues I encountered in the conversion of e-book to print were a challenge, but they were my shortcomings, not IngramSpark. I needed to step-up my game to achieve my marketing and business goals. IngramSpark forced me to create a solid book package, one which didn’t sacrifice quality in the process.
I’d love to hear any stories from others who have experienced the trial by print ordeal and if you happen to pick up a copy of Little River, let me know how it looks.